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Caribbean to Promote Aquaculture

CARIBBEAN - The Caribbean is far behind the rest of the world in developing aquaculture, the executive director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) told Tribune Business.

Milton Haughton, who is spearheading a three-day Caribbean Fisheries Forum in Nassau, said the establishment of a regional aquaculture working group to promote the expansion of both marine and fresh water aquaculture was among the list of issues on the forum's agenda.

Mr Haughton told Tribune Business: "We will also be discussing the situation as it relates to aquaculture development, marine fisheries globally and in the region. The capacity to produce more is limited, and we have to face that reality."

"On the aquaculture side, however, and I mean mariculture as well, we are far behind the rest of the world in terms of the development of aquaculture. We have huge potential for increasing and expanding the production of aquaculture in the Caribbean region."

"We are indeed behind if you look at what is happening in Asia and Latin America; they have moved ahead on aquaculture development. Aquaculture in the Caribbean region contributes to one to two per cent of the total fish production, whereas in Asia and some other countries it's 50 per cent."

"Now we have available new technologies and scientific advances that we need to use in order to ensure that we develop aquaculture, and ensure we develop it in a sustainable manner, because we have to pay attention to the ecological sustainability of aquaculture."

Mr Haughton added that poaching is a problem affecting many countries in the Caribbean, citing minimal penalties imposed by many countries in the region as not enough of a deterrent. He said: "Poaching is a massive problem. It is a massive problem in the Bahamas, and in the same way it is affecting just about all of our counties."

"Most of our countries have relatively large maritime spaces. We are very small states with very limited capacity for monitoring, control surveillance and enforcement, and because of that our region is attractive to poachers."

"On top of that, the penalties that we impose for infringement of our laws and regulations for the most part tend to be minimal. The penalties we impose tend not to be severe enough to be a deterrent. There are some countries in the region where the poacher will not think about entering because they know that the penalties are very severe."

Mr Haughton said the Caribbean needs to boost its trade in fish. "We need to access markets in Europe, Asia and in the US for our products. because that is one way of boosting profitability," he explained.

"One of the main challenges is to ensure that we have in place suitable systems to ensure that the products we export are of good quality and safe to eat. We need to put in place the legal, regulatory and administrative systems to have good quality assurances systems to meet international standards."

Lucy Towers

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