Belize City, Friday, 8 October 2021 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), an inter-governmental organization of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), announced this week that several of its Member States in the CARICOM region had signed The International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry, also known as the ‘Copenhagen Declaration’. The countries simultaneously affirmed their resolute support to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and transnational organized crime in the fishing industry by supporting the Declaration and the Blue Justice Initiative. The Initiative will help to strengthen cooperation among countries and build capacity to address transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry and to combat IUU Fishing.
Speaking at a regional meeting of CARICOM Ministers responsible for Fisheries and Blue Economic Growth on Monday, 4 October 2021, Hon. Saboto S. Caesar, Chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council, and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labor, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, described the situation as “a very difficult problem,” adding that much needs to be done to tackle this growing threat that has been undermining the progress of the region.
Hon. Saboto Caesar hosts high-level Ministerial Meeting.
“Available data indicate that IUU fishing accounts for up to 30% of the total global catch, valued at several billions of US dollars…,” Minister Caesar said, adding that “There is a growing body of evidence showing that drug traffickers, human traffickers, small arms traffickers, and traders in contraband goods, among others, are using fishing as a cover to conduct their nefarious activities.”
Minister Caesar said that the CRFM Member States are very grateful for the support and leadership being provided by the Government of Norway in tackling the problem, through efforts such as the Blue Justice Initiative and the Blue Resilience Project.
“We recognize the value of the International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the global fishing industry that was done in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October 2018. It provides a solid framework for countries like ours in the Caribbean to work together with regional and international partners to better understand the problem, share information, and build the necessary legal, regulatory, monitoring, control, surveillance, and enforcement capacity to defeat and eradicate transnational organized crime and IUU fishing," Minister Caesar said.
The CRFM Ministerial Meeting was convened during the 16th Annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture to provide an opportunity for Caribbean countries to formally express their support by signing the declaration. Even ahead of the meeting with representatives from the Government of Norway, the CARICOM Secretariat, and other regional and international development partners, CRFM Member States began to express their resounding support for the instruments, and the Ministerial Council issued a resolution after its 15th Meeting held in May 2021, setting the stage for this week’s milestones.
Member States have attested to the monumental cost of IUU fishing to the region. Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica, detailed the quantifiable cost on Jamaica’s economy, which has lost billions of Jamaica dollars in earnings as well as thousands of jobs. The devastation caused by IUU fishing forced a 2-year moratorium on the queen conch fishery, implemented from 1 February 2019 to 31 March 2021, to allow the fishery time to recover.
“As it relates to queen conch fishing, it is estimated that over the last 20 years (since the year 2000), Jamaica has lost at least US$284 million due to foreign IUU fishing,” said Minister Shaw, who provided a conservative estimate based on illegal foreign motor fishing vessels caught in Jamaican waters and an extrapolation of the estimated average rate of poaching.
“The closure of the queen conch fishery possibly resulted in annual losses of approximately US$6 million in direct export earnings and loss of jobs for some 5,500 Jamaicans. The multiplier effect, resulting from the loss of jobs and export earnings may be as much as US$20 million during the 2-year period,” Minister Shaw added.
Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica, detailed the quantifiable cost on Jamaica’s economy.
Jamaica was one of the 12 CRFM Member States which signed the Copenhagen Declaration en bloc this week and simultaneously endorsed the Blue Justice Initiative. As of Friday, 8 October 2021, 12 CRFM Member States had deposited signed instruments with the CRFM Secretariat in Belize City, Belize. Those Member States are The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, The Turks and Caicos Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago.
"We need to continue to strengthen our collaboration, and I think we will begin to turn the tide on this very difficult issue that we are dealing with—of unlawfulness in the fishing industry and the depletion and degradation of our resources—and to sustainably use and develop these resources for the benefit of our people,” CRFM Executive Director, Mr. Milton Haughton, said, in addressing the Ministers.
Mr. Haughton added that going forward, the CRFM Secretariat will be collaborating with the UNDP and officials from Norway to organize a regional workshop involving technical officials from the Fisheries Departments and Maritime Security Agencies from Member States and Regional Institutions, to map out future needs and identify at least one high priority intervention to be supported under the Blue Justice Initiative.
“This is exciting! I want to take this opportunity to thank all the countries, the Ministers, and the Permanent Secretaries, that signed on to the declaration ... I also want to thank our colleagues from Norway, UNDP, FAO, UNODC, as well as our regional partners: CARICOM IMPACS and the Regional Security System (RSS) for the excellent support and collaboration," the CRFM Executive Director said in closing the meeting.
On 21 May 2021, The Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), an institution of CARICOM, adopted a resolution on the Copenhagen Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing industry and the Blue Justice Initiative.
The Ministerial Council of CRFM consists of the Ministers responsible for fisheries from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos Islands.
In the resolution, the Ministers highlighted that IUU-fishing and Transnational Organized Crime in the global fishing industry constitute a serious threat to the security and sustainable use of the living marine resources and marine biodiversity, and that it jeopardizes the food security and blue economic development of the countries in the region.
It was also stated that the Ministerial Council “supports the Copenhagen Declaration and encourages Ministers responsible for fisheries to individually support the declaration and convey their interest in cooperating and benefitting from the Blue Justice Initiative…”
The International Blue Justice Tracking Center established in the Arctic town of Vardø (photo: flickr/cc/Mickey Bo)
An “International Blue Justice Tracking Center” has been established under the Blue Justice Initiative. The Center will be supported by the joint analytical unit of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries and the Coastal Administration and is located in the town of Vardø.
The Center will be supported by analysts from the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate who will work together with colleagues around the world to produce reports on the movement of fishing vessels and potential illegal fishing operations.
As an important part of the Blue Justice initiative, the Center will also work closely with other partners of the initiative, such as UNODC’s Container Control Programme, UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Information about it can be seen here: https://bluejustice.org/the-international-blue-justice-tracking-center-established-under-the-blue-justice-initiative-in-the-arctic-town-of-vardo/
ABOUT THE CRFM:
The CRFM promotes and facilitates the responsible utilization of the region’s fisheries and other aquatic marine resources for the economic and social benefits of the people of the region. The CRFM consists of three bodies: the Ministerial Council, the Caribbean Fisheries Forum, and the CRFM Secretariat.
The chair of the Ministerial Council is Minister Hon. Saboto Caesar of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
BELIZE CITY, FRIDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2019 (CRFM)—After several hours of deliberation at their Second Joint Meeting held in Belize on Wednesday, 2 October 2019, Fisheries Ministers from Member States of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA) inked a milestone instrument. The “Declaration on CRFM-OSPESCA Cooperation for Sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources” signals their resolve to solidify the cooperation birthed at their first joint meeting held in Belize 7 years earlier, in 2012.
Among the agreed areas of cooperation are: monitoring and managing Sargassum blooms which have been adversely affecting the region since 2011; the control of invasive species, with emphasis on the Pacific lionfish; and the development of small-scale fisheries to ensure the protection of livelihoods and food security. The renewed alliance will also support the implementation of fisheries management plans for shared stocks, such as spiny lobster, queen conch and migratory pelagic species; programmes on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in fisheries and aquaculture; as well as ocean-based fisheries and aquaculture economic activities, including value chain development.
The CRFM and OSPESCA countries have, furthermore, pledged to develop coordinated positions on international processes, such as the listing of threatened and endangered species under CITES; fisheries subsidies negotiations led by the WTO; and the UN conference to develop a legally-binding agreement on conservation, management and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Representatives from Grenada and Guatemala sign joint declaration (Photo: CRFM)
In signing the Joint Declaration, the Fisheries Ministers also approved the Second Joint CRFM-OSPESCA Action Plan (2020 to 2025), which is a 5-year roadmap to guide collaborative programmes and activities agreed in the declaration by the two sub-regional organisations.
Among the commitments made is that, “The CRFM and OSPESCA Secretariats and Member States will work together to strengthen cooperation to deter, prevent and eliminate IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated] fishing in the region.”
At the opening of the meeting, Keynote Speaker, Hon. Dr. Omar Figueroa, Belize’s Minister of State with responsibility for Fisheries, said: “IUU Fishing is undoubtedly causing damage to our fish populations in our countries, and we must continue to actively identify and implement tangible and effective actions on a bilateral or sub-regional level to curb these illicit activities.”
Prior to the meeting with OSPESCA, the CRFM Ministerial Council held its 9th Special Meeting, at which it approved the Regional Plan of Action on IUU Fishing for the Western Central Atlantic region, with a commitment to developing a CARICOM-specific Action Plan. The Jamaican delegation pointed out to their counterparts that IUU fishing recently forced them to impose a moratorium on their conch fishery, resulting in multi-million-dollar losses for the country, its export sector and fishers. Their hope is that the collaboration with OSPESCA will help to effectively prevent and deter IUU fishing in Caribbean waters.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM Secretariat, added that, “It is the recognition that we share a common interest and a common destiny in the sustainable use and protection of the Caribbean Sea and its living marine resources and ecosystems that inspires and underpins the partnership that is developing between the Caribbean and Central American sub-regions in fisheries and aquaculture.”
Hon. Eugene Hamilton, Chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council and Minister Responsible for Fisheries in Saint Kitts and Nevis, said: “It is predicted that 90% of the world’s fish protein will come from aquaculture by 2050.” He, consequently, urged the countries, generally regarded as small island developing states and coastal states, to work together to develop aquaculture.
Norma Lobo, General Director for the Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture, represented the Minister of Agriculture of El Salvador, Pro-Tempore Chairman of OSPESCA, at the meeting. In her brief remarks, she indicated that this was the first such meeting in which she has participated, and expressed her enthusiasm for learning more about the challenges faced by the region and, furthermore, working together to confront them.
Haughton expressed optimism that, “This growing strategic partnership between our countries, our fisheries institutions and our stakeholders in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, will yield tangible mutual benefit from our collective experience, expertise and cooperation in addressing the common challenges we face.”
The UNDP-GEF Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+) Project provided financial support to facilitate the convening of the meeting in Belize City, Belize. It has also been providing support to the CRFM, OSPESCA, FAO/WECAFC, UN Environment and other regional organisations to strengthen arrangements for improved governance and management of the fisheries resources and marine environment of the region.
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.
Belize City, Friday, 19 July 2019 (CRFM)— Eighteen border control officers from seven Member States of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) are currently undergoing a four-week training course in Fisheries Prosecution and Interdiction, organized by the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) in collaboration with the CRFM Secretariat, the Government of Barbados, and the British Royal Navy’s Fisheries Protection Squadron.
The training, being held at the Paragon Base of the Barbados Defense Force, brings together officers of the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force Coast Guard; Antigua and Barbuda Fisheries Division; Barbados Coast Guard; Royal Barbados Police Force Marine Unit; Barbados Fisheries Division; Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force; Royal Grenada Police Force Marine Unit; the St. Kitts-Nevis Defense Force Coast Guard; Royal Saint Lucia Police Force Marine Unit; and the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Coast Guard.
The course is expected to improve the skills and competencies of authorized officers responsible for enforcing the Fisheries Acts and Fisheries Regulations, and supporting administrative policies.
Participants are increasing their ability to function in an operational environment and in accordance with best practices based on the CRFM’s Prosecution and Enforcement Manuals for CARIFORUM Member States: Volume 1 – Fisheries Prosecution Manual; and Volume 2 – Fisheries Enforcement Standard Operating Procedures Manual.
These officers who have border security and fisheries prosecution responsibilities, will become more knowledgeable of the correct procedures to follow while enforcing the laws under their Fisheries Acts and Regulations. They will also become better able to prepare for trial proceedings where offences are committed in violation of the Fisheries Laws and where illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing is perpetrated. IUU fishing is a major concern for the region, since it undermines efforts to conserve and sustainably manage fisheries resources and furthermore jeopardizes food security, livelihoods, and foreign exchange earnings from fisheries.
Participants working on cases for mock trial (Photo: CRFM)
The subject matter experts who facilitated the course were drawn from the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Secretariat; the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) – Barbados; the Royal Barbados Police Force Marine Unit; Royal Navy – Fisheries Protection Squadron; the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy – Barbados; and the Regional Security System Headquarters. Successful participants will be awarded an RSS Certificate of Training for the completion of the Fisheries Prosecution and Interdiction course.
This course was jointly funded by the European Union through the 10th EDF Project and Regional Security System (RSS). The RSS is an international agreement for the defense and security of the Eastern Caribbean region. The seven member nations are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Member States cooperate in the prevention and interdiction of trafficking in illegal narcotic drugs, in national emergencies, search and rescue, immigration control, fisheries protection, customs and excise control, maritime policing duties, natural and other disasters, pollution control, combating threats to national security, the prevention of smuggling, and in the protection of offshore installations and exclusive economic zones. The RSS also provides training for joint land and maritime operations, disaster relief, anti-drug operations and antiterrorism, and intelligence gathering and sharing.
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.
Belize City, August 27, 2014: The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) will on September 5, 2014 give oral arguments to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany in response to a request for an advisory opinion on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in African waters.
ITLOS, which is made up of 21 Judges, including two from the Caribbean, namely, Judge Dolliver Nelson (Grenada), and Judge Anthony Amos Lucky (Trinidad and Tobago), is hearing oral submissions from States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and International Organisations with an interest in the subject.
Legal Counsel for the CRFM, Professor Pieter Bekker of Dundee University, UK (photo left) will join representatives of nine (9) countries and the SRFC, the European Union (EU), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in presenting oral arguments.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM, noted: “The hearing is as important to the Caribbean as it is to the States that have sought advice, as it could set significant precedents for the way illegal fishing is dealt with in the future, particularly regarding the liability of flag States for IUU fishing conducted by their vessels.”
He continued: “IUU fishing is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that inflicts great economic and environmental harm on States that are victims, especially developing countries such as CARICOM countries, with limited capacity for monitoring, control and enforcement of their fisheries laws.”
The SRFC is seeking advice in response to four questions:
1) What are the obligations of the flag State in cases where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities are conducted within the Exclusive Economic Zone of third party States?
2) To what extent shall the flag State be held liable for IUU fishing activities conducted by vessels sailing under its flag?
3) Where a fishing license is issued to a vessel within the framework of an international agreement with the flag State or with an international agency, shall the State or international agency be held liable for the violation of the fisheries legislation of the coastal State by the vessel in question?
4) What are the rights and obligations of the coastal State in ensuring the sustainable management of shared stocks and stocks of common interest, especially the small pelagic species and tuna?
The Case was initiated on March 28, 2013, when the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) representing seven African States sought the Tribunal’s assistance regarding IUU fishing by vessels registered in foreign States within waters under the national jurisdiction or control of its members and on the High Seas. The SRFC includes Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
The arguments in Case 21 can be viewed via live Web stream through the ITLOS Web site (www.itlos.org).
Belize City; Tuesday, February 4, 2014—Seventeen member states of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) are making their voices heard in a milestone international case on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing—dubbed Case No. 21—which is being reviewed by the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS), based in Hamburg, Germany.
According to the CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, “this is a very important international case which should not only contribute to the development of international and domestic law in an area that is important for effective conservation and management of fisheries, but also clarify the law in respect of the responsibility and liability of States and international organizations for IUU fishing.”
To date, more than 20 countries—Saudi Arabia, Germany, New Zealand, People's Republic of China, Australia, Japan, the UK, Chile, the EU, Sri Lanka and the US—and 8 organizations have submitted written arguments on Case No. 21. Those organizations include the CRFM, the Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA), the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the United Nations.
The latest order from ITLOS sets a deadline of Friday, March 14, 2014, for written submissions to be made in response to these arguments, before a final advisory ruling could be considered.
Case No. 21, lodged last March by the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) (Africa), investigates issues such as the obligations of the flag State in cases where IUU fishing is perpetrated within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of third party States, and the extent of the flag State's liability. The SRFC is located in Dakar, Senegal, and comprises seven member states: Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
In its written statement submitted last November, the CRFM said: “As a matter of general principle, it is the CRFM's view that there should be no lacunae in the obligations and liability of states for IUU fishing activities conducted by entities within their jurisdiction and control...”
Last October in Guyana, the 4th Special Meeting of the CRFM Ministerial Council, made up of fisheries ministers of participating Caribbean states, discussed the request from ITLOS for the CRFM to submit a statement on Case No. 21. The CRFM Ministerial Council said that this provides the region with an opportunity to influence international jurisprudence on the question of IUU fishing.
The CRFM Secretariat, based in Belize City, had secured the services of Harvard University graduate, Professor Pieter Bekker, chair of International Law, Dundee University, UK; former Professor of law at Columbia University (New York); former staff lawyer at the International Court of Justice (ICJ); and a partner in the international law firm, Steptoe & Johnson LLP – one of the largest law firms in the USA, to assist with the preparation of the brief on behalf of the CRFM. The CRFM has, furthermore, indicated that it intends to have legal representation to make an oral presentation when oral proceedings are eventually held.
In its comprehensive written submission of 112 pages plus annexes, the CRFM, an inter-governmental body for regional fisheries cooperation, said that the most important rights of the coastal state relates to the right to prevent IUU fishing of its resources, such as the right to legislate and enforce its laws, to ensure sustainable development and management of fish stocks, and to take all necessary steps to prevent, deter, eliminate—and punish—IUU fishing in the coastal state's jurisdiction.
The CRFM's views are in line with its overarching mission to promote sustainable use of living marine and other aquatic resources in the Caribbean, by development, efficient management, and conservation of such resources.
The Caribbean fisheries organization also highlighted the duty of countries to manage shared stocks in the EEZ, which requires cooperation between states whose nationals fish within and without the EEZ. As for the question of liability, the CRFM said that it is primarily a question of domestic law, and it is ultimately one to be decided by domestic courts having competent jurisdiction.
On flag State responsibility, the CRFM says that where the flag State has failed to fulfill its obligations and damage has occurred, the flag State may be liable for the actual amount of the damage, but if no damage has occurred, although the flag State was found in breach, the consequences of the wrongful act are determined under customary international law.
Furthermore, the flag State is bound to make the best possible efforts to ensure compliance by vessels flying their flag, within the context of relevant international rules and standards, and domestic laws and regulations, especially those concerning the protection and preservation of the marine environment.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that, “IUU fishing undermines national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks and, as a consequence, inhibits progress towards achieving the goals of long-term sustainability and responsibility.”
In July 2010, the CRFM adopted the Castries (St. Lucia) Declaration on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, in which member States renewed their efforts to establish a comprehensive and integrated approach to preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing, by emphasizing the primary responsibility of the flag State in accordance with international law; and they committed to ensuring that nationals do not support or engage in IUU fishing. CRFM member states also undertook to ensure that they exercise full control over fishing vessels flying their flag, in accordance with international law.