Two regional fisheries bodies for historic Belize meeting

Twenty-five countries from two regional fisheries organizations,  with the task of promoting  cooperation and policy coordination in addressing trans-boundary fisheries matters, will meet in Belize for a historic, high-level ministerial meeting today and tomorrow.

The joint meeting in Belize City will bring together 17 CARICOM member and associated member states of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), and seven  members of the Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA), joined by the Dominican Republic as an associate member, said a press release from the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development in Belize City, Belize.

Lisel Alamilla

The participants of this  meeting will discuss pressing matters such as fisheries and aquaculture development across all 25 states; illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; climate change impacts on marine ecosystems and fishing communities; and a coordinated approach to the management of the lionfish and other invasive marine life.

“The similar mandates and objectives of both organizations highlight the potential benefits of sharing scientific knowledge and experiences related to research, resource management, and policy coordination in fisheries and aquaculture development,” CRFM organizers are quoted as saying.

They added: “Strengthe-ning collaboration between these two regional fisheries organizations would improve conservation, management and sustainable development of the shared living marine resources of the Caribbean Sea.”

Belize, the host country for the CRFM Secretariat, is the common link between CRFM and OSPESCA: it is the only country that has membership in both regional bodies, and it has been charged with playing a key role in leading this process forward, the release noted.

In a joint declaration, Heads of State and Govern-ment of both Central Ameri-can and Caribbean countries who met at the 3rd CARICOM-SICA Summit in San Salvador, El Salvador, last August, called on Belize to host the first high-level ministerial meeting of CRFM-OSPESCA, aimed at strengthening collaboration between both regional fisheries organizations.

“Belize as a country is best positioned to bring the member countries of OSPESCA and CRFM together to discuss issues related to the development and management of the fisheries sector,” said Belize’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Develop-ment, Lisel Alamilla.

“We share a common resource in the wider Caribbean region and therefore must foster a common understanding for cooperation in the responsible development of this sector, in maintaining its place as a significant contributor to our national economies and in the livelihoods of our people.”

Alamilla also underscored the region’s commitment to the further development of its fisheries and coastal resources for the greatest benefits of citizens.

Participants will advance discussions on common interests between CRFM and OSPESCA in fisheries and aquaculture and will furthermore formulate and formalize a Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) to solidify the CRFM-OSPESCA collaboration.

Observers from interested regional and international organizations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organi-zation (FAO), the University of the West Indies (UWI), Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Project (CLME), and the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organizations  (CNFO), have been invited to attend this milestone event, the release added.