BASSETERRE, St. Kitts--Caribbean Fisheries Ministers 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.

  The call came at the recent 13th Regular Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in St. Kitts and Nevis.

  During Council deliberations on the Sargassum problem, Grenada’s Fisheries Minister Alvin Dabreo emphasised the need for immediate measures to curb the impacts. The ministers 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, Jamaica’s State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, spoke of the problems that Jamaica has been facing recently due to IUU fishing by vessels from countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Jamaica has had to extend the off-season for queen conch indefinitely, due to the adverse effects of IUU fishing on stock abundance.

  The Ministerial Council “[affirmed that – Ed.] IUU fishing is a major problem affecting queen conch fisheries in the region and highlighted the need to more aggressively pursue nationally 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 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 St. Kitts and Nevis in March. These 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. It also considered actions needed to improve the conservation and management of fisheries resources and ecosystems, to strengthen systems for evidence-based decision making, to promote the blue economy, and to strengthen partnerships with development partners and donors.

  In his remarks to the Council, CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton said: “We are establishing a solid foundation and a strong regional policy framework within the context of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] Common Fisheries Policy that should guide our actions over the next 10 to 20 years in achieving our developmental objectives in fisheries and aquaculture.”

  He added that it is only through joint efforts that the region can resolve problems such as those associated with climate change, IUU fishing and Sargassum inundation. ~ Caribbean360 ~