Caribbean per capita fish consumption results in high imports

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Friday July 12, 2013 – The Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Milton Haughton, says while the region consumes a significant amount of fish annually, most of the commodity are imported.

Haughton told the 32nd CTA Brussels Briefing that the region has a high per capita fish consumption with Antigua and Barbuda consuming 77kg and The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada and St. Kitts-Nevis consuming in excess of 30kg.

He said most of the fish supplies are imported due to the high input cost of fish farming as well as a general decline of the industry since the mid-2000s. He said the sector has also been affected by impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change. 

The CTA Brussels Briefing was told that while the global demand for fish is climbing faster than current resources can meet, fish farming or aquaculture remains a largely underdeveloped industry in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions.

But the experts have noted the “significant potential” of the sector across ACP regions if the right policies are in place.  

Senior Fisheries Advisor at the new partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Sloans Chimatiro, said that while the tonnage of aquaculture production in Africa pales in comparison to Asia, the rate of expansion is “spectacular”, with an 80-90 per cent growth within the last five years. 

But even with this increase, fish supply – both captured and farmed – will not be able to fulfil demand in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. 

“Africa might be able to import fish from other parts of the world, but I think there is potential is to increase the amount of fish produced locally could lie in the aquaculture subsector,” he said.

In the Pacific, a strong domestic market base is buoyed by vast territorial waters similar in size to the African continent – but island landmasses are small and scattered. Bio-diversity is high with low incidence of diseases. 

Aquaculture specialist from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Tim Pickering stressed that for Pacific micro-economies, even small developments in aquaculture have an impact. While regional earnings top only US$200 – 250 million per year, the socio-economic benefits for small communities are vital. 

For instance, in Papua New Guinea 10,000 – 20,000 farmers raise tilapia and carp inland where fish is scarce. Sea weed farming is also ongoing in outlying small islands where there are few other economic opportunities.

For the Caribbean, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) development strategy for 2013-2020 includes plans to develop the sector by adopting an ecosystem approach to aquaculture, creating a regional working group, as well as enabling policy and legal frameworks. Voluntary guidelines and best management practices and standards are also expected.

“Despite the recent decline in aquaculture production, it has actually provided an opportunity to have a new look at the aquaculture industry in the region and learn from the lessons and experiences,” Haughton said.

The CTA Brussels Briefing, organised every two months by the ACP-EU Centre for Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the European Commission, the ACP Secretariat and the Concord group, also cited possible cooperation amongst fish farming groups in the ACP regions. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)