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BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, FRIDAY, 25 January 2019 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has initiated a regional fact-finding study to document the record-breaking influx of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea in 2018, and the impacts this phenomenon has been having on countries in the region since 2011.

The fact-finding survey is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that has coordinated official development assistance from Japan to CARICOM States for over two decades.

Over the past 7 years, massive Sargassum influxes have been having adverse effects on national and regional economies in the Caribbean, with substantial loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities, primarily in the fisheries and tourism sectors. Large Sargassum influxes had been experienced in this region in 2011, 2014 and 2015, but it reached unprecedented levels in 2018, with more Sargassum affecting the Caribbean for a longer period of time than had previously been observed.

It is estimated that clean-up could cost the Caribbean at least $120 million in 2018. The CRFM Ministerial Council adopted the “Protocol for the Management of Extreme Accumulations of Sargassum on the Coasts of CRFM Member States” in 2016. The protocol has been guiding the drafting of national Sargassum management protocols for Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with support from the CC4FISH project, an initiative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

In the coming weeks, the CRFM Secretariat will lead extensive consultations with key national stakeholders in the public and private sector, including interests in fisheries, tourism, and environment, as well as with coastal communities and other related sectors. Remote surveys and field missions in select Member States will provide a broad knowledge-base on exactly how the phenomenon has been affecting the countries.

 

PHOTO-Consett Bay

Consett Bay, on the east coast of Barbados, also experienced major Sargassum inundation during 2018. (Photo: CRFM)

 

Through the project, the CRFM will identify heavily affected areas, the time and frequency of extreme blossoms and accumulation of Sargassum, the quantity of accumulation, and elements associated with it, such as the species of fish and types of debris. A review of the history and scope of the impacts (both positive and negative) will be conducted and the extent of financial losses quantified. The CRFM will also identify research and countermeasures taken by the national governments, regional organizations, research institutions, and other development partners and donors. Finally, the study will suggest actions and scope of support that Japan may provide to help the countries address the problem.

During the study, the CRFM will engage other regional institutions such as Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies (CERMES-UWI), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, (CIMH), the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission. The CRFM will also engage development partners which have been doing Sargassum-related work in the region, including the FAO, UN Environment Regional Coordinating Unit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and IOCARIBE, the Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to the CRFM, Sargassum influxes disrupt fishing operations through gear entanglement and damage; impeding fishing and other vessels at sea; reducing catches of key fisheries species, such as flyingfish and adult dolphinfish; changing the availability and distribution of coastal and pelagic fisheries resources; and disrupting coastal fishing communities and tourism activities.

However, this challenge has also inspired innovative interventions, and opportunities for revenue-generation include value-addition through the production of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, animal feed, and biofuel. The CRFM notes, though, that the financial or other benefits remain to be quantified.

The Sargassum phenomenon is believed to be driven by several factors, including climate change and increased sea surface temperature; change in regional winds and ocean current patterns; increased supply of Saharan dust; and nutrients from rivers, sewage and nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Published in Press release

BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, FRIDAY, 25 January 2019 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has initiated a regional fact-finding study to document the record-breaking influx of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea in 2018, and the impacts this phenomenon has been having on countries in the region since 2011.

 

The fact-finding survey is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that has coordinated official development assistance from Japan to CARICOM States for over two decades.

 

Over the past 7 years, massive Sargassum influxes have been having adverse effects on national and regional economies in the Caribbean, with substantial loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities, primarily in the fisheries and tourism sectors. Large Sargassum influxes had been experienced in this region in 2011, 2014 and 2015, but it reached unprecedented levels in 2018, with more Sargassum affecting the Caribbean for a longer period of time than had previously been observed.

 

It is estimated that clean-up could cost the Caribbean at least $120 million in 2018. The CRFM Ministerial Council adopted the “Protocol for the Management of Extreme Accumulations of Sargassum on the Coasts of CRFM Member States” in 2016. The protocol has been guiding the drafting of national Sargassum management protocols for Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with support from the CC4FISH project, an initiative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

 

In the coming weeks, the CRFM Secretariat will lead extensive consultations with key national stakeholders in the public and private sector, including interests in fisheries, tourism, and environment, as well as with coastal communities and other related sectors. Remote surveys and field missions in select Member States will provide a broad knowledge-base on exactly how the phenomenon has been affecting the countries.

 

PHOTO-Consett Bay

 

Through the project, the CRFM will identify heavily affected areas, the time and frequency of extreme blossoms and accumulation of Sargassum, the quantity of accumulation, and elements associated with it, such as the species of fish and types of debris. A review of the history and scope of the impacts (both positive and negative) will be conducted and the extent of financial losses quantified. The CRFM will also identify research and countermeasures taken by the national governments, regional organizations, research institutions, and other development partners and donors. Finally, the study will suggest actions and scope of support that Japan may provide to help the countries address the problem.

 

During the study, the CRFM will engage other regional institutions such as Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies (CERMES-UWI), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, (CIMH), the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission. The CRFM will also engage development partners which have been doing Sargassum-related work in the region, including the FAO, UN Environment Regional Coordinating Unit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and IOCARIBE, the Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

 

According to the CRFM, Sargassum influxes disrupt fishing operations through gear entanglement and damage; impeding fishing and other vessels at sea; reducing catches of key fisheries species, such as flyingfish and adult dolphinfish; changing the availability and distribution of coastal and pelagic fisheries resources; and disrupting coastal fishing communities and tourism activities.

 

However, this challenge has also inspired innovative interventions, and opportunities for revenue-generation include value-addition through the production of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, animal feed, and biofuel. The CRFM notes, though, that the financial or other benefits remain to be quantified.

 

The Sargassum phenomenon is believed to be driven by several factors, including climate change and increased sea surface temperature; change in regional winds and ocean current patterns; increased supply of Saharan dust; and nutrients from rivers, sewage and nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Published in Press release

 

The CRFM is developing a Model Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management Plan for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector for CRFM Member States. This has emerged out of a necessity to have a framework that would advise regional partners on the measures to be taken in order to be better prepared, prevent and minimize loss, damage, destruction and death arising from hazards such as severe hydrometeorological events, tsunamis and oil spills. The Model Plan will enhance the Caribbean’s ability to manage all disasters at a regional and national level, with special emphasis on the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

  

Published in CRFM News

 

Belize City, Friday, 20 October 2017 (CRFM)—Several Caribbean countries have been recently devastated by two catastrophic hurricanes, Irma and Maria, underscoring the need for Member States of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) to press forward with risk insurance for the fisheries sector—being developed by the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company (CCRIF SPC, formerly known as the CCRIF) in collaboration with the World Bank. This initiative to develop risk insurance for the fisheries sector in CARICOM States is supported by the United States government under the Caribbean Ocean and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST).

At the 7th Meeting of the CRFM Ministerial Council, hosted in Georgetown, Guyana, on 5th October 2017, policy-makers underscored the need for CARICOM Member States to move ahead with adopting risk insurance that would enable the fisheries sector and fishers to bounce back more quickly after a hurricane strikes. So far, there has been no payout provided specifically for the rehabilitation and recovery of the fisheries sector, although there have been other payouts under the broader umbrella of the CCRIF scheme. Since its establishment in 2007, the CCRIF SPC has made payouts of a little more than US$100 million to 12 of its 17 member countries – all within 14 days of the disaster event.

“Having such an insurance scheme is one of the good things we can do to help fishers get back on their feet as soon as possible after a disaster,” said CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton.

The development and implementation of the livelihood protection policy for individual small-scale operators and the sovereign parametric policy for States that the CCRIF SPC is working on, now assumes greater urgency for the sector, the CRFM Executive Director underscored.

Haughton expresses the hope that in light of the destruction and devastation which the recent hurricanes have caused in CRFM Member States such as Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Turks and Caicos, that all parties will redouble their efforts to get the risk insurance facilities for the sector established as soon as possible and certainly before the next hurricane season. He said that the insurance policies are being designed to provide quick relief to those fishers who experience distress as a result of disasters such as hurricanes.

A report published by the Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda in September, titled ‘HURRICANE IRMA – PRELIMINARY DAMAGE ASSESSMENT FOR ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA’S FISHERIES SECTOR,” said: “In terms of the impact Hurricane Irma had on fishers and their families, considering the role the sector plays with respect to employment, food security and as a ‘safety-net’ for other economic activities (i.e., occupational pluralism), a total of 778 individuals were affected including 193 fishers and 585 financial dependents… This accounted for 25.5% of the population of Barbuda (1,800) (i.e., one in every four persons) and 0.3% of the population of Antigua (91,440).”

The report notes that there were 37 boats, over 2,000 fish traps, and 17 gill nets destroyed. An aquaponics facility at which fish and vegetables are farmed together suffered minor damage and damages were also reported to some fisheries facilities, such as wharves and public buildings.

The CRFM Secretariat is currently developing a model Disaster Management Plan for the Fisheries Sector of the region to facilitate adequate preparation by stakeholders before disaster events and to ensure speedy, coordinated assessment and recovery efforts after such events.

 

Published in Press release

 

Belize City, Wednesday, 18 January 2017 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Government of Norway have launched a two-week mission to explore the development of a regional technical assistance project to be funded by Norway. The project would support the region’s fisheries and aquaculture sector by strengthening evidence-based management.

Dr. Åge Høines, Senior Scientist, Institute of Marine Research, Norway; and Dr. Johán Williams, Specialist Director, Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, began meeting on Monday, January 16, with CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton at the CRFM Secretariat in Belize City, after which the team embarked in a two-week dialogue with 7 CRFM Members States, beginning with senior government officials in Belize.

This regional fact-finding mission is being undertaken within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Cooperation between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Governments of the Nordic Countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, signed by the parties on 20 September 2016 in New York, USA. That MoU identified fisheries as one of the priority areas of cooperation, along with environment, climate change, renewable energy, gender equality, tourism, education, child protection and welfare, and information technology.

"Norway is a powerhouse in fisheries, globally,” Haughton said. “They have excellent systems for research, data collection, resource management, and making decisions based on science; and we need to move more in that direction—strengthening our systems to be able to make better decisions regarding fisheries conservation and management, as well as fisheries development on the basis of good scientific data and information.”

Haughton added that: “We are interested in drawing on the Norwegian knowledge, expertise and technology in various aspects of fisheries and aquaculture, in building our own capacities in CARICOM in fisheries research, statistics, resource management, aquaculture (particularly mariculture), fish processing, value addition, marketing and international trade.”

Principally, the engagement between Norway and the CRFM Member States will focus of building human resource capacity, institutional capacity, and the accuracy and volume of fisheries data and information, with an emphasis on pursuing the ecosystems approach to fisheries development and management.

While in Belize, Høines and Williams had a chance to dialogue with H.E. Daniel Guiterrez, Belize’s Ambassador to CARICOM; Hon. Omar Figueroa, Belize’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and Climate Change, as well as Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade.

After leaving Belize on Tuesday, the team, joined by CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton, travels to Haiti for similar dialogue, as they consult with stakeholders in the field to better define their interests. Next, the team will travel to Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and The Bahamas. While in Guyana, they will meet both with fisheries officials there and officials of the CARICOM Secretariat. The technical mission concludes near the end of January.

Haughton noted that for more than 60 years, Norway has been supporting fisheries research surveys in developing countries using the marine research vessel, Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, outfitted with high-level modern technology in marine resource survey. Those vessels have been dispatched in Africa and other parts of the developing world. It is the CRFM’s hope that during the latter half of the proposed project, for the period 2019-2020, the research vessel would be deployed in the Caribbean to conduct surveys to broaden the region’s understanding of the state of its fisheries resources and marine environment. The CRFM also intends to collaborate in this endeavor with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission, which is already committed to assisting the region in buildings its fisheries knowledge base.

 

Published in Press release

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 13 December 2016 (CRFM)—The fisheries industry on Wednesday moves one step closer to making the Caribbean fish and seafood trade safer and more profitable when experts meet in Barbados to finalise a raft of model regional laws, policies and procedures.

 

The Caribbean region’s ability to cash in on a potentially lucrative, international export trade in fish and seafood – already worth 315 million US dollars a year – is being held back by gaps in sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) said.

 

But the experts, who are wrapping up an 18-month-long project to investigate fish handling policies and design a new seafood safety regime for the region’s fish and fishery products, are set to introduce a new regime for SPS measures in CARIFORUM states.

 

“The continued viability and further development of the fishing industry of the CRFM region face several challenges, some of which are related to inadequate development of SPS systems to suit the specific needs of fisheries and aquaculture operations,” said CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton ahead of the two-day meeting.

 

Haughton said the experts are meeting to bring forward work begun a year ago on preparing model legislation.

 

The meeting will unveil model fisheries and aquaculture SPS legislation that is to be presented to CARICOM with the intention of being enacted in each exporting nation. The model legislation has been developed in consultation and communication with policymakers, fisherfolk, processors and other industry players.

 

Compliance with globally established SPS standards is voluntary – a worrisome development that experts say is stopping member states from tapping into niche markets overseas and boosting foreign exchange earnings.

 

Investigations by international consultants on the project exposed large gaps in legally binding protocols managing food safety throughout the region.

 

The experts found barriers to trade of fish and fisheries products due to inadequate SPS standards; minimal legislative standards for aquaculture; concern about food security and decreasing use of local, fresh seafood – the solution for which improved SPS support is an essential component, the CRFM said.

 

With the impact of global environmental changes including climate change on the Caribbean, the regional fisheries agency said there is need for improved management and monitoring of the natural environment that sustains fisheries and aquaculture production.

 

The meeting is to be streamed live daily for regional media, industry figures, officials and anyone interested in fisheries and the safety and health of fish and seafood in the region, the CRFM said. The proceedings may be followed on the CRFM’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/TheCRFM.

 

Government officials from each CRFM member state are to review and endorse the final documents to allow final approval. These will then be recommended to CARICOM’s Council for Trade Economic Development (COTED), the regional bloc’s forum of trade ministers, as well as other CARICOM bodies.

 

The two-day meeting is the high point of a European Union-funded project to help CARIFORUM countries introduce laws, regulations and a governance system to guarantee safe seafood for export to EU markets and beyond.

 

The project, which is being carried out by the Belize-based CRFM and supported by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), aims to ramp up food safety standards to enable CARIFORUM fish exporters to take up trading opportunities under the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The project is financed under the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Project.

 

Published in Press release

 

Belize City, Wednesday, 6 April 2016 (CRFM)--Fisheries experts from across the Caribbean region are traveling to Guyana this week for the 14th Meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum -- the primary technical deliberative body of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). The Forum will be meeting in Georgetown on Thursday, 7 April and Friday, 8 April to undertake its annual stocktaking and planning for the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

The event will bring together more than 50 participants, including directors of fisheries, chief fisheries officers, and other development partners, such as NGOs and international organizations like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which work with the CRFM in promoting the development, management and conservation of the Caribbean’s fisheries resources.

Justin Rennie, Chief Fisheries Officer of Grenada, will demit chairmanship of the Forum to Denzil Roberts, Chief Fisheries Officer of Guyana, for the 12-month period spanning the new program year which commenced on 1 April. A new vice chairman will also be selected.

CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, highlighted the most pressing issues on the agenda: “We’re discussing a lot of emerging issues in the region. We are looking at how to improve conservation and management of key species, apply and use the value chain approach in order to increase benefits, such as increased income and export potential. We are discussing sanitary and phytosanitary capacity as a part of our overall strategy to strengthen our trade capacity, so that we can indeed export more to key international markets and also to provide greater quality and safety in terms of the fish and seafood that we provide for our people as well as our guests and tourists coming into the region.”

Haughton added that the 17 CRFM Member States are also looking at ways to strengthen the linkage between fisheries and tourism, “because the tourism sector is a huge sector and we believe we have a golden opportunity to enhance the linkages between fisheries and tourism to derive more benefits—more income, more employment opportunities—for our fishers and their communities.”

The Forum will also review the region’s progress in implementing the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP), as well as initiatives to strengthen research, and institutional and human capacity through the CRFM’s collaboration with a number of development partners such as the University of the West Indies (UWI), the University of Florida in the USA, the International Ocean Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada; the University of Wollongong in Australia, and the United Nations University in Iceland.

This collaboration is vital in ensuring that CRFM Member States are equipped with the human and institutional capacity needed to tackle the increasing challenges of sustainable development that confront them—challenges which are being exacerbated by climate change.

One such challenge is the emergence of the Sargassum seaweed on the region’s beaches and in the coastal waters.

“Last year and 2011 we had massive influx of Sargassum seaweed on our beaches that affected our fisheries. So we are putting in place measures to deal with the Sargassum seaweed should it return in the future—we hope it won’t, but just in case it does—and from all indications, we are expecting to have more of this seaweed coming on our shores and in our coastal waters,” Haughton said.

Haughton said that associated with the Sargassum seaweed are large numbers of juvenile dolphinfish (locally known as mahimahi)—which is a very important target species in the Eastern Caribbean.

“Our fishermen, of course, once they see these in large quantities, even though they are juveniles, they will catch them. So we are promoting the implementation of emergency, precautionary management measures; that is, minimum size limits for the dolphinfish fishery,” Haughton said.

Aquaculture is also big on the agenda, and the Forum will discuss a new 5-year aquaculture action plan, which they will be asked to endorse. Since land mass is limited in our region, non-conventional aquaculture schemes are being promoted and explored.

“Aquaponics is something that has been growing in the region—this is growing fish and vegetables together in a limited area using re-circulating water systems. This is more suitable for the smaller islands, like Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados,” Haughton explained.

On the second day of the meeting, the Forum members will discuss a proposal from the United States to support fishers through a risk insurance facility, Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), which will be handling the technical details for the development of the policy. Under this regime, CRFM Member States will make contributions to the scheme in addition to the initial contribution of the USA.

The Caribbean Fisheries Forum will conclude its meeting with recommendations to be submitted at the next meeting of the CRFM’s Ministerial Council—the chief policy making body on fisheries in the Caribbean Region.

 

Published in Press release

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