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Strategic transformation of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) tabled for urgent discussion

The WECAFC Commission established in 1973 serves primarily to promote effective conservation, management and development of living marine resources throughout the Western Central Atlantic region.

July 9, 2019 - Bridgetown, Barbados – The 17th Session of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), scheduled to be held in Miami, USA from 15- 18 July 2019 will discuss key matters including the reform of the WECAFC Commission towards a regional fisheries management entity or arrangement that will define a convention area and a regulatory area in the Area Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) where binding measures can be implemented. An estimated eighty high-profiled delegates from over twenty-five countries will attend the meeting which will be hosted by the Government of the United States of America.

The WECAFC Commission established in 1973 serves primarily to promote effective conservation, management and development of living marine resources throughout the Western Central Atlantic region. Some of its mandates includes - to contribute to improved governance through institutional arrangements that encourage cooperation amongst members; to promote, coordinate and, as appropriate, strengthen the development of institutional capacity and human resources, particularly through education and training. The organization is made up of 33 countries and the European Union, a member organization, also seeks to promote and facilitate harmonizing of relevant national laws and regulations, and compatibility of conservation and management measures. 

While these mandates are advisory in nature, the commission will discuss and now seek to improve fisheries management, secure sustainable fisheries and develop the sector, through  a new entity/arrangement (a) which would have an advisory role in science, capacity building, technology transfer and Monitoring Control and Surveillance and (b) where binding Conservation Management Measures decisions could be made at the level of the ABJN with the possibility of retaining the option to include the Exclusive Economic Zone  in order to maintain flexibility for certain stocks/species.

In addition, the upcoming WECAFC meeting will discuss other important matters relevant to the Caribbean region such as a Regional Plan of Action to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, developments in the management of selected commercial species, such as queen conch, spiny lobster and climate change, vulnerabilities and adaptation in the Western Central Atlantic fisheries and the Regional Data Collection Reference Framework.

Yvette Diei Ouadi, FAO Caribbean Sub-regional Fishery and Aquaculture Officer and WECAFC Secretary, stated that the meeting has attracted high interest from fisherfolk organizations, partners agencies and intergovernmental organizations, including the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organizations (CNFO), the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), The Caribbean Fisheries Management Council  (CFMC), the Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Organisation (OSPESCA), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna  (ICCAT) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

She indicated that, “it is anticipated that the members will discuss and provide guidance on the way forward, including a roadmap and needed support towards the completion of the reform process.  Moreover, improved coordination of regional governance in the sector and regional fisheries management recommendations and resolutions on shrimp and groundfish resources, spawning aggregations and aggregating species, queen conch, on billfish, fisheries using fish aggregating devices, sharks and rays will be presented for review and adoption”.

She also stressed that ultimately the implementation of any agreement coming out of the WECAFC meeting is to stimulate the fundamental contribution of fish to food security and nutrition, trade, job creation and provision of income, particularly for small-scale producers and legitimate fishers in WECAFC area.

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