BELIZE CITY, 3 APRIL 2020 (CRFM)—The vital need to enhance economic growth and sustainable development in the Caribbean by investing in the blue economy was the focus of a 2-day regional workshop held in Belize City, on 5-6 March 2020. The workshop was organized by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in collaboration with the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to pave the way forward for a new US$46 million project titled, “Promoting National Blue Economy Priorities Through Marine Spatial Planning in the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Plus (BE: CLME+).” The CRFM, an inter-governmental CARICOM agency, is the executing agency for the 4-year project, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a grant of US$6.2 million and co-financing of US$40.1 million.
Government representatives from the six participating countries--Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama and Saint Lucia—attended the workshop, while other stakeholders participated remotely via tele-conference. Workshop participants are now working together with the CRFM and co-implementing agencies, CAF and FAO, supported by a consulting team of experts in marine spatial planning, marine protected areas, fisheries value chain and gender, to prepare the detailed project document and work plan. The workshop was also attended by representatives from several regional partners such as CERMES-UWI, SICA/OSPESCA from Central America, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations and the UNDP/GEF CLME+ Project Coordinating Unit and CLME+ SAP Interim Coordination Mechanism.
“The BE: CLME+ project aims to overcome the barriers to achieving national, climate-resilient and sustainable fisheries in blue economies in the Caribbean,” Dr. Yvette Diei Ouadi, FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Officer and Secretary of Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission, said during the project’s Inception Workshop.
Dr. Lennox Gladden, Belize’s Chief Climate Change Officer, Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, underscored the critical value of the BE: CLME+ project towards achieving sustainable economic development and improving resilience in the coastal zone, and the tourism and fisheries sectors, spurring vibrant growth and providing economic and social benefits to enhance the quality of life as envisaged in Belize’s national development policies and plans.
The project’s three components aim to ensure (i) cross-sectoral marine spatial planning; (iii) inclusive sustainable fisheries value chains; and (iii) regional coordination, project management and knowledge management. The intent is that by the end of the project, there would be marine spatial plans developed at both the regional and national levels, as well as blue economy strategies for the participating countries. Furthermore, the project will support the creation and expansion of areas that benefit from effective area-based management, such as marine management areas and marine protected areas that recognize the need for access from a range of stakeholders in a manner that reduces the risk of conflicts.
Mr. Milton Haughton, CRFM Executive Director, noted that, “Marine spatial planning is a tool to create and establish a more rational organization of the use of marine ecosystems and the interactions between their users and uses; to balance demands for economic growth and development with the need to protect the environment and to achieve social objectives in an open and planned way.”
The BE: CLME+ project is being designed by a team that is cognizant of the need for a participatory approach, sensitive to the challenges that now confront the region—ranging from climate change impacts, marine pollution and irresponsible fishing to the coronavirus COVID-19 disease. The team is committed to the need for social inclusion, participation of indigenous groups and gender mainstreaming.
Mrs. Luciana Fainstain, Executive of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the Bank’s in-house Gender Specialist, acknowledged the need for the project to go beyond women’s issues, considering also the need to incorporate the new masculinities relevant to young men.
The project’s budget includes US$ 25 million in co-financing from the Development Bank of Latin America, to provide lines of credit through national financial institutions to support the development of fisheries value chains. In addition to marine spatial planning, another component of the project focuses on the development of sustainable seafood value chains, which could support innovations in utilizing current catches and discards to make more profitable products, ranging from consumer-friendly value-added seafood products for human consumption, to dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and beauty products. The third project component focuses on knowledge management and dissemination of experiences and lessons learnt in support of the GEF-funded IW Learn Platform (https://iwlearn.net/) and CLME+ SAP.
The BE: CMLE+ participating countries are among the 32 countries and overseas territories that have endorsed the 10-year Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the sustainable management of shared Living Marine Resources in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+ region), which was developed under a previous GEF-funded project.
Mr. Haughton expressed gratitude to the countries and key partners which have been supporting the initiative and emphasized the need for continued strong partnerships and cooperation among all stakeholders in realizing the potential of the marine sector in the Caribbean.