"Climate change and ocean acidification pose significant threats to fish production on top of the many other pressures, such as overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution and invasive species—all undermining our food and nutrition security..."
-- Mr. Milton Haughton, CRFM Excecutive Director
The Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Mr. Milton Haughton, has underscored the need for access to financing and technology in addressing the threats which climate change pose to Caribbean fisheries and aquaculture. In addressing the Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week 2022 (LACCW) side event in July on Anticipating climate risks and preventing disaster: climate resilient development pathways in Latin America and the Caribbean, he emphasized the need to build partnerships as well as capacity at the local and community levels. He also spoke of the need to pursue an integrated approach to implementing and mainstreaming the best practices developed over the years to improve resilience and empower coastal communities.
Mr. Haughton expressed concern that adverse climate change impacts will inevitably result in reduced availability of fish for local consumption and export—compounding the threats that already confront the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
"Climate change and ocean acidification pose significant threats to fish production on top of the many other pressures, such as overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution and invasive species—all undermining our food and nutrition security," he stated.
The CRFM Executive Director also stressed the need for CRFM Member States to take the whole-of-government approach, rather than a siloed approach to combating these myriad challenges and threats arising from climate change. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has placed a high priority on supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as disaster risk management across the Community. In this regard, in 2005, the CARICOM Heads of Government established the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). The CRFM maintains a close partnership with the CCCCC as well as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), in addressing adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management in the fisheries sector. Furthermore, the CRFM works closely with several other key partners, including Member States, donors, local civil society and NGOs, to develop and implement best practices.
In 2018, the CRFM’s policy-makers, the Ministerial Council, adopted the Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management in Fisheries and Aquaculture, an important protocol to the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP) which promotes cooperation and collaboration among Caribbean people, fishers and governments in conserving, managing, and sustainably using fisheries and related ecosystems, as well as improving the welfare and livelihood of fisherfolk in the region. Another key instrument is the CRFM’s Regional Strategy and Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management in Fisheries and Aquaculture (2020-2030) .
Mr. Haughton noted that at the national level, several CRFM Member States have developed climate change policies and strategies, providing a roadmap at the national level to address the problems arising from climate change.
Fisherfolk in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines received equipment obtained through the CRFM Secretariat under the CIF/IDB Pilot Program for Climate Resilience - Caribbean Regional Track.
He also highlighted several projects that the CRFM has been involved with, which address the issue of climate change. These include the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector Project (CC4FISH) and the Caribbean Fisheries Co-management Project (CARIFICO), which promoted the development and deployment of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) capable of withstanding category 5 hurricanes, thereby reducing damaging impacts to the environment, including ghost fishing.
The CRFM was also integrally involved in the IDB Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) - Caribbean Regional Track, which was funded by the Climate Investment Fund (CIF). The CRFM Secretariat coordinated the marine sub-component of the Regional Project, which was executed by the Mona Office for Research and Innovation (MORI) at the University of West Indies, Jamaica. The CRFM coordinated the development and testing of the Fisher Early Warning and Emergency Response (FEWER) Moobile App in collaboration with UWI. The CRFM is partnering with CDEMA, in an effort to expand the reach and uptake of this tool and scale up its benefits across the region.
The CRFM’s collaborative work has extended to the mainstreaming of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF)—a very important parametric insurance arrangement to help counter the impacts of adverse weather events and other natural disasters affecting the fisheries sector—and the roll-out of the Caribbean Ocean and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST)–an innovative climate risk insurance mechanism to promote food security; livelihoods of fisherfolk; resilient fisheries; sustainable management of coastal infrastructure; and disaster risk reduction in the Caribbean.
The CRFM has also supported the expansion of the Caribbean’s Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) Network , through which stations have been installed in some Caribbean countries with support from the CCCCC.
The most recent initiative of the CRFM is being implemented in partnership with the Government of New Zealand through Plant and Food Research Limited. The Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience Project seeks to turn the large swaths of Sargassum seaweed that have been inundating Caribbean beaches and coastal waters annually since 2011, into commercially viable products that would provide new opportunities for enterprise, livelihoods, employment and economic growth.
To access the body of CRFM documentation on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, visit the CRFM Portal . You can also register to become a member of the portal.
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© 2022 Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
Belize City, Monday, 25 April 2022 (CRFM)—Fisheries Ministers from countries that comprise the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) met on Friday, 22 April 2022, at their 16th Regular Meeting, to advance the institution’s strategic actions to build resilience and boost sustainable fisheries and aquaculture production, through targeted initiatives aimed at maximizing sustainable blue economic growth and improving access to international markets, while tackling the scourge of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and transnational organized crime in the industry.
Ministers highlight importance of blue economic growth in reversing declines in fish production and exports resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and in accelerating regional economic development
Before handing over the mantle of leadership to Suriname, the outgoing chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council, Hon. Saboto Ceasar, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry and Fisheries of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, emphasized that whereas much had been achieved during the previous year, significant work remained to be done. He informed the meeting that at the 37th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (LARC37) held in Ecuador in March 2022, the CRFM Member States reiterated the request to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for the deployment of the Norwegian Research Vessel (RV) Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, to conduct an independent marine resource survey of the marine living resources in the waters under the jurisdiction of CARICOM States. During this 16th Meeting of the Ministerial Council, the Ministers reiterated the crucial importance of moving ahead with the research, as it would provide an invaluable evidence base to drive informed blue economic development across the region, and expedite the region’s economic rebound and recovery from the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fisheries and aquaculture sector, which is already beginning to show positive signs of revitalization with more fishers and vessels returning to sea. The Meeting also discussed other ongoing initiatives to strengthen capacity for evidence-based decision making, including the Iceland-funded CARICE Project and FAO/WECAFC-Fisheries Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS) partnership.
Hon. Parmanand Sewdien, Suriname’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, elected as the new chair of the CRFM Ministerial, presided over the deliberations. The Ministers received updates on several initiatives being implemented by the CRFM Secretariat and Member States in collaboration with regional and international development partners, in the context of the Third CRFM Strategic Plan, spanning 2022 to 2030. These include the US$48 million CAF-FAO-CRFM-GEF supported project on Promoting National Blue Economy Priorities through Marine Spatial Planning in the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Plus project (BE-CLME+), which the CRFM hopes will commence later in 2022. The Ministers affirmed that this initiative could contribute greatly to the realization of the target set by the CARICOM Heads of Government at their meeting held during March 2022, to reduce the region’s overall food import bill of around US$5-6 billion by 25% by 2025.
Additionally, the Ministers discussed initiatives which the CRFM and its Member States are undertaking to address the Sargassum inundations that have been affecting the region, including efforts to explore opportunities, through a partnership with New Zealand, to safely harvest Sargassum for the development of products that would enhance the region’s economic and climate resilience. This is being pursued under a three-year project, spanning 2021 to 2023, funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and implemented jointly by the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited (PFR) and the CRFM.
The Ministers also dealt with the vital need for strengthening the region’s access to international markets, through enhancing fish and seafood quality and safety, with enhanced sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. The CRFM Secretariat and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), through the 11th European Development Fund SPS Project, continue to work with Member States and the private sector to build their trading capacity, thereby also contributing to the wider goal of slashing the region’s import bill over the next three years. They also considered the progress of the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organisation to prohibit the provision of certain fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (or IUU) fishing and overfishing.
The Ministerial Council gave the greenlight for the CRFM Secretariat to work with development partners to facilitate knowledge and technology transfer for integrated multitrophic aquaculture—which enables cost-effective and environmentally friendly expansion of aquaculture, including mariculture. The Ministers also welcomed positive news on the progress of activities under the Japan-funded COASTFISH project, which builds upon a previous Japan-funded co-management project in the region, which has strengthened the conservation, management and sustainable use of coastal marine resources through greater involvement of fishers and coastal communities.
The United Nations has declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA), to celebrate and improve awareness of the significant role of small-scale fishers. In welcoming the IYAFA celebrations, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture for employment, livelihoods, food security and nutrition, and health and wellbeing of the people of the region and acknowledged the CRFM’s preparation of a series of activities, including a high-level policy dialogue with fishers to mainstream small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in the ongoing blue economy dialogue.
Hon. Avinash Singh, represented the Ministry of Agriculture,
Trinidad and Tobago, represented by Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries – Senator the Honourable Avinash Singh, was elected as vice chair at the meeting and is, therefore, next in line to assume the chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council in 2023, when the CRFM will commemorate the 20th anniversary since its launch with a series of activities that the Ministers approved during this 16th Meeting of the Council.
The CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton, said that this was a very productive meeting. He noted that the Ministers recognized the urgency of addressing the challenges facing the sector and made several decisions that will contribute to a more sustainable, resilient, and productive fisheries and aquaculture sector and ultimately to improved national and regional economic growth, food security and nutrition, livelihoods and well-being of the people of the region.
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Belize City, Saturday, 2 October 2021 (CRFM)—Ministers responsible for Fisheries from Member States of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) are scheduled to meet on Monday, 4 October 2021, during the 16th observance of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the new strategic direction for the fisheries and aquaculture sector, which produced fish with an estimated ex-vessel value of US$480 million in 2020, despite the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CRFM, an institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), will convene the meeting to advance a new strategic 9-year direction for the organization, which also considers the emerging realities being brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing challenges facing the sector due to climate change and its adverse impacts.
Ministers from CRFM Member States will be asked to approve the Third CRFM Strategic Plan for the period January 2022 to December 2030, as well as the complementary CRFM Resource Mobilization Strategy, which takes on a results-based approach to mobilizing much needed resources for the organization and its 17 Member States and partner organisations in the region.
Caribbean processing facilities aim to achieve international standards (Photo: CRFM)
The CRFM’s Plan addresses improved evidence-based decision making, conservation and management of the fisheries and protection of marine ecosystems, climate change and disaster risk management, and the expansion of sustainable aquaculture, including mariculture. It also promotes programmes aimed at improving the welfare and socio-economic situation of fishers and fishing communities in the region, by focusing on value addition and wealth creation, capacity building, use of technology, entrepreneurship, partnership ventures with private and public sector parties, and strengthening application of good governance principles, such as equity and equality, inclusiveness, and accountability.
Furthermore, the Ministers will be asked to review and approve a policy document supporting the drafting and approval of the Model Fisheries Legislation on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures. The Draft Model Aquatic Animal Health Bill and the Draft Model Aquatic Food Safety Regulations, developed under the EU-funded 10th Economic Development Fund (EDF) Programme, are aimed at assuring safety and quality of fish and seafood available for domestic as well as export markets, in line with international standards, while maximizing economic gains for the sector.
Belize City, Tuesday, 27 April 2021 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Fisheries Forum, the technical and advisory arm of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), is convening its 19th Meeting this week. High on the agenda are updates on the status and trends in the fisheries and aquaculture sector; Coronavirus impacts and post COVID-19 reorientation of the fisheries sector; the sustainable management and use of fisheries resources; as well as matters related to the Sargassum seaweed, blue economic growth, climate change and fisheries, mainstreaming gender issues in fisheries, and the sustainable development of aquaculture.
Representatives from 17 Member States of the CRFM, as well as Observer entities are expected to attend and participate when the meeting convenes on 27 and 28 April 2021. The participants will also be engaged in plenary sessions on policy development, collaboration with other bodies, as well as broader issues of international significance, such as the World Trade Organization Fisheries Subsidies Negotiation, the UN Agreement on the Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), and combatting international fisheries crimes.
For the past year, Saint Lucia has served as Chair of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum. At the upcoming meeting, Members are expected to elect a new chair and vice chair of the Forum, and determine the new composition of the Executive Committee of the Forum.
The Forum is also expected to formulate a set of recommendations for action by the CRFM Ministerial Council, due to meet in May 2021.
In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and the CRFM, an inter-governmental organization which promotes and facilitates the responsible utilization of the Caribbean's fisheries and other aquatic resources, are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from marine biomass, particularly the Sargassum seaweed.
The overall aim of the project is to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains for Sargassum seaweed.
The CRFM has produced a leaflet with further details. View it online below or download a PDF copy HERE.
BELIZE CITY, 4 MARCH 2020 (CRFM)—A new US$46 million initiative to promote Blue Economic priorities in the Caribbean, in support of the sustainable use and conservation of the region’s vast and diverse marine ecosystems and resources, gets underway with a two-day inception workshop on 5-6 March at the Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City.
Marine ecosystems account for over 80 percent of CARICOM States and territories, supporting not just fisheries, but also tourism, ocean transportation, energy, and other economic pillars. They are also critical to the sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities and food security for markets even beyond their borders. Despite threats that confront the region—not the least of which are climate change, ocean acidification, marine pollution and irresponsible fishing—the Blue Economy model still holds great promise.
The current initiative, entitled “Blue Economy (BE): Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Plus (CLME+): Promoting National Blue Economy Priorities through Marine Spatial Planning in the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Plus,” is a 4-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a grant of US$6.2 million and co-financing of US$40.1 million. The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) will be the lead implementing agency while FAO will be a co-implementing agency. The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) will be the project executing agency. The GEF-funded “BE-CLME+ Project” will promote blue economy development in the Caribbean region through marine spatial planning and marine protected areas, the ecosystem approach to fisheries, and development of sustainable fisheries value chains.
The expected results of the project include focused climate-smart investments into national and regional marine spatial planning (MSP) efforts that inform development and implementation of national blue economy strategies. The multi-country project will also focus on extending or strengthening marine protected areas to preserve marine ecosystems and ensure sustainable livelihoods to coastal and fishery communities. The project is also expected to result in the establishment of a regional MSP for ecosystem-based fisheries, inclusive sustainable fisheries value chains, and new or expanded marine protected areas in at least five Caribbean countries. It will also support improvements in knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, based upon knowledge and experiences from the project and experiences with climate-resilient blue economies from other regions and other Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters projects, in partnership with IW: LEARN (the GEF’s International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network).
The Inception Workshop, to be held on 5-6 March, will be attended by representatives of the six participating countries: Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama and Saint Lucia, as well as partner agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Development Bank of Latin America, SICA/OSPESCA, UWI-CERMES, JICA, UNDP-GEF CLME+ Project and the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation (CNFO). Officials from the CRFM, CAF, FAO/WECAFC and the Belize Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development will address participants at the opening ceremony, to be convened at 9:00 a.m. on 5 March.
It is expected that at the conclusion of the workshop, the participating States and partners will have agreed on the main activities, milestones and timeline to develop the detailed project document and workplan for submission to the GEF for consideration by November 2020.
Several information and knowledge products have been generated by the CRFM coordinated marine sub-component of the IDB-funded Pilot Program for Climate Resilience - Caribbean Regional Track that is being generally managed by the Mona Office of Research and Innovation (UWI, Mona).
These products give key messages to fishers, fisheries managers, vendors and consumers on the impacts of climate change on life below water, and ways to adapt.
Download the posters listed below. Check out the video playlists on CRFM's youtube channel, titled 'Working for Climate resilience' (posted here also for convenience).
And check out CRFM's latest Research Paper Collection Volume 9 that gives the most up to date details of the technical studies revealing expected climate change impacts on the marine capture fisheries sector.
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, Wednesday, 12 June 2019 (CRFM)—Caribbean Fisheries Ministers will assemble on Thursday and Friday of this week, from 13-14 June, at the Marriott Resort in Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, for the 13th Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).
On the occasion of the Council Meeting, Honourable Eugene Hamilton, Minister of Agriculture, Health, National Health Insurance, Human Settlements, Community Development, Gender Affairs, Social Services, Land and Cooperatives, will assume chairmanship of the Council from Montserrat’s Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, Honourable David Osborne.
The main proceedings of the Council Meeting will be preceded by the 3rd Meeting of the Ministerial Sub-Committee on the Flyingfish Fishery in the Eastern Caribbean. Thereafter, the Council will deliberate upon the state of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the Caribbean region, and review status and trends in order to inform their decisions and policies at both the regional and national levels.
The Ministers will consider several recommendations arising from the 17th Meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum, held in March in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Forum provides technical leadership to the CRFM and scientific advice to the Ministerial Council. The Council, on the other hand, is the chief decision- and policy-making arm of the Mechanism.
At the upcoming two-day annual meeting, the Ministers will take a critical look at challenges confronting the fisheries and aquaculture sector, but more importantly at the interventions needed to effectively confront them.
The Executive Director of the CRFM, Milton Haughton said, “This meeting will address ongoing efforts to improve resilience in fishing communities and to adapt to climate change; combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; improve conservation and management of fisheries resources and ecosystems; strengthen systems for evidence-based decision making; respond to the Sargassum inundation affecting the fisheries sector; promote the blue economy and strengthen partnerships with development partners and donors.”
The last regular meeting of the Council was hosted in May 2018 in Montserrat. The Council also meets for a Special Meeting during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, convened around October each year.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, 10 April 2019 --The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and CCRIF SPC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop climate-resilient fisheries and aquaculture industries in the region. The purpose of the MOU is to formalize collaboration around the Caribbean Oceans and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST) initiative, which will help to reduce the risk that climate change poses to food security and nutrition and to mitigate climate change impacts on sustainable food production as it relates to the fisheries sector.
Specifically, the MOU will facilitate:
CCRIF CEO, Mr. Isaac Anthony indicated that, “We are pleased that through this initiative, CCRIF will add a fisheries/aquaculture product to its current suite of parametric insurance policies for tropical cyclones, excess rainfall and earthquakes – thus expanding the portfolio of catastrophe insurance options for the countries in this region." Providing this option to governments in the region will support CRFM’s mandate to promote the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy, specifically the Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management in Fisheries and Aquaculture.
“Fishers and fishing communities in the Caribbean are facing increasing threats and risks from climate change and related hazards,” said Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM. “We welcome this partnership between the CRFM and CCRIF. The insurance products which will become available will help enormously to reduce the risks and uncertainties, as well as improve resilience of our fishing communities by enabling them to recover and rebuild without delay after disaster events,” he noted.
(L-R): Ms. Yinka Jagbir-Garcia, Dr. Maren Headley and Dr. Stephen Manji
CCRIF and CRFM have collaborated in the past and CRFM has also participated as a host organization in CCRIF’s Regional Internship Programme. In 2017, Ms. Yinka Jagbir-Garcia from Trinidad worked as an intern at the CRFM and over a 2-month period assisted with the development of a Model Disaster Management Plan for the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector of CRFM Member States.
About the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism: The CRFM is an organization established to promote and facilitate the responsible utilization of the Caribbean region’s fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefits of the current and future population of the region. It is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy, including the Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management in Fisheries and Aquaculture, which has the goal of ensuring development of regional fisheries and aquaculture sectors that are resilient to climate change and ocean acidification, and enhanced through comprehensive disaster management and sustainable use of marine and other aquatic living resources and ecosystems.
About CCRIF SPC: CCRIF SPC is a segregated portfolio company, owned, operated and registered in the Caribbean. It limits the financial impact of catastrophic hurricanes, earthquakes and excess rainfall events to Caribbean and – since 2015 – Central American governments by quickly providing short-term liquidity when a parametric insurance policy is triggered. It is the world’s first regional fund utilizing parametric insurance, giving member governments the unique opportunity to purchase earthquake, hurricane and excess rainfall catastrophe coverage with lowest-possible pricing. CCRIF was developed under the technical leadership of the World Bank and with a grant from the Government of Japan. It was capitalized through contributions to a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) by the Government of Canada, the European Union, the World Bank, the governments of the UK and France, the Caribbean Development Bank and the governments of Ireland and Bermuda, as well as through membership fees paid by participating governments. In 2014, an MDTF was established by the World Bank to support the development of CCRIF SPC’s new products for current and potential members, and facilitate the entry for Central American countries and additional Caribbean countries. The MDTF currently channels funds from various donors, including: Canada, through Global Affairs Canada; the United States, through the Department of the Treasury; the European Union, through the European Commission, and Germany, through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and KfW, and Ireland. In 2017, the Caribbean Development Bank, with resources provided by Mexico, approved a grant to CCRIF SPC to provide enhanced insurance coverage to the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries.
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, FRIDAY, 25 January 2019 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has initiated a regional fact-finding study to document the record-breaking influx of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea in 2018, and the impacts this phenomenon has been having on countries in the region since 2011.
The fact-finding survey is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that has coordinated official development assistance from Japan to CARICOM States for over two decades.
Over the past 7 years, massive Sargassum influxes have been having adverse effects on national and regional economies in the Caribbean, with substantial loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities, primarily in the fisheries and tourism sectors. Large Sargassum influxes had been experienced in this region in 2011, 2014 and 2015, but it reached unprecedented levels in 2018, with more Sargassum affecting the Caribbean for a longer period of time than had previously been observed.
It is estimated that clean-up could cost the Caribbean at least $120 million in 2018. The CRFM Ministerial Council adopted the “Protocol for the Management of Extreme Accumulations of Sargassum on the Coasts of CRFM Member States” in 2016. The protocol has been guiding the drafting of national Sargassum management protocols for Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with support from the CC4FISH project, an initiative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
In the coming weeks, the CRFM Secretariat will lead extensive consultations with key national stakeholders in the public and private sector, including interests in fisheries, tourism, and environment, as well as with coastal communities and other related sectors. Remote surveys and field missions in select Member States will provide a broad knowledge-base on exactly how the phenomenon has been affecting the countries.
Consett Bay, on the east coast of Barbados, also experienced major Sargassum inundation during 2018. (Photo: CRFM)
Through the project, the CRFM will identify heavily affected areas, the time and frequency of extreme blossoms and accumulation of Sargassum, the quantity of accumulation, and elements associated with it, such as the species of fish and types of debris. A review of the history and scope of the impacts (both positive and negative) will be conducted and the extent of financial losses quantified. The CRFM will also identify research and countermeasures taken by the national governments, regional organizations, research institutions, and other development partners and donors. Finally, the study will suggest actions and scope of support that Japan may provide to help the countries address the problem.
During the study, the CRFM will engage other regional institutions such as Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies (CERMES-UWI), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, (CIMH), the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission. The CRFM will also engage development partners which have been doing Sargassum-related work in the region, including the FAO, UN Environment Regional Coordinating Unit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and IOCARIBE, the Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
According to the CRFM, Sargassum influxes disrupt fishing operations through gear entanglement and damage; impeding fishing and other vessels at sea; reducing catches of key fisheries species, such as flyingfish and adult dolphinfish; changing the availability and distribution of coastal and pelagic fisheries resources; and disrupting coastal fishing communities and tourism activities.
However, this challenge has also inspired innovative interventions, and opportunities for revenue-generation include value-addition through the production of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, animal feed, and biofuel. The CRFM notes, though, that the financial or other benefits remain to be quantified.
The Sargassum phenomenon is believed to be driven by several factors, including climate change and increased sea surface temperature; change in regional winds and ocean current patterns; increased supply of Saharan dust; and nutrients from rivers, sewage and nitrogen-based fertilizers.