(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana) The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat through the Belize-based Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) is currently spearheading talks with the Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the development of a master plan for fisheries and aquaculture development in the Caribbean. At a meeting of CARICOM Directors of Fisheries/Chief Fisheries Officers and members of a JICA study team on Friday 4 March, CARICOM Secretary-General Mr. Edwin Carrington underscored the importance of the sector to Regional economies and urged the early implementation of the project.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting at the CARICOM Secretariat's offices in Georgetown, Guyana, Mr. Carrington said fisheries and aquaculture development and management have far reaching positive implications for the sustainable livelihood of the people of the Caribbean Community. The sector he said “has been a major contributor to their nutrition and food security and to foreign exchange earnings and poverty alleviation.” He added that it has also been a source of employment, recreation and tourism development, and has also enhanced the development and socio-economic stability of rural and coastal communities.
While expressing CARICOM's recognition of the fact that fishery resources must be pursued in the context of strategies that will result on the sustainable development and management of the Caribbean Sea, the CARICOM Secretary-General pointed to several factors that now impede such an approach. These include limited research capacity, lack of harvesting and processing technology, inadequate marketing and trade arrangements for fish and fishery products, as well as scarcity of financial resources.
Acknowledging Japan's track record in the management and utilisation of fisheries and other aquatic resources, the CARICOM official said the organisation saw clear benefits from capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge, technical expertise and financial resources that Japan makes available through various technical agreements. He pointed to CARICOM's own experience in the field, having coordinated the CARICOM Fisheries and Resource Management Programme between 1991 and 2001, which led to the establishment of the CRFM.
In enunciating the CRFM's mandate to promote and facilitate the responsible utilisation of the Region's fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefit of current and future populations, Mr. Carrington noted that, “With the decline of major traditional industries such as sugar and bananas, among others, this mandate has taken on greater urgency as we pursue a diversified path to our sustainable development through the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.”
The Secretary-General said the fisheries project was being pursued in the context of the New Framework for CARICOM-Japan Cooperation for the Twenty-First Century, which was approved by CARICOM Foreign Ministers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan in Tokyo in November 2000. He conveyed the Region's appreciation for Japan's continuing assistance in various areas, including having made a significant contribution to the Government of Guyana for the construction of the new permanent Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, which was inaugurated on 19 February.