14 countries participate in Kingston fisheries workshop

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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MORE than 30 government officials from 14 countries are in Jamaica taking part in the three-day World Trade Organization (WTO) Regional Workshop on 'Fisheries Subsidies for Caribbean Countries'.

The workshop, which opened on Tuesday at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in New Kingston, aims to update the participants on the current status and main issues in the global fisheries subsidies negotiations, and facilitate discussions on specific interests and concerns.

The negotiations, which were launched at the fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2001, aim to clarify and improve existing WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies; strengthen WTO rules on subsidies provided to the fisheries sector; and eliminate subsidies contributing to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Delegates attending the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2017, agreed to conclude the negotiations this year.

The importance and the need for stakeholder adherence to the laws and regulations governing the oceans and seas was underscored by chief technical director for Special Projects in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Courtney Cole, at the opening ceremony.

He noted that IUU fishing remains a global challenge for developed and developing countries, and emphasised the universal recognition of the “vast importance of the blue (marine) economy, and the need to properly manage the resources of our oceans and seas”.

“Ours is the shared responsibility to be good stewards of the economic and environmental value of the [fisheries] sector… so that we can sustainably manage, protect and preserve the oceans and seas for this and future generations,” he said.

Cole further stressed the importance of broad stakeholder access to the “fairest parameters possible” and ensuring that all parties are able to operate in a global space that prohibits fisheries subsidies facilitating overcapacity, and IUU fishing practices.

He said Jamaica's position underscores the need to tackle IUU fishing practices at the local, bilateral, regional and international levels, hence the ministry's embarking on a comprehensive strategy to address the issue.

Cole reiterated the strategy's focus on modernising the regulatory framework and technical capacity to monitor Jamaica's territorial waters, enhancing surveillance, and “ultimately [ensuring] that IUU vessels do not cross into our territories”.

“As largely small island developing states, we in the Caribbean region will require, not just technical assistance to address IUU issues and monitor fish stocks towards improving sustainability, but we also need to work collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes in the current negotiations on subsidies,” he added.

Cole, in acknowledging that the region's fishing fleet and industries are “relatively small”, emphasised the need for flexibility to facilitate development within sustainable levels through subsidies.

Ultimately, the Chief Technical Director said the discussions and negotiations must be “rooted in our commitment to develop the capacity to fully exploit fisheries resources within our exclusive economic zones and other legal spaces”.

It is anticipated that the workshop, which ends today, will facilitate increased stakeholder awareness and knowledge about the issues being discussed in the fisheries subsidies negotiations, now under way at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is expected to encourage greater participation by Caricom in the negotiations, with a view to contributing to the outcome.

Also represented at the workshop are The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

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