Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Milton Haughton, was the keynote speaker on Thursday, June 29, at the awards ceremony for outstanding fishers in Belize.
The event was organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society along with the CRFM and other NGO partners and the Belize Fisheries Department, as the climax to a month-long observance in celebration of fisherfolk in Belize.
The outstanding fishers were LeoBihildo Tamai – Fisher of the Year for 2017, a career fisher of 30 years who lives in Sarteneja Village in Corozal, northern Belize; Dale Fairweather – a deep sea and lobster fisher of southern Belize; and Eleodoro Martinez, Jr., a fisher of Chunux, also located in Corozal.
“Fisherfolk and fisheries have always been a very important part of Caribbean culture, social life and economies,” Haughton said.
He added that not only do the fisheries produce provide very important sources of food and nutrition; but the sector is also an important source of foreign exchange earnings, employment and livelihood opportunities, particularly for the poor and vulnerable members of society.
“But the livelihoods of fishers, the safety of their communities in the coastal areas, and continued enjoyment of the benefits from the seas and oceans are threatened by climate change, sea level rise, and ocean acidification, among many other challenges,” the CRFM Executive Director said.
For this reason, he added, the theme selected by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation for fisherfolk day 2017 is “Fisheries: contributing to food security in a changing climate.”
“The future we want in the Caribbean is one where fisheries are sustainable, resilient and productive, and are used in a way that promotes economic growth, food security and health, and the prosperity of our people now and in the future,” he asserted, adding that in order to realize the envisioned future, more importance needs to be given to evidence-based decision-making, in order to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change. This would, in turn, help the region develop adaptation strategies to protect our communities and natural resources.
He warned, though, that, “Lack of appropriate action on climate change today will certainly undermine the achievement of this vision and make the world our children inherit a much more unproductive, insecure and difficult place than we are living in today.”
The region is also grappling with emerging challenges which confront the sector, including the more recent phenomenon of massive quantities of sargassum seaweed in the coastal water.
Haughton said that the sargassum seaweed is returning, and reports are that it is already affecting the Eastern Caribbean.
Social protection exists when governments develop policies and programmes to address economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities to food insecurity and poverty. The Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP) is one such policy which Caribbean Countries believe can help to enhance the income, status and capacities of fisherfolk; thus, enabling them to sustainably provide for themselves and their family members.
By stimulating improved fisheries management and production, the CCCFP can contribute to social protection in fishing communities, which provides greater income stability and ability to manage risk, thus contributing to reducing poverty and food insecurity in the longer-term.
Fisherman’s Day 2015 is an occasion to focus the region’s attention on the crucial role that can be played by the CCCFP in eradicating hunger and poverty.