At its recent annual meeting in Montserrat, theÂ Caribbean Fisheries Forum framed a set of recommendations that will be submitted to regional policy-makersÂ at the 12 th Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), slatedÂ for 18 May 2018 in Montserrat.
The Forumâ€™s recommendations include measures for boosting production in the fisheries and aquacultureÂ sector, risk insurance for fisheries, ongoing challenges to fisheries subsidies, gender mainstreaming, and theÂ development of critical fishery management plans.
The Forum noted that the overall trend in total marine fish production of the CRFM Member States sinceÂ 2005 is one of increasing production, with continued improvements over the 2015-2016 period. However, theÂ region is a net importer of fisheries products. Latest data indicate that imports for the year 2016 totaledÂ US$281.5 million, while exports were valued at US$256.2 million. Concerns were expressed that there are stillÂ gaps in the data and the Forum stressed the need for Member States to continue improving upon theÂ collection and sharing of fisheries data, including trade data, in order to foster greater understanding and toÂ strengthen management and development of the regions fisheries and aquaculture resources.
The Forum Meeting discussed a series of fisheries management plans, such as plans for the Blackfin TunaÂ and the Caribbean Billfish, as well as management plans for the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
These regional plans are aimed at improving cooperation among countries to ensure effective conservation,Â management and sustainable use of the fisheries and to protect the marine ecosystems.
Another important regional development relates to the introduction of co-management arrangements forÂ specific fisheries, including FADs and fish pot fisheries in the Eastern Caribbean States that participated inÂ the Japanese-funded Caribbean Fisheries Co-management (CARIFICO) Project. The Forum reviewed theÂ outcome of the project and future steps for continued improvements on co-management and participatory
approaches to achieve sustainable and profitable fisheries in the region.
The importance of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management plans to reduce vulnerability andÂ improve resilience in the fisheries sector was prominent on the agenda. Among the key initiatives currentlyÂ underway are the establishment of an early warning system for fishers using a mobile app, and theÂ development of insurance policies. There are two separate insurance products being developed: one is aÂ sovereign parametric policy which would be available for purchase by governments and the other is a basicÂ livelihood protection policy for purchase by individual small-scale fishers.
The USA-sponsored Caribbean Oceans and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST) is being developedÂ by the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company (CCRIF SPC) inÂ collaboration with the World Bank, CRFM and other partners. The COAST insurance policy is intended toÂ serve as a platform for innovative financing to address food and livelihood security and climate change.
Incentives would be given through the risk insurance policy to implement measures that contribute toÂ sustainable and climate resilient fisheries management and disaster risk reduction.
The need for livelihood protection was underscored by the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma andÂ Maria in the Caribbean during the 2017 hurricane season. The Forum expressed its full support for theÂ development of a protocol to incorporate climate change adaptation and disaster risk management into theÂ Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy.
The Forum also reviewed and supported the development of a Gender Policy for the fisheries sector, and aÂ regional Protocol on securing sustainable small-scale fisheries for Caribbean Community fisherfolk andÂ societies. This protocol is being developed under the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy.
The recommendations were developed in order to protect the regionâ€™s fisheries resources from the threat ofÂ overexploitation and emerging threats such as climate change and warming oceans. They also aim to enhanceÂ the livelihoods, social welfare and wealth creation from the marine resources. According to CRFMâ€™sÂ Executive Director, Milton Haughton, the time has arrived for the CARICOM countries to pay more carefulÂ attention and make the investments necessary to protect and fully utilize our coastal and ocean resources forÂ sustainable development.
The 16 th meeting of the Forum was the first meeting of the CRFM held in Montserrat, one of the 17 MemberÂ States of the CRFM, due to the destruction of the capital city, Plymouth, by the SoufriÃ¨re Hills volcano whichÂ began erupting in the mid-1990s.