Chairman Sen. Hon. Avinash Singh notes that the Ministerial Council is responsible for providing the policy direction for technical experts to bring the CRFM’s programs to fruition and to yield meaningful benefits for Caribbean people (Photo: CARICOM Secretariat)
Belize City, Friday, 20 October 2023 (CRFM)—The Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) recently convened its Thirteenth Special Meeting during Caribbean Week of Agriculture, held in The Bahamas. The Ministers passed 7 resolutions addressing matters such as the sustainable use of marine living resources, the need for a comprehensive independent survey of Caribbean waters to strengthen science and evidence-based decision making, as well as donor-funded projects to advance blue economic growth and the development of safe, climate-resilient products from Sargassum.
In her remarks to the Council, Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of the CARICOM Secretariat, underscored the vital importance of agriculture and regional fisheries to the Caribbean’s food and nutrition security. She also emphasized the importance of research in fisheries for developing and implementing sound policies for the management of our fisheries across the region.
“The formulation of proactive policies by CRFM has allowed us to maintain strategic partnerships throughout this [post-pandemic] period, which together with the renewed interest in fisheries and agriculture that we are experiencing, has become the impetus for the region's blue economic growth and development,” Dr. Barnett said.
In furtherance of the CRFM’s efforts to strengthen the impact of the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy, for which the CRFM is the Competent Agency responsible for its implementation, the Council approved a new regional protocol under the Policy on the Principle of Sustainable Use of Marine Living Resources for Blue Economic Growth and Sustainable Development of CRFM Member States.
“Our shared goal is ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for our countries and our people from our marine living resources, through enhanced partnerships, and the application of science, technology, and innovations,” CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, said.
He added that, “The challenges we face in our endeavor to sustainably use our traditional and non-traditional living marine resources are substantial, but so too are the opportunities available to us, as well as our resolve to use these marine resources for prosperity of our people and sustainable development of our countries.”
The CRFM also convened its 4-part 20th Anniversary Seminar Series, the first of which was focused on fostering a deeper understanding of the Principle of Sustainable Use of Marine Living Resources, held on 11 October in The Bahamas. (Photo courtesy: Delmar Lanza / CRFM)
The CRFM Ministerial Council discussed innovative solutions intended to shape the future of the region’s fisheries and to safeguard the health and productivity of its marine ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and ultimately, food security, as well as the livelihoods of fishing and coastal communities—all redounding to the advancement of the Caribbean Community.
The Ministers reiterated the urgent need to secure the services of the marine Research Vessel Dr. Fridjtof Nansen to conduct a comprehensive independent survey of the living marine resources in the offshore and deep waters of the Exclusive Economic Zones and extended continental shelfs of Member States. This research would strengthen science and evidence-based decision making for policies and programmes to achieve blue economic growth and resource management through research and capacity building.
They also discussed the commencement of the US$48 million GEF-funded regional project to address blue economic growth in the region through enhanced marine spatial planning and area-based fisheries management, climate-smart sustainable seafood value chain development, and knowledge management. This initiative is being implemented by the CRFM in collaboration with the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The Ministers also reviewed the progress being made under the New Zealand-funded project to create innovative, climate-resilient products from the Sargassum seaweed—an important marine living resource that has been blooming in massive quantities and inundating the coastal waters and beaches since 2011, creating serious problems for tourism and fisheries and coastal communities. The project which is being implemented in the region by the CRFM in partnership with the New Zealand Plant and Food Research Institute, and other regional partners such as CARDI and UWI Cave Hill Campus, has made impressive gains towards developing safe and effective liquid fertilizer from the Sargassum.
Sen. Hon. Avinash Singh, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, Trinidad and Tobago - Chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council, told fellow Ministers and heads of delegations from CRFM Member States: “As we form closer economic, political, and social ties to increase trade, investment, innovation, and cooperation, let us in these very challenging economic times, work together to achieve sustainability of our fisheries resources, maximize economic benefit and ensure food security for our people.”
Belize City, Friday, 8 September 2023 (CRFM and GGGI)—Ghost gear—also known as abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear or ALDFG—continues to pose a significant threat to the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and it is also a major source of aquatic pollution, threatening aquatic species and environments, as well as food security both in the Caribbean and globally. To address this problem, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today, Friday, 8 September 2023, as a part of their collaborative efforts to combat the growing negative impacts of ALDFG across the Caribbean. The agreement formalizes the partnership between the CRFM and GGGI which began in 2018.
The MoU—signed during the CRFM webinar on Understanding and tackling abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear in the Caribbean, convened earlier today as a part of the CRFM’s 20th Anniversary Technical Events Series—satisfies a mandate from CARICOM Ministers responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture, who passed a resolution on the prevention of ALDFG in CRFM Member States, when they met in regular session in April 2023. On that occasion, the CRFM Ministerial Council also commissioned the CRFM Secretariat to conclude this MoU with the GGGI, to further their work to address ghost fishing.
CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, said: “This is a significant milestone on our journey towards the sustainable use of the region’s living marine resources and ensuring that the vast wealth lying beneath the Caribbean Sea yields optimal benefits for our present and future generations. The signing of this MoU between the CRFM and the GGGI establishes a very important partnership to enhance cooperation in raising awareness and taking appropriate action towards prevention, mitigation, and remediation measures in addressing ghost fishing in CRFM Member States. The signing of the MoU furthermore bolsters the support being provided to the 17 CRFM Member States through the GGGI.”
Mr. Joel Baziuk, Associate Director, Global Ghost Gear Initiative, said: “We are very pleased to be moving this collaboration forward with the CRFM via the signing of this MoU. With the support of the CRFM, the GGGI has been working with several Member States to address ALDFG since 2019, including Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago. The work that the CRFM has done for fisheries sustainability across the board in the Caribbean cannot be overstated, and we are looking forward to working together more formally to tackle ALDFG throughout the region.
The ghost gear problem—which is a global challenge—is being exacerbated in the context of climate change, ocean acidification, and marine pollution, causing increased adverse impacts on the marine environment and fish stocks. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and transnational organized crime in the fishing industry—a significant source of abandoned, lost, and otherwise discarded fishing gear—compound the problem.
However, notable advancements have already been made through the CRFM-GGGI cooperation to date. In 2022, the CRFM collaborated with the GGGI and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) to develop a Caribbean Regional Action Plan to Prevent ALDFG. The parties also collaborated on surveys of fishers and other stakeholders, which indicated that ALDFG is widespread in the Caribbean. Traps and nets are the most prevalent and most harmful forms of ALDFG, according to the GGGI Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear.
The CRFM was established by Heads of Government in 2002, as an intergovernmental organization of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), vested with the responsibility to address, promote and facilitate the development, management and conservation of fisheries in the CARICOM region through promoting the sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture resources in and among Member States.
Established in 2015, the GGGI, led by Ocean Conservancy, is the leading global platform for addressing the problem of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, and it consists of 136 participant organizations from around the world, with the official support of 20 governments, joined by the Caribbean countries which now support the initiative through the CRFM.
Cover photo: 'Ghost gear' or ALDFG is not just a problem in the Caribbean but globally. In this photo, GGGI facilitated the removal of 'ghost gear' in Panama. (Photo credit: GGGI - Joel Baziuk)
Bridgetown, Barbados, 29 March 2023 (IICA): Fish processing establishments and fishers across the Caribbean now have access to a new online hub of fisheries food safety resources. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in partnership with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) today announced the launch of the new Fisheries Food Safety Hub, developed with funding from the European Union (EU) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Project.
“At the European Union, we view our environmental and health ambitions – set in the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy – as drivers for raising global standards through trade. Ensuring fisheries food safety is at the core of these standards, allowing not only for exports to the EU, but also within Caribbean countries. We therefore welcome the launch of the Fisheries Food Safety Hub which will serve as a learning platform for stakeholders and as a product of the longstanding partnership between the EU, IICA, and CRFM,” stated EU Ambassador, H.E. Malgorzata Wasilewska.
The purpose of the Fisheries Food Safety Hub is to increase accessibility to fisheries food safety compliance materials. It serves as the central access point for a wealth of food safety resources for the Caribbean, primarily developed under the 10th and 11th EDF SPS Measures Project. These include guides and manuals, training videos, infographics, and policy documents covering the entire fisheries value chain: pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest. The Hub also features resources developed through complementary initiatives to strengthen food safety in the region, including the Leadership Institute of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO).
IICA and the CRFM developed the Hub for stakeholders from both the public and private sectors in the fifteen CARIFORUM countries. The partners especially catered to the needs of fishers and fisher organizations, as well as aquaculture farmers, thereby expanding the reach of the project’s online platform to the agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture sectors.
“Having ready access to current scientifically based information on a timely basis is fundamental for strengthening compliance with international Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and ultimately contributes towards improved market access and trade in the Caribbean Region. Hence IICA is very pleased to collaborate with the CRFM with funding from the European Union to develop this important information resource for the fisheries sector,” stated the Head of IICA’s Agricultural Health, Food Safety and Quality Programme, Dr Jose Urdaz.
Mr. Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism said: “The Fisheries Food Safety Hub is a very important development and will be beneficial to all our stakeholders in the CARIFORUM countries—from producers to consumers, as well as national and regional regulatory authorities with responsibility for ensuring safe and wholesome supplies of fish and fishery products to local markets, and for monitoring the implementation and compliance with trading measures and standards to promote sustainable trade. This is of particular importance given that food safety is of highest priority, especially in the context of expanding trade while also reaching the target of a 25% reduction in the Caribbean’s food import bill by 2025, as mandated by our Heads of Government."
Mr. Adrian LaRoda, Chair of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations, said: “The Hub itself will be very beneficial to the CNFO, as it is another platform for us, small-scale fishers, to be able to share our message... to reach a greater number of participants, particularly those who are not within the CNFO constituency.” Mr. LaRoda added that CNFO members will take advantage of the Fisheries Food Safety Hub, and they will continue to update the information from the CNFO Leadership Institute which is featured on the Hub, and to use the platform as a part of their ongoing efforts to strengthen the capacity of fishers in the Caribbean.
Mr. Udo Karg, the Acting Chair of the Suriname Seafood Association and CEO of Ocean Delight, underscored that food safety is the highest priority. One of Suriname’s export establishments, Ocean Delight, is featured on the Fisheries Food Safety Hub, as one of entities which received training under the 11th EDF SPS Measures Project. All the materials for that training are available for open access on the Fisheries Food Safety Hub. Mr. Karg also sees the Food Safety Hub as a marketing tool which demonstrates the work done in Suriname to ensure fisheries food safety, particularly for exporting to the EU.
Mr. Eardley Simmons, Managing Director of Bequia Seafood in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which has been in operation since October 2017, agreed that the Fisheries SPS Hub can be used as a tool to strengthen capacity in the fisheries sector. He said that they would greatly benefit if they could get assistance from another processing plant to train their workers, and this exchange could help them to improve their standards by learning from what other establishments have been doing to address their challenges. Bequia Seafood could, in turn, offer training to other establishments in the region.
The resources that are showcased on the Fisheries Food Safety Hub will help persons in the fisheries and aquaculture sector to strengthen their knowledge on food safety, and especially the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures that are important for trade within and outside of the Caribbean Region.
The Fisheries Food Safety Hub is linked with the e-Library of the project, available on edfspscariforum.online, which offers authoritative digital resources dedicated to stakeholders interested in Agricultural Health, Food Safety and Food Quality in the CARIFORUM region.
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Belize City, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 (CRFM)—High-level delegations from several Member States of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) will participate this week in the Blue Justice Conference 2023, billed by organizers as the largest global high-level event on transnational organised crime in the global fishing industry. The Blue Justice Caribbean Hub—to be housed in Jamaica—will also be launched at the high-level event.
Officials from twelve CRFM Member States—Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Turks and Caicos Islands—will be among the participants from approximately 80 countries and territories expected to attend the hybrid event, slated for 23-24 March 2023, in UN City, Copenhagen, Denmark.
The CRFM—the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) institution which leads the region’s efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and transnational organized crime in fishing industry—is among the partners joining the Government of Norway and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in convening the international conference.
Mr. Milton Haughton, CRFM Executive Director, will deliver official remarks at the Opening Ceremony on Thursday, 23 March, and will subsequently speak with Conference attendees about regional cooperation mechanisms in the Caribbean.
Haughton said: "The Blue Justice Initiative offers our countries significant opportunities to obtain intelligence, improve maritime domain awareness, access technical assistance, and strengthen national and regional capacities to better monitor and protect our marine resources and combat fisheries crimes, including illegal fishing. We are very grateful for the support being provided by the Blue Justice Initiative and the Government of Norway and other Nordic countries to support our countries in turning the tide against fisheries crime in the region and globally.”
Above, illegal catch confiscated from foreign vessels found fishing in Jamaica's waters
(Photos: National Fisheries Authority - Jamaica)
During the conference’s high-level session, delegates from several participating CRFM Member States will present their "Country insights". This segment of the conference will conclude with a discussion on governance and space technology in support of SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions).
Conference side events will be held on the Blue Enforcement Project (UNODC) - “Understanding gender roles in tackling crimes in the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka and Maldives”, and the Blue Fairness Project (ILO/UNODC/IOM) - “Using data to inform policies to combat trafficking for forced labour in fishing”.
The second day of the Blue Justice Conference, Friday, 24 March, is dedicated to the Blue Justice Action Forum. During that event, CRFM Member States will participate in a tabletop exercise.
The CRFM solidified its partnership with Norway and the Blue Justice Initiative in 2022, when 12 Member States signed the International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry (the Copenhagen Declaration) en bloc and pledged their support for the Blue Justice Initiative.
To date, fifty-one countries have signed the Copenhagen Declaration, and other countries have been invited to likewise sign the agreement at the upcoming conference and to join the Blue Justice Initiative. Dominica, a CRFM Member State, intends to sign the declaration at the event and join the global effort against transnational crime in the fishing industry.
Belize City, Tuesday, 21 February 2023 (CRFM)—Sargassum seaweed influxes have been a bane to the Caribbean since 2011, but the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant & Food Research (PFR), a New Zealand government-owned Crown Research Institute, are advancing a regional project aimed at turning Sargassum into innovative products that will create jobs and income as well as contribute to building the region’s climate resilience and mitigating the negative impacts of Sargassum in the region. During 2023, the CRFM and Plant & Food Research —in partnership with other public and private sector institutions in the Caribbean region—will focus on lab-scale work and field trials to develop suitable prototype products from the Sargassum seaweed for commercial use.
A team from the CRFM Secretariat and Plant & Food Research recently visited Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to meet with key stakeholders as they advance the second phase of the project titled, Developing Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM said: “Sargassum remains a major problem for our countries, coastal communities, and business enterprises, especially those in the fisheries and tourism sectors operating in the coastal and marine environment. We had a very productive mission to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago meeting with partners and stakeholders with an interest in creating value-added products from the Sargassum. We are very confident that we can work together with interested partners to develop viable products and generate jobs and income streams for our people from this natural resource (Sargassum) that has been inundating our waters and beaches over the past 12 years. Our focus now is on developing and testing these prototype products and processes using the Sargassum. We will also be developing a product commercialization strategy.”
CRFM Executive Director, Mr. Milton Haughton (right),
Rosie Paterson-Lima, International Development Program Manager at Plant & Food Research (center),
and Beverley Sutherland, Project Coordinator (left)
Rosie Paterson-Lima, International Development Program Manager at Plant & Food Research, said her organisation’s involvement was made possible by funding from the New Zealand Government International Development Cooperation Programme.
“It is exciting for us to work in partnership in the region on this challenge, and to bring our expertise in agronomy, value chain analysis, and commercialisation. Together our goal is to minimise the problems caused by Sargassum by creating viable economic opportunities for the region. We are delighted to have Barbadian Dr Terrell Thompson joining the project delivery team recently as a consultant. Dr Thompson is a chemicals and materials engineer with impressive expertise and experience in the Sargassum industry,” Paterson-Lima said.
The mission spanned 30 January to 11 February 2023. In Trinidad and Tobago, the team met representatives of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), the Engineering Faculty of the University of the West Indies, the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), and representatives of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. In Barbados, the parties met with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Division, and the National Conservation Commission of the Government of Barbados, UWI - Cave Hill Campus, the European Union, CARDI, UNDP, FAO, the Fisherfolk Organisations and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology. The purpose of these engagements was to share information on the Project and to explore opportunities for collaboration and strengthened partnerships under the project.
The CRFM and Plant & Food Research have successfully completed the first phase of the project, during which they worked with partners in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic to conduct Sargassum raw material safety testing and review of potential products that could be made from the Sargassum. They are embarking now on the second phase of the project, which is Product and Process Development.
Fishers in Barbados are among stakeholders who have been adversely affected by the Sargassum influxes
Sargassum blooms in the Atlantic have already begun, and they are expected to inundate the Caribbean region by April 2023. The Outlook of 2023 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, released by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab on 1 February 2023, revealed that, “The overall Sargassum quantity in the Atlantic Ocean doubled from December 2022 to January 2023 (8.7 million tons), again setting a new record (previous January record was 6.5 million tons in 2018).” The outlook noted that this is the second consecutive monthly doubling of Sargassum, previously observed only in 2018, and all indications are that the Sargassum biomass will continue to accumulate and migrate westward over the next several months. Climate change has been identified as one of the major contributing factors to this phenomenon which has been affecting our region—and principally our coastal fishing communities—for the past 12 years.
Sargassum inundation defaces coastline of Saint Lucia fishing community (June 2022)
The CRFM-Plant & Food Research collaboration will identify and use appropriate sustainable technologies for efficient harvesting of Sargassum, according to international best practices. The final phase is outreach and supply chain development, which would entail the dissemination of a model to industry stakeholders and wider Caribbean.
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Belize City, Thursday, 19 January 2023 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has a new fisheries assessment scientist on its technical team. Dr. Pranaya Kumar Parida, who holds a Ph.D. in Fisheries Resource Management from India with more than 18 years of experience in Fisheries Research, Teaching and Extension, was recruited to assume a three-year tenure with the CRFM through the longstanding Cooperation Programme between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Government of India.
Dr. Parida will assist the CRFM and its Member States with fisheries assessment studies, statistical analyses of commercially exploited marine fish stocks, as well as the formulation of fisheries management plans and advice for decision-making. He will also provide training to Fisheries Biologists, Data Collectors, and Data Managers in CRFM Member States and at the CRFM Secretariat. He will be based at the CRFM Office located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism said: “The recruitment of Dr. Parida to assist with stock assessment studies is expected to provide critical data and information on the state of our fisheries, enabling CRFM Member States to enhance the way they manage the region’s fisheries resources. Through this engagement, the CRFM will continue to work towards strategically improving the sustainable development and management of the living marine resources of the CARICOM and CRFM Member States. The CRFM Secretariat is very grateful for the generous support being provided by the Government of India in making the services of Dr. Parida available to the CRFM Member States.”
He is credited with the publication of more than 35 international peer-reviewed research papers, 10 popular articles, and 2 books. He has been awarded a design patent and has filed another 4 patents as co-inventor.
Dr. Parida previously served as Assistant Professor (Fisheries Resource Management) at College of Fisheries, GADVASU, Ludhiana. He has furthermore conducted over 50 training programmes for the farmers, students from different universities, and government officials from different states of India.
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