BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, Friday, 13 April 2018 (CRFM)—Once a year, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), an inter-governmental organization established to promote and facilitate the responsible use of the region's fisheries resources, convenes a meeting of heads of national fisheries authorities from its 17 Member States. This year, that group of the Caribbean technical experts who make up the Caribbean Fisheries Forum will meet for two days in Montserrat.
The CRFM will convene the 16th Meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum on Monday, 16 April and Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at the Montserrat Cultural Centre in Little Bay, Montserrat. International and regional partner organizations, observers and stakeholders from the fisheries and aquaculture sector have also been invited to the event, organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Lands Housing and the Environment (MATHLE) in Montserrat.
Speakers at the opening ceremony will include Hon. David Osborne, Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, and Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM. Ms. Avery Galbraith-Smikle, Director of the Aquaculture Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Jamaica, will also address the gathering.
Jamaica, which hosted last year’s meeting of the Fisheries Forum, will hand over the chairmanship of the Forum at the upcoming meeting. A vice chair and members of the CRFM’s Executive Committee will also be picked for the new programme year, which began at the start of this month.
Participants will receive an update on the progress of programmes, projects and activities being undertaken by the CRFM and prepare recommendations to be presented to the CRFM’s Ministerial Council when it meets on 18 May 2018 in Montserrat.
Among the areas listed for discussion by the Forum are management plans for key fisheries, co-management of fisheries involving stakeholders and government officials, cooperation with regional and international partners to improve management and sustainable use of marine resources; adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management in fisheries, and measures to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, among others.
The CRFM is overseeing the development of the regional protocol to integrate climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in fisheries and aquaculture into the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy. On Wednesday, 18 April, the CRFM will also convene a regional workshop to review the Draft Protocol, which it aims to have ready before the hurricane season starts on June 1.
The UK Overseas Territory Government of Montserrat’s Fisheries Division is leading the way in sustainable marine resource management by becoming the smallest coastal country in the Wider Caribbean to proactively embrace cutting edge Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology to support the management and protection of coastal and marine resources.
The ground-breaking initiative is being delivered by the Government of Montserrat (GoM) in partnership with Succorfish and will provide responsible and sustainable fisheries resource management, development and conservation within the local marine environment.
Succorfish VMS technology has been designed to allow small scale, 3-10m fishing vessels, like those operating in Montserrat, to accurately record, monitor and map their exact location to within two metres from every minute to every hour. It significantly enhances fisheries management activities by supporting legal frameworks for spatial planning, protecting areas of conservation by deterring Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and improving safety at sea for inshore and offshore fishing vessels. As well as allowing authorities like the Government of UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat to improve its fisheries data collection and information systems required for future policy, it also supports the 2011-2020 National Sustainable Development Plan that recognises the importance of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems as a foundation for socio-economic development in the future. This reiterates the need for effective governance structures and strategies to protect and conserve the biodiversity of natural resources.
The Government's Fisheries Division will join the EU Member Countries, USA, and Australia to implement VMS as part of their legal framework for fisheries resource management from July 2014.
Tom Rossiter, Head of Marine at Succorfish, commented, "This low-cost, cost effective inshore VMS system uses innovative mobile phone technology and offers a highly efficient and effective tool for Governments like Montserrat to plan responsible fisheries management. The data collected is invaluable and this project will form the foundation of a larger data collection programme that embraces next generation technology and engages other like-minded Governments in the Caribbean."
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it will become necessary for fisheries management and fishing vessel operators to, in the future, promote the use of VMS as an instrument at national level and in cooperation with regional fishing authorities. This comprises one aspect of the FAO's activities to implement an International Plan of Action to prevent, deter or eliminate Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated fishing.
Given such regulations, once data from the GoM's initiative is delivered, it is hoped that Succorfish inshore VMS technology could become an integral management tool for Montserrat Marine Authorities as well as the wider Caribbean region.
Mr. Alwyn Ponteen, Chief Fisheries Officer for the Government of the UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat, added, "We are embarking upon a very exciting project and one that will allow Montserrat to meet its international and regional obligations in improving its fisheries management, accurate data collection and information sharing. As a result, at national level, the socio-economic benefit of fisheries will be recognised for its important contribution to food security and nutrition, livelihood, employment, trade and for monitoring future fisheries management."