A series of milestone, regional meetingswhich spanned eight days and which brought together nearly 100 participants from 36 countries to discuss topics such as international guidelines for small scale fisheries, as well as climate change and disaster risk managementhave concluded in Kingston, Jamaica. The meetings began last Wednesday, December 5, with a performance review of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the Caribbean agency tasked with coordinating regional efforts to manage and develop sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

During the CRFM review, heads of national fisheries authorities in CRFM Member States also had a chance to participate in the formulation of the new 8-year strategic plan for the CRFM, to take effect next year, 2013. The regional workshop on “Formulation of a strategy, action plan and programme proposal on disaster risk management, and climate change adaptation in fisheries and aquaculture in the CARICOM and Wider Caribbean Region closed on Wednesday, December 12, with participants laying out key recommendations, as well as giving their input into a draft assessment study, a draft strategy and action plan, and a draft programme proposal for funding for the region.

Workshop participants recognised the need, at regional, national and local levels, for innovative insurance schemes for small-scale fishers and fish farmers, for early warning systems, rapid damage impact assessment and provision of emergency relief assistance and support. The meetings were convened by the CRFM and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica, the FAO Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and The Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) of the University of the West Indies, with support from the Government of Sweden and the Government of Japan.

Participants stressed the need for agencies to coordinate and research on region specific climate change impacts, including increasing the knowledge base and improving linkages between CARICOM and non-CARICOM member states. They pointed to the need to strengthen the CRFM’s human and financial capacity to cooperate with CCCCC and CDEMA in relation to fisheries, aquaculture, climate change and disaster risk management, as well as to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organisations at all levels.

The climate change and disaster risk management initiatives being undertaken by stakeholders in fisheries will serve to build resilience through the application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) and ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA), which will in turn facilitate the ability to quickly recover and rebuild with improvements in the aftermath of a disaster event, participants agreed.

A second major meeting, the FAO/CRFM/WECAFC Caribbean Regional Consultation on the Development of International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines), was convened from Thursday, December 6 to Saturday, December 8. It welcomed the SSF Guidelines as a guiding instrument for regional and national interventions, for securing rights and benefits, and for reducing the marginalisation of the small-scale fisheries sector in the region.

Those who participated in the consultation recognised that, “The contribution of the small-scale fisheries sector to food and nutrition security, poverty alleviation and economic development in the region is undervalued, and the sector is threatened by pollution, over-exploitation, and increasing competition for coastal and marine space, in particular from the tourism sector, but increasingly also from oil and gas extraction.

They also noted that, “Many countries either do not have functional and holistic fisheries management plans in place, or are struggling with their implementation and enforcement. In those cases where management plans exist, often they are not developed and implemented in a participatory manner.

Young men who have emerged as a vulnerable group in the Caribbean region, as evidenced by indicators related to education, employment, involvement in drugs, gangs etc., should also be considered in plans to advance small-scale fisheries, participants acknowledged.

The CRFM and other regional bodies’ endorsement of the SSF Guidelines, they said, will make it easier to get implementation support at the national level. Participants call on governments from across the region to ensure strong representation at the SSF Guidelines Technical Consultation to be held from May 20-24, 2013 in Rome, during which the text for the SSF Guidelines will be negotiated to ensure that the special needs of the region are addressed. They also call on civil society organisations representing the small-scale fisheries sector to participate in the technical consultation.

The International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines) will be presented for adoption to the 31st Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in July 2014.

Photo: (Left to right) CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton; Jamaica Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Roger Clarke; Chief Executive Officer of Jamaica Fisheries Division, Andre Kong; Raymon Van Anrooy, FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Officer/Secretary of WECAFC, and FAO Senior Fishery Officer, Helga Josupeit.

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