|Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton with Charge d'Affaires at the European Commission (EC) Delegation to Jamaica, Helen Jenkinson.|
Minister of Agriculture, Christopher Tufton said: "We are primarily, as a region, a territory of small artisan fishers."
Dr Tufton was speaking at the launch of the European Union (EU) workshop on fishery and aquaculture standards, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Dr. Tufton said the workshop was of particular importance, as it provided an opportunity to expand and sustain existing economic activities in the sector.
"Within the region, we have approximately 250,000 residents who are directly linked to the fishery sector. It is my understanding that we have another 1.5 million persons who are indirectly involved. The export value of fishery related products is somewhere in the region of US$1.2 billion," he added.
The Minister explained that the workshop also allowed for greater understanding of the various markets and practices that were available across the region and the world.
"The direction in which international trade is now moving, requires from us not just an understanding of the opportunities that exist in markets across the world, outside of our own territory, but very importantly, it also requires an understanding of the nuances that are involved in penetrating particular countries of the world. And I think it is important from that perspective, that a workshop such as this, is going to generate common understanding among those of us who are involved in our respective territories, in taking advantage of those opportunities that exist within that particular marketplace," he said.
He added that there were major restrictions which the fishery sector would have to contend with in a liberalized market-place, "which we would need or certainly our fishers would need support in overcoming," and as such, commended the EU for supporting this initiative.
"The challenge for us (the sector), is its sustainability, and it is as much a challenge of ensuring that the critical stakeholders who are directly involved, meaning the fishers, have an approach that ensures their economic viability," he said, adding that it was critical that persons in the sector fished in a way and used methods that allowed for sustainability of "our fishery stock."
Dr. Tufton stressed that, "the thrust forward is for us to look at strengthening our research capabilities, invest in knowledge generation, particularly as it relates to our eco-system, and acquire and adopt appropriate technology for the responsible harvesting, processing and packaging of our fishery products."
Charge d'Affaires at the European Commission Delegation to Jamaica, Helen Jenkinson, in her remarks, said a major aim of the workshop is to inform the sector about EU food standards.
"Other specific objectives of this initiative are to facilitate and ensure trade in safe food, and also to ensure that there is fair trade with third countries, and in particular developing countries. In this context, we are trying to promote a harmonized rational approach by the community and national control systems for food safety, in this case fish," she said.
The workshop is a part of the Better Training for Safer Food initiative managed by the Commission Health and Consumers Directorate-General and was held from 10 to 12 June.