High on the Ministerial Council's agenda are plans to develop marine capture fisheries and aquaculture across the Caribbean, with the aim of reducing the region's US$4 billion food import bill, while building a Caribbean seafood cuisine brand that the region and the world can embrace as a safe and healthy choice.
The 17-member Council is meeting at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa for a three-hour session, to advance proposed legislation and guidelines which will support an enabling environment for a harmonized regime of food safety.
At the Ministerial Council's recent meeting in Jamaica, chairman Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries of Jamaica, urged the region to explore the untapped market of open-sea fish and aquaculture and to lock in a bigger share of the US$136-billion global industry.
Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) was officially inaugurated on 27 March 2003 in Belize City, Belize, where it is headquartered, following the signing of the "Agreement Establishing the CRFM" on February 4, 2002. It is an inter-governmental organization whose mission is "to promote and facilitate the responsible utilization of the region's fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefits of the current and future population of the region."
The region is developing harmonised food safety legislation to help build a resilient Caribbean seafood brand
Today, the fisheries ministers are looking at strategic interventions which the region can make to develop the full potential of its marine capture fisheries and aquaculture, in line with the current push towards the Blue Economy and Blue Growth, which aims to maximize benefits from the region's expansive maritime spaces.
With the recent battering of some CARICOM Member States by hurricanes and storms during this hurricane season, the need for the region to establish better mechanisms to provide risk insurance for fishers is also a high priority. The Council is reviewing the progress made towards the activation of the Caribbean Ocean Assets Sustainability Facility (COAST), which includes a risk insurance facility for fishers.
The Caribbean Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) is developing a new sovereign parametric policy for the fisheries sector, and a micro-insurance policy for small-scale fishers based on the template for the existing Livelihood Protection Policy (LPP) that targets farmers and labourers. Fishers will soon be able to purchase the policy and obtain quick payouts when they experience losses due to storms, heavy rainfall, high winds and other climate related variables.
The CRFM Ministerial Council is also discussing a model protocol for responding to the influx of sargassum seaweed that has been affecting fisheries, coastal and marine ecosystems and other economic activities in the waters of Caribbean countries. The initiative by the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO/WECAFC) to establish a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation in the Wider Caribbean Region and a proposal by South Korea for the establishment of a World Fisheries University are also being considered by the Ministerial Council.
The meeting of the Council precedes the 62nd Special Meeting of CARICOM's Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), scheduled for Friday. The CRFM—which is represented at the meetings in Cayman by Executive Director Milton Haughton—has lead responsibility for the development of the marine fisheries and aquaculture industries, highlighted by COTED as priority commodities. (Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Press Release)