Sargassum seaweed has been inundating Caribbean beaches since 2011. (Photo: CRFM 2019)
Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience to mitigate harsh impacts on Caribbean States
BELIZE CITY, 2 MARCH 2021 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, will host a virtual training workshop on Wednesday, 3 March 2021. The session—which will be conducted with the assistance of Prof Mona Webber of the Marine Science Centre, UWI, Mona Campus, Jamaica—will focus on techniques for harvesting, handling, species identification and processing of Sargassum seaweed for initial evaluation.
It will be attended by the four target countries for field work, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica, as well as other interested CARICOM States and organisations such as CARDI, CERMES UWI, University of Belize, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation (CNFO) and IAEA.
The training supports the effective implementation of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded project entitled, Developing Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean, due to commence in April 2021. In addition to the target countries, other CRFM Member States will benefit either directly or indirectly from the project, which aims to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains.
Since 2011, periodic influxes of massive quantities of Sargassum seaweed have been entering Caribbean waters, resulting in substantial economic losses and adverse impacts on human and environmental health.
The Outlook of 2021 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, released by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab on at the end of February 2021 indicated that, “…the eastern [Caribbean Sea] will likely experience increased amounts of Sargassum in March and April 2021, while some of the Lesser Antilles Islands will continue experiencing beaching events on both their windward leeward beaches." It forecasted that the situation could continue into summer, with the overall bloom intensity possibly like that of 2019.
In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research and the CRFM are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from the Sargassum seaweed. The project aims to develop Sargassum-derived product prototypes and production processes, including a commercialisation strategy to support its marketing.
In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and the CRFM, an inter-governmental organization which promotes and facilitates the responsible utilization of the Caribbean's fisheries and other aquatic resources, are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from marine biomass, particularly the Sargassum seaweed.
The overall aim of the project is to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains for Sargassum seaweed.
The CRFM has produced a leaflet with further details. View it online below or download a PDF copy HERE.
Ministerial delegations from Caribbean and Central American countries to discuss strategic actions for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector
Belize City, Monday, 30 September 2019 (CRFM)—Ministerial Fisheries delegations from countries across the Caribbean and Central America will converge in Belize this week for high-level talks aimed at solidifying partnerships at the political level, as well as setting out priority areas for attention and mutual cooperation.
On Tuesday, 1 October 2019, the CRFM will convene the Ninth Special Meeting of its Ministerial Council, the chief decision-making arm of the inter-governmental CARICOM agency. A priority item on the agenda of the CRFM meeting is a regional plan of action to combat Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Caribbean Ministers will also discuss international issues important to Member States, such as the World Trade Organization negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies.
Following the CRFM Ministerial Meeting, on Wednesday, 2 October 2019, the CARICOM delegations will dialogue with their counterparts from Central America during their second joint high-level meeting. The first ministerial meeting of CRFM and the Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA) was hosted on 3-4 September 2012 in Belize, a member of both sub-regional organizations.
On the agenda of the upcoming CRFM- OSPESCA meeting are pressing issues that confront both sub-regions. High on the agenda are IUU fishing; climate change and disaster risk management; blue economic growth; and the sustainable use, management and conservation of key species such as queen conch, lobster, pelagic species, sharks and reef fishes.
The Fisheries sector is one of the important employers across our region (Photo: CRFM)
CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, said: “The aim of our meeting is to strengthen regional cooperation and integration initiatives to improve implementation of our respective fisheries policies and address the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Oceans and Seas. We are enhancing our partnership to make progress on some of the big issues regarding sustainable development and conservation of fisheries and aquaculture in the region and in our national economies by enhancing food and nutrition security, providing jobs and livelihoods, and improving trade and resilience of fishing communities to climate change and related hazards.”
The parties – CRFM and OSPESCA – intend to update their 2012 Joint Plan of Action, setting out the specific priority areas of cooperation over the next five years. It is also expected that a Ministerial Declaration addressing areas of common interest and charting the way forward for collaborative action will be concluded and signed by participating Ministers.
Delegates from CRFM Member States and CRFM Secretariat staff at theThirteenth Reguar Meeting of the Ministerial Council
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 (CRFM)—Caribbean Fisheries Ministers who met for two days last week in Saint Kitts and Nevis have underscored the need for the region to take urgent action to address the ongoing Sargassum scourge, as well as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing—two of the most pressing challenges responsible for multimillion-dollar losses to the regional economy.
Honourable Eugene Hamilton, Minister of Agriculture, Health, National Health Insurance, Human Settlements, Community Development, Gender Affairs, Social Services, Land and Cooperatives, of Saint Kitts and Nevis, delivered the feature address at the official ceremony of the 13th Regular Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), opened on Thursday, 13 June 2019 at the Marriott Resort in Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis.
I applaud all of our efforts as Member States, as we continually stress the need to establish sustainable small-scale fisheries; as we institute mechanisms for fisheries co-management; and as we promote mitigation and adaptation measures as climate change and disaster risk management responses,” Minister Hamilton said.
Later on during the proceedings, Minister Hamilton assumed chairmanship of the Council from Montserrat’s Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, Honourable David Osborne. St. Lucia was elected as vice chair.
Speaking on behalf of Minister Osborne, Mrs. Eulyn Silcott-Greaves, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, of Montserrat, charged the Council to “be mindful of the challenges and complexities that we are called to mitigate—if not fully remedy—such as climate change and the increasing demand on the fisheries, aquaculture and oceans systems for goods and services.”
Honourable Eugene Hamilton of Saint Kitts and Nevis elected as chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council (left)
In his remarks to the Council, Mr. Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM, said: “We are establishing a solid foundation and a strong regional policy framework within the context of the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy that should guide our actions over the next 10 to 20 years in achieving our developmental objectives in fisheries and aquaculture.” Haughton added that it is only through joint efforts that the region can resolve problems such as those associated with climate change, IUU fishing, and the Sargassum inundation.
Sargassum inundation -- seen here in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines -- continues to impact countries across the Caribbean
During Council deliberations on the Sargassum problem, Grenada’s Minister of Fisheries, Hon. Alvin Dabreo, emphasized the need for immediate measures to curb the impacts. The meeting agreed that urgent action is needed on multiple fronts to address the problem, and highlighted the need for support from international development partners.
In relation to IUU fishing, Hon. Floyd Green, Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, spoke of the problems that Jamaica has recently been facing due to IUU fishing by vessels from countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Jamaica has had to extend the close-season for the Queen Conch fishery indefinitely, due to the adverse effects of IUU fishing on stock abundance.
The Ministerial Council “[affirmed that] IUU fishing is a major problem affecting Queen Conch fisheries in the region and highlighted the need to more aggressively pursue national and regionally coordinated action to combat IUU fishing and protect the fisheries resources, including direct engagement with the flag States of the IUU vessels and the market States where the IUU catches are exported.”
It furthermore endorsed the collective regional efforts to engage both the market States where IUU fish is sold and the IUU fishing nations for conch, lobster and other high-value species.
The Ministers considered scientific advice and recommendations from the 17th Meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum, held in March in Saint Kitts and Nevis. This included measures to improve the resilience of fishing communities and marine ecosystems to climate change, as well as actions being taken to improve adaptation and disaster risk response. Furthermore, it deliberated upon actions needed to improve the conservation and management of fisheries resources and ecosystems; strengthen systems for evidence-based decision making; promote the blue economy; and strengthen partnerships with development partners and donors.
Before the Council Meeting, the CRFM convened the 3rd Meeting of the Ministerial Sub-Committee on the Flyingfish Fishery in the Eastern Caribbean. During that meeting, chaired by Hon. Ezekiel Joseph, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, of Saint Lucia, the members noted that a significant amount of work in support of conservation and management of the Eastern Caribbean Flyingfish Fishery had been done through the CLME+ Flyingfish Sub-project. The Council also signaled its support for the finalization of the Sub-Regional Fisheries Management Plan for Flyingfish in the Eastern Caribbean, 2020-2025.
Hon. David Osborne, Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, Montserrat, newly elected chair of the Council
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, WEDNESDAY, 23 May 2018 (CRFM)—Fisheries Ministers who recently attended the 12th Regular Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), held in Montserrat on Friday, 18 May 2018, endorsed a newly drafted protocol on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the region.
CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, noted that small-scale fisheries are the mainstay of the fisheries industry, both in the region and around the globe. He said that small-scale fisheries accounts for more than 95% of fisheries in CARICOM and are vital for food security and employment, particularly in coastal communities. Globally, it accounts for 90% of all the fisheries produced, Haughton said.
CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton
He explained that the Protocol had been developed within the framework of the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP), accepted by CRFM Member States in 2014. The protocol, which addresses principles and standards for securing and strengthening small-scale fisheries, is the first protocol under the CCCFP, he added.
The Ministerial Council endorsed the Protocol and agreed on the need for immediate implementation. It, furthermore, called on regional and international development partners and donors to support the Protocol on small-scale fisheries and to assist Member States with implementing it as well as the CCCFP, to improve fisheries and aquaculture governance, as well as management in the region.
Outgoing chairman of the Ministerial Council, Hon. Noel Holder, M.P., Minister of Agriculture, Guyana, highlighted the need for government executives within CRFM Member States to help move the process forward.
He also flagged climate change, security at sea, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as three priority areas for the Caribbean’s fisheries sector. At the opening of the Meeting, Holder spoke of the destruction wrought by two catastrophic hurricanes, Irma and Maria, on some CRFM Member States last year, amid a period of above normal cyclonic events attributed to climate change.
Hon. Noel Holder, M.P., Minister of Agriculture, Guyana, outgoing chair of the Ministerial Council
On the issue of IUU fishing, Holder said that in CARICOM, 25% of catches are unreported and 5% are illegal, based on information published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Whereas illegal fishing is a problem – both globally and regionally – so too is piracy on the open waters. Minister Holder underscored during his remarks that the security of fishers as they traverse the waters of the Caribbean must be a high priority as the Council forges ahead. He spoke in light of the recently reported pirate attack off Suriname, feared to have claimed the lives of at least a dozen Guyanese fishers. The Minister said that his sympathies are with the families of the affected men.
Haughton noted that the Council meeting was taking place against the backdrop of a difficult and challenging period in the region for many countries, repositioning and reengineering their economies and preparing to address the “new normal” environment challenged by a changing climate, as well as warming and increasingly acidic waters.
Haughton cautioned, though, that the road ahead to building climate-smart, resilient economies; realize sustainable growth and development; and create jobs and prosperity for Caribbean people could prove difficult and challenging, but the CRFM’s resolve would not be broken.
He underscored that, “It is only through joint efforts that we can resolve the big problems, such as overfishing, climate change, marine pollution, invasive marine species, Sargassum seaweed inundation, [and] IUU fishing.”
The need for a united front was echoed by Hon. David Osborne, Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, Montserrat.
“Fish know no boundaries. Let us, therefore, unite as ‘One Caribbean’ to conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” said Osborne, who was elected as the new chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council on Friday.
The Minister said that the Caribbean has its niche markets, which include fisheries, and he urged CRFM Member States “to step up to the plate and work with each other” in developing the sector sustainably.
The Ministerial Council also adopted a Policy Statement on fisheries co-Management and fisher engagement and participation, supported through a recently concluded project funded by Japan. The meeting also recognized the successful development of the fisheries using fish aggregating devices (FAD), which was supported by the Project. Although the Caribbean Fisheries Co-Management Project (CARIFICO) ended in April, the Council endorsed a call for the region to pursue continued fisheries cooperation with Japan, with which CARICOM has had a long-standing, productive relationship spanning more than two decades.