Applications are invited from interested and suitably qualified nationals of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Member States to fill the position of PROGRAMME MANAGER – RESEARCH AND RESOURCE ASSESSMENT
The deadline for the submission of applications is 30 April 2016.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 25 August 2015, (CRFM) – Industry figures and government officials from across the Caribbean fishing industry Tuesday wrapped up two days of talks here acknowledging they were at the very early stages of introducing a new regime for safe seafood for local and international consumption.
The two-day meeting is part of a European Union-funded project to help CARIFORUM countries introduce laws, regulations and a governance system to guarantee safe seafood for export to EU markets and beyond.
The project, which is being carried out by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and supported by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), aims to ramp up food safety standards to enable CARIFORUM fish exporters to take up trading opportunities under the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Milton Haughton, Executive Director, Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
“Developed countries – the EU, United States, Canada … all have standards that you must meet in order to export to their market,” said Milton Haughton, CRFM executive director. “In our countries we may not meet all those standards currently and so we want to put in place the systems which are quite complicated to be able to enter those markets to satisfy their requirements so that our products can be exported.”
The EU is requiring exporting nations put enforceable legislation in place in each country to govern SPS standards.
“The experts here (were) discussing the regulations, the human resources (and) the institutional arrangements that are required to monitor, evaluate (and) test for various pathogens, and to ensure that we do have a good system in place that meets with international best practice.” Haughton said.
So far, compliance with globally established standards in the region is voluntary – a worrisome development that experts say is stopping member states from tapping into niche markets overseas and boosting foreign exchange earnings.
A two-month long assessment by international consultants has exposed large gaps in legally binding protocols managing food safety throughout the region.
The meeting discussed how to introduce a region-wide set of food safety and environmental safeguards which were presented for review by a team of legal and scientific consultants who moved through the region assessing the state of industry over the last two months.
As they travelled through CARIFORUM group of nations – the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic -a team of consultants from Jamaica, Britain and Iceland inspected processing plants, cold storage facilities and testing laboratories.
The CRFM head expressed the hope that adopting SPS measures region-wide could also have spinoff benefits for local consumers.
“It’s not only about exporting and earning exchange; it’s also ensuring that our people have healthy and safe fish and seafood to eat,” he added. “Given the challenges that we have in this region for economic development, employment and earning foreign exchange, we have to make use of all the resources that we have including ensuring that we can get good prices for our fish and also have safe fish and seafood for our own people.”
Belize, one of the region’s leading fish and seafood exporters, is hoping to learn from other CARIFORUM countries represented at the meeting while offering to sharing information with smaller exporting nations that would help improve food safety standards.
Delilah Cabb Ayala, SPS Coordinator, Belize Agricultural Health Authority
“For the first time, we’re having a forum where we could start discussing (SPS) issues as a region,” said Delilah Cabb Ayala, SPS Coordinator for the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA). “Each country has been looking at their own legislation, trying to ensure that they make the necessary amendments, just to be able to have access to the EU and the other trading partners with which we are currently trading.”
Last year, Belize exported an estimated 44 million US dollars in shrimp alone from total exports worth 64 million US dollars.
Cabb Ayala said the regional effort to harmonise SPS rules across CARIFORUM will be a “lengthy process” but with nations such as Belize ahead of others, she is hoping that proposals will emerge that "take into account all the different levels that we are dealing with within the region."
She continued: “(This) meeting to ensure that we have harmonised procedures is a good thing. Additionally, it allows for technical experts to bring to the fore their current situations, and at that level try to come up with proposals that can actually be implemented at the national levels."
“We could learn from other countries. In the discussions, I said I will be sharing some information that we are implementing in Belize. So countries could look at our proposal and if it is for them adaptable, they could readily move with that.”
The two-day meeting posed questions regarding primary and secondary legislation, including coming food safety laws and protocols, processes for appeals, and procedures for licensing, export and controls.
The meeting considered strategic priorities at the national and regional level and began discussions on a governance structure for food safety and fisheries. The officials also considered how to integrate their work into the development of the fledgling Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) based in Suriname and the progress towards the setting up of national health and food safety authorities.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 30, (CRFM) – The Caribbean region's ability to cash in on a potentially lucrative, international export trade in fish and seafood is being held back by huge gaps in measures to protect food safety and animal health, experts say.
But the experts, who are investigating food handling policies in CARIFORUM countries, are set to propose a new regime for sanitary and phytosanitary – SPS – measures in CARIFORUM states.
Since starting their work in April, Jamaican SPS expert Dr. George Grant, international legal consultant Chris Hedley of the United Kingdom and experts from the renown Icelandic food safety agency, Matis Ltd., have discovered that in most instances compliance with globally established standards are voluntary – a worrisome development they say that stops member states from tapping into
niche markets overseas and boosting foreign exchange earnings.
There are also either no legally binding protocols managing food safety throughout the region or where they are practised they are disorganised and informal, say the experts.
"It's the prerogative of the government, or the official, competent authority to develop a system whereby the food safety measures can be validated, inspected and can be regulated," Dr Grant says.
In two months of national consultations on SPS measures sponsored by the European Union in a number of CARIFORUM nations, Dr. Grant said there are no documented and transparent protocols for ensuring safe food handling and monitoring food processes.
Several Caribbean nations are yet to include these standards in their national regulatory system, something that has long been mandatory in many of the developed nations to which regional fisheries and food industries might seek to export.
But the CRFM supported by a team of Seafood safety experts, veterinary expert and lawyer is developing a region-wide set of food safety and environmental safeguards which they hope to unveil for adoption in late August.
"The set of protocols we are developing is to have them formally presented and documented so that countries can use them as guides to developing their own particular protocols and practices," Dr. Grant says.
As they travelled through Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states and the Dominican Republic which make up the CARIFORUM group of nations, the team assessed benchmarks for food safety in individual countries.
The news of the progress towards SPS compliance is encouraging. The experts note that most fish processors have implemented the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) standard for fish and fish product exports.
But as the Caribbean fishing industry and food makers seek to take advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to gain access to markets in European Union, there is an extra layer of requirements based on official controls.
The EU is requiring that exporting nations put enforceable legislation in place in each country to govern the SPS standards.
Through an EU-funded project, implemented by the CRFM and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the team is hoping to establish a uniformed set of procedures across the industry.
"The question of where to draw the level in terms of how strictly you regulate food
safety is really very much a national policy decision," Hedley says.
He cautioned that the process can be complicated, costly and potentially counter- productive: "We don't want to over-regulate and sort of crack a nut with a sledgehammer, if there are not substantial food safety problems.
"The more you regulate food safety and the stricter and more you demand in terms of that side of regulation, the more expensive products become, the less people are able to meet those requirements and they may be forced out of the business."
The aim, the legal expert says, is to step up protection measures, level the playing field, manage the risks involved in food protection and facilitate trade across the Caribbean and internationally.
"There is no end point to that, it's not like there is a single target we're going to aim for and then that's it - we can rest on our laurels. New challenges [are] arising all the time. It is a continual process of improvement," Hedley adds.
Yet, compliance is critical to the effectiveness of the new standards.
"[The EU] want to make sure that the legislation is properly in place in the country, that these requirements are not just voluntary but with specific legal requirements to implement these food safety procedures and that there are penalties in terms of not complying with them. So the businesses that don't comply with them can be taken out of the licensing process."
SPS legislation will need to be backed up by a system of government checks, controls and monitoring systems, says the SPS legal expert.
As the two-man legal team sifted through the paperwork – or lack of it – among Caribbean fisheries processors and exporters, another team of environmental monitors has been travelling the region, inspecting processing plants, cold storage facilities, testing laboratories and aquaculture facilities.
But the experts are anxious that the drive towards SPS compliance is not seen solely as jumping necessary hoops in the export trade. Hedley suggests that even if the region becomes compliant there is still no guarantee there would be an appetite for their goods in the EU. For Grant, another, often overlooked beneficiary is the Caribbean consumer who can rely more safely on wholesome food from the sea.
Fisheries managers, officials, scientists are expected to meet in Barbados on August
24 and 25 to pore over technical documents the SPS experts will produce, and their recommendations.
Hedley describes it as tool kit or resource paper which can be taken forward.
"This is a technical assistance project providing technical documents; actually they have to be developed in the real world politics and law and national sovereignty and go through the proper processes at the national levels and at the regional levels."
Fisheries are an important source of food, income and cultural identity for Caribbean communities. While reef fisheries in the Caribbean are frequently over-exploited, offshore pelagic resources also targeted by the US sport-fishing industry may generate alternative economic benefits and divert pressure from reefs. Key to the efficient harvesting of thinly-distributed pelagic fish is the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs). Traditionally, FADs were deployed by individuals or close-knit groups of fishers. Recently, governments have deployed public FADs accessible to all. There is concern that public FADs are exploited less efficiently and produce conflicts related to crowding and misuse.
In partnership with Counterpart International, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Fisheries Divisions, Florida Sea Grant collected information from fishermen on their use of FADs that were deployed privately, by small groups or by the government. This allowed for a determination of governance arrangements that were most profitable and provided input to stakeholder meetings with FAD fishers to identify best practices for sustainably using and co-managing FADs.
The fishing trip analysis shows that catch and profitability are higher when FADs are managed privately or by small groups and access to the aggregated fisheries resources is somewhat restricted. An engagement strategy that introduced an activity planner as a best practice to increase information sharing helped strengthen the rapport between government and fisheries stakeholders. Study results are helping shape regional implementation of policy, which favors FADs co-managed by fishers and government, but can benefit from positive aspects of FADs managed privately or by small groups.
Fishing season closes for Seabob in Guyana
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department, has implemented a closed season for the Guyana`s seabob (shrimp) fishery.
This 2014 closure was ratified by Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy in keeping with protocols previously established between the Seabob Industry and the Ministry. The timeframe approved is September 8th, 2014 to October 26th, 2014 (6 weeks), both dates inclusive.
The closed session is supported by the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners & Seafood Processors (GATOSP).
In this regard, all Seabob fishing vessels were advised to dock from midnight on September 7th and will remain in port until midnight October 26th, 2014. Closed seasons are specified time periods where no fishing is permitted for a particular fishery and has been an ongoing activity for several years in Guyana; its implantation is closely monitored by the Fisheries Department on an annual basis. Such an intervention is not only limited to Guyana but has fast became a global practice aimed at allowing various fisheries to multiply or replenish, thus ensuring growth and sustainability.
The Seabob fishery in Guyana has been well known over the years for generating foreign exchange earnings and revenue through exports regionally and to markets in North America and Europe. The major industrial stakeholders include: Pritipaul Singh Investment, Noble House Seafoods, BEV Processors, Guyana Quality Seafoods and Fisheries Department.
Seabob data submitted by these companies are used to conduct annual stock assessments at the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Annual Scientific Workshop. As much as seventeen member states participates annually at these meetings of which Guyana has been one of the more frequent attendees. It is important to note that attendance at these meeting support frequent stock assessments of an identified fish stock and it is a pivotal prerequisite to the country achieving Marine Steward Counsel Certification (MSC) for a particular fish stock.
Measures are currently being put in place for the seabob fishery to be assessed to achieve this certification shortly. MSC certification basically signifies that harvesting and management of a particular fisheries resource is being done in a sustainable manner which in turn allows for access into global markets for sale of produce.
The seabob stock was last assessed in June, 2013, where it was deemed fully utilised but not over fished. As a result of this, a proposed Harvest Control Rule (HCR) (considered as `best practices` in fisheries management) was drafted following deliberations with the consultant, GATOSP and Fisheries Department. Considerations were given to fisher earnings, political acceptability and the level of precaution required. It was noted that any proposed HCR would undergo further evaluation through future stock assessments, which it was hoped would include improvements on the 2013 assessment. However, it is not anticipated that this would dramatically change any results. An overall days-at-sea limit was proposed; 87 licences each with an allocated 225 days at sea.
The proposed rule was evaluated in June, 2014 by members of the Continental Shelf Fisheries Working Group (CSWG) which comprises representatives from Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The group endorsed the rule on the basis that was considered to be consistent with attaining maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and maintaining the stock above the limit reference point. This limit was acceptable to industry, because it would not limit current fishing activity as long as indicators remained high, and would allow the fishery to take advantage of strong recruitments. The stock is currently in a good condition which was indicated by the attainment of favourable catch rates by fishers. Despite these achievements the current fishing effort employed is lower than the maximum limit stipulated in the HCR which augers well for sustainability.
The Minister has also approved the closed of the prawn fishery for the same period.
E-Consultation: Seize the opportunity and contribute to the mainstreaming of regional fisheries policies into small-scale fisheries governance arrangements in the Caribbean!
As the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) enters the final stages of preparatory work for the coming into force of aCommon Fisheries Policy(CCCFP), the Regional Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO), together with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and supported by the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Coordination (CTA) has developed this moderated e-consultation to capture additional views and share information among fisherfolks and stakeholders in order to inform advocacy work.
In order to be in a better position to make informed contributions on issues and policy positions relevant to the implementation of regional fisheries policies, you are invited to examine and comment on the following key documents:
· The Draft Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy [Download PDFhere] and
· The Castries Declaration on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing[Download PDFhere]
However, you are being consulted onyour viewson how best to enhance the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food and nutrition security in the region, and improving livelihood opportunities for fisherfolk and fishing communities that are dependent on the fisheries resources.
How to participate
To access the e-Consultation Forum, visit the website here. You should note that this forum is for discussion purposes only, is strictly informal, and intended to be thought-provoking, with the sole intention of generating wide-ranging debate.
The forum is not an official document of the CRFM Secretariat, CNFO or CTA, and you are entirely free to contribute to this process unofficially and in your personal capacity, if you so desire.
The e-Consultation Forum is a mixture ofquestionnaire, website comments, and e-mail. You are welcome to contribute by registering at the e-Consultation Forum.
We would like to address the following areas during this e-consultation:
Taking into account the policy documents enclosed and the issues they raise, how can the various stakeholders (i.e. CARICOM member states, local communities, fisherfolk organisations, private sector, etc.) best contribute to the policy’s implementation?
How would the policy impact on the following key policy areas:
- Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries
- Food and Nutrition Security
- Disaster Risk Management
- Adaptation to Climate Change
We warmly encourage you to forward this message to your networks and invite them to contribute also.
The e-consultation will run for ten days from 4 November 2013 to 14 November 2013. Once you are registered, you may post your comments online in the e-Consultation Forumhere. You can also participate bydirect email to the Forum.
Please note that responses are not automatically shared but go to the moderator for compilation. The Forum is governed by ourhouse rules.
We look forward to receiving your contributions. Thank you for your participation!