By Adrian R. Forde
– At the Blue Justice Conference, UN City, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 23, 2023.
DENMARK / BARBADOS, (GIS) – Barbados’ fishing industry weaves together the multi-coloured social fabric of coastal communities and forms the national identity of Barbadians.
This climate-sensitive sector straddles the kaleidoscope of coloured economies and unfortunately includes the black economy. An economy, of course, bedevilled with illegal activities, such as drug and human trafficking and unregulated and unreported fishing, which have often posed a significant challenge in the sector worldwide.
Fisheries crime threatens food security and undermines the stability of our oceans. How are we charting the way forward towards a better future for the fishing industry?
We have been working closely in Barbados with the Regional Security System to detect, stop, and fight fisheries crime. Throughout the whole supply chain, we are striving to assure the legality and traceability of our fish and execute operations to dismantle the criminal networks that are behind these crimes.
At the national level, we have started to outfit our vessels with state-of-the-art vessel monitoring systems (VMS) to provide comprehensive monitoring and analysis of vessel usage, compliance and behaviours with respect to marine protected areas (MPAs) and restricted-use areas.
Traceability is a game-changer on both fronts, ensuring that fish shipments are certified as having been caught ethically, and in accordance with best practices. However, the certification cannot solely rely on the fishermen’s good faith. The development of plans and policies is, therefore, key in supporting good governance.
We are in the process of adopting the Regional Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing so that our national conversation can be one that enhances this sector.
Another notable initiative is the improvement of our legislative framework to strengthen fisheries management and promote monitoring and surveillance policies, including mandating the use of our vessel monitoring devices aboard all vessels registered in Barbados. The sustainable fisheries management and development suite of laws are part of a legislative reform project for Barbados’ fishing industry. We are working assiduously to enact this new bill later in the year.
The course of action I have outlined may be met with many turbulent seas, but with passionate leaders at the helm to steer us in the right direction, we will sail safely to our destination.
I now take this opportunity to sign on behalf of the people and government of Barbados the Copenhagen Declaration.