- Sen. the Hon. Avinash Singh, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, Trinidad and Tobago, and Chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council;
- Dr. Renata Clarke, Caribbean Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations;
- Ms. Shandira Ankiah, Director of Fisheries (Ag.), Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, and Chair of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum;
- Mr Zohindra Arjune, Deputy Director, Fisheries Management, Suriname
- Mr. Milton Haughton, Executive Director, and Dr. Sandra Grant, Deputy Executive Director, CRFM Secretariat;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
It brings me great pleasure to deliver Opening Remarks for this Scientific Conference to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). For two decades, the CRFM has been at the forefront of efforts to promote sustainable fisheries development, management, and conservation in the Region. Those of you who have been around long enough will remember that before the CRFM was established in 2003, its predecessor CFRAMP – the CARICOM Fisheries Resource Assessment and Management Programme – for over 12 years, set the foundation for data collection systems for fisheries resources, for capacity building of national fisheries management bodies, for including Community participation in planning for fisheries development and for creating the regional approach to manage fisheries which, by definition, is a shared regional resource.
The CRFM took up what CFRAMP had begun and has built on that foundation for the past two decades, making a strong contribution to the development of sustainable fisheries policies and management. As a Region, we have been at this for over 20 years.
This Conference is directly aligned with the CRFM’s mandate to promote responsible use of the Region’s fisheries and other aquatic resources, for the economic and social benefits of the people of the Region. It brings together government policy makers and officials, scientists and researchers, fisherfolk, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, to address the challenges facing our marine living resources. It also highlights opportunities which can chart a course towards a more prosperous, sustainable and resilient future for our communities.
Over the years, the CRFM has achieved considerable success from its efforts to improve the capacity of Member States to monitor and manage their fisheries. Through its various programs and initiatives, it has developed a valuable array of regional policy and legal instruments to support sustainable fisheries management and conservation. Its work to strengthen capacity and empower fisherfolk to participate in national and regional planning and decision-making processes has advanced CARICOM’s agenda for the Region, including our strategic focus on the development of our women and young people.
Significantly, the CRFM has also facilitated cooperation in research, data collection and information-sharing among stakeholders, and established alliances with regional and international development partners, and the private sector to support and advance the fisheries sector in the Region. This includes partnerships in negotiations for a global high seas treaty and in several critical initiatives to reduce marine plastics, fight organized crime and illegal fishing in the Region.
The fisheries sector of our Region continues to experience numerous obstacles and setbacks. Climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, pollution, sargassum blooms, the invasive pacific lionfish, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, all place immense pressure on our marine fisheries and ecosystems. They also threaten the jobs and livelihoods of fisherfolk and the food security of our people.
This Scientific Conference reiterates our call to all fisheries stakeholders to continue to embrace the spirit of collaboration, solidarity and inclusivity. Sustainable fisheries development and management require the active participation of all stakeholders, and use of the best available scientific data and information to guide decisions regarding fisheries development and conservation, as well as protection of the marine ecosystems and biodiversity in the marine environment.
Engagements at this week’s Conference will provide a space for information exchange and dialogue on a range of topics of strategic importance to CARICOM. These include food security, legislation and policy, sustainable use and conservation, data, science and research, capacity building, technology transfer, and blue economic growth.
However, the work does not end here at this Conference. Emphasis must continue to be placed on the need for continuous investment in research and development, as well as application of knowledge and technology in fisheries and aquaculture, as well as creating value out of other unutilized or under-utilized marine living resources. This includes the sargassum seaweed that has been blooming in increasing quantities in our waters over the past 12 years.
We need to stay at the cutting edge of innovation, better understand the complexity of our marine ecosystems, and enhance their economic and social contribution to our communities and countries that depend on them. The health of the coastal and marine ecosystems, and the well-being of our people are integrally connected.
Congratulations to the CRFM on this 20th Anniversary milestone in this CARICOM’s 50th year. Let us work together for continued visionary leadership and advocacy. Best wishes for a successful conference.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.