BELIZE CITY, Belize; Monday, September 17, 2012 – The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (Spanish acronym OSPESCA) have signed a Belize Declaration on and the Cooperation for Sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources.
According to Milton Haughton, CRFM Executive Director, “The long-term objective of the partnership between the CRFM and OPSESCA is to secure a brighter and more prosperous future for our fishing communities that rely on the marine resources for their livelihoods, and to ensure that the fish stocks are able, through prudent management, to make enhanced contribution to the social and economic development of our countries now and in the future.”
The CRFM and OSPESCA are the regional agents for the harmonization of fisheries management and development efforts across 24 states.
The agreement was signed recently at the first joint meeting of the two bodies, which saw over 60 high-level delegates from 19 countries spanning Central America and the Caribbean meet in Belize to devise a comprehensive roadmap for collective action in tackling their biggest obstacles in fisheries and aquaculture.
“We are delighted to partnership in ensuring that countries around the Caribbean and indeed the Central and South American regions have seen the wisdom of getting together and pooling resources in order to protect what we consider to be a very important part of our countries’ very existence,” said V. Alfred Gray, chair of the CRFM’s Ministerial Council, and Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government of the Bahamas.
“One of the difficult issues we will be considering during this meeting is the issue of IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing, as we have already heard,” said Haughton.
“Recent reports put the global value of catches taken by IUU fishing as high as 9 billion dollars per year. IUU fishing does not respect national boundaries. It puts unsustainable pressure on fish stocks and marine habitats and distorts markets. It imposes significant economic costs on countries such as ours with limited capacity, and it also corrupts and undermines governance structures,” said Haughton. “We must therefore redouble our efforts to eradicate the scourge of IUU fishing from our region.”
Belize, the only country which belongs to both the Caribbean and Central American regions, is an important player in the process. Lisel Alamilla, Belize Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, said: “We are interested in collaborating with all the countries to ensure the best use and best management of our fisheries resources.”
Helping the diverse nations spanning Central America and the Caribbean to succeed at this task despite their differences is the job Belize is best suited for: “We can advance and support building trust between the regions, and I think that is the opportunity that Belize has and the responsibility that it has, really,” Alamilla added.
Danilo Rosales Pichardo, pro-tem chair of OSPESCA and Vice President of the Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries, said he is happy that Belize has brought together both sub-regions to address the challenges that they collectively face, and they will address them, he said, “poco a poco” or “bit by bit.”