Follow the fish
fisheries official calls for policy to be implemented
A leading official in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management has called for an integrated economic space and a policy of open sea resources in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that will allow regional fisherfolk to “follow the fish wherever they go” in Caribbean waters without the threat of arrest and confiscation of their catch hanging over them.
Several Barbadian fishermen have been arrested in Trinidad and Tobago over the past several years after they allegedly chased fish into Trinidad’s territorial waters.
Speaking today at the opening of a two-day regional fisheries workshop at Accra Beach Resort, outspoken Permanent Secretary Esworth Reid said CARICOM governments ought to agree on protocols that would allow fishermen from one member country to fish in the waters of another state.
“I believe that the time has come where the countries in the region can come together as an integrated economic space and agree to institute a policy of open sea resources to all members of the region,” the top public officer said.
“Our regional fishermen should therefore be allowed to follow the fish wherever they go in the Caribbean once the correct fee or levy is paid” to a central regional agency.
He said the regional agency would set the rules under which “legitimate fishermen” would operate in order to ensure that the sovereign rights of the individual member states, especially their rights to the resources in the sea that immediately surround them, were not compromised.
Reid added that the agency would also collect the necessary fees, which could be distributed among the member countries based on an agreed formula.
“It is my opinion and it is just my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the Ministry and that of the Minister, that as a region we should allow legitimate fishermen to operate their legitimately registered vessels, without hindrance, anywhere in the Caribbean, but subject to set rules and a set fee or levy paid either to the member state in which waters the vessel is operating or to a central regional body or agency established by CARICOM.
“Such an agency may also serve to be a monitoring and evaluating mechanism to manage fishing activities in the region. I believe such can help to develop fishing and I am referring here to fish harvesting as a regional industry where all member states benefit rather than a national industry where fishermen are restricted to any defined small space to fish,” said the Permanent Secretary, who suggested that a regional approach to fishing would allow for free movement within Caribbean waters.
The workshop is designed to validate the recommendations of consultants who analyzed the fisheries component of a $27 million European Union (EU)-funded project to better equip the forum of the Caribbean Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM) to comply with strict sanitary and phytosanitary rules when exporting food products to the EU. (EJ)