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Caribbean network - fisherfolk join forces

Fisheries employ up to half a million Caribbean fisherfolk (© CANARI)
Fisheries employ up to half a million Caribbean fisherfolk
© CANARI

Fisheries provide direct or indirect employment for up to half a million Caribbean fisherfolk, who generally lack other major sources of income. However, the poor state of global fisheries is equally reflected in the region, where near-shore and reef habitats are increasingly degraded. In addition, fishing communities often find themselves in competition with other marine activities, particularly tourism. And while most fisheries resources are shared among many countries at some point in their life cycle, there is no fisheries management organisation that covers the whole region. However, the recent creation of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO)* has greatly increased the capacity and influence of fishing communities in managing the resources they depend on.

Establishing the network

Formation of the CNFO has given fishing communities greater control over the resources they depend on (© CANARI)
Formation of the CNFO has given fishing communities greater control over the resources they depend on
© CANARI

Stemming from a Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) developmental project, the new regional network aims to build the capacities of fisherfolk organisations in a wide range of leadership skills. It was first proposed following a CRFM needs assessment in 2004, which recognised the need for capacity strengthening, to improve the participation of fisherfollk in marine and coastal resource planning and influence decision-making in fishery related matters. Issues of concern included weak management structures, poor access to information and limited communication and advocacy skills.

As in most region-wide programmes in the Caribbean, the CNFO has had to recognise and respond to the diverse needs and priorities of nation states. The first phase from 2006 to 2008 saw the creation of several national organisations, which have since formed the backbone of the regional network. Fisherfolk leaders were trained in network management and use of communication tools; institutional strengthening was carried out through workshops and ongoing mentoring. Specific achievements include two regional workshops, creation of a website, publication of an annual Fisheries Stakeholders' Directory, and quarterly issues of a Fisher Folk Net newsletter to promote trade and sharing of information among member states.

Influencing policy

In early 2009, members of the CNFO shaped their vision and mission, advocating ecosystem-based management of fisheries resources through collaboration of national and regional fisherfolk organisations. At a Special Meeting of the CRFM's Caribbean Fisheries Forum in Dominica, CNFO representatives participated in discussions with fisheries management representatives from across the region, as they debated the intricacies of the common fisheries policy being developed by Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The CNFO has since represented fisherfolk in six CRFM Meetings and at CARICOM consultations on the implications of the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations for fisheries.

CNFO representatives have participated in discussions with fisheries management representatives from across the region (© CANARI)
CNFO representatives have participated in discussions with fisheries management representatives from across the region
© CANARI

The network has also been engaged in regional projects, such as the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem project to restore degraded coastal habitats. Pursuing its vision, the CNFO is sharing information on fishing gear and techniques that contribute towards sustainable fisheries. It has also taken an active role, working with the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies, in advocating for the application of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Future plans for the network include further capacity building. In particular, skills in web-based areas need to be further developed in order to improve networking and communication among network members, their partners and collaborators. In order to contribute effectively to fisheries policy at the national and regional levels, network members need to be informed and to be sharing information about current fisheries policy and related matters. With this in mind, Phase II of the project has recently been approved by CTA, to further boost the network's engagement with policy discussions at national, regional and international levels.

*The project is implemented in partnership with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) based in the Netherlands and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at the University of the West Indies in Barbados.

Written by: Mitchell Lay

Date published: June 2011

 

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