The Caribbean week of agriculture was filled with great presentations, on trade, transport, value chain development, sustainable research and food security policy. However it should be noted that the fisheries/marine science and research fields were terribly absent.
That is with the exception of a presentation done by Mr. Milton Haughton of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) on linking fisheries and tourism in the Caribbean, which highlighted the obvious importance of this resource as a cheap source of protein and profit for developing states in the Caribbean and Pacific region.
The Caribbean is blessed with thousands of species of fish, some of which are exclusive to the region and attact high prices. The Pacific is no different; these two regions share similar climatic conditions and each in sme part rely on their marine resources to drive their economies.
The contribution of fisheries cannot be denied; it contributes largely to the Caribbean’s foreign exchange earnings and is the sole economic driver in many Pacific countries.
In the Caribbean, 350 million USD is generated via inter-regional and international trade in fresh and processed products. The industry creates 100,000 plus jobs directly and an undetermined number if indirect jobs. To note the average price of fish varies from 1.50USD to 60USD per kilogram depending on the species.
With all the above mentioned contributions, how is it possible that a commodity which contributes significantly to our region simply be under-represented at such an important forum for food security, trade and value creation?
In many post session discussions, when questioned about the absence of fisheries during the week of agriculture, many delegates were of the opinion that, the marine sector was not well represented due to the absence of specialized personnel who actively research and develop regional fisheries.
These opinions were however rebutted by Mr. Haughton, who relayed that the region has many specialists who all contribute to regional development and preservation of the research but the stressed that the issue is the general exclusion of fisheries from agricultural forums, as it is not yet seen as being a full-fledged member of the agricultural society, a view which in his opinion must be changed, If we are serious about food security for the region.
The Caribbean and Pacific regions are traditionally linked to fisheries; the resource has nourished the millions of people globally and is often the first to experience the effects of climate change and over exploitation.
As a region we should endeavor to monitor, research and share the developments of the marine resource sector to ensure that this valuable commodity is not lost and the tradition is preserved for future generations.