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Pacific and Caribbean fishers find common ground at sea

30/05/2018 Apia, Samoa

Fishers from the Pacific and Caribbean have had a rare opportunity to compare notes and nets, thanks to a study tour arranged by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and a regional counterpart in Caribbean island countries.

FAO, through its Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) have just completed the first phase of a Pacific-Caribbean Nearshore Fisherfolk Exchange – a 12-day study tour across three Caribbean island countries.

The study was an opportunity for Pacific Islands’ fisherfolk and government fisheries officers to share experiences and knowledge with Caribbean fishers and to analyze practices utilizing Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), which are manufactured objects designed to attract fish.

Fishers and fisheries officers responsible for FAD programmes from Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu met their counterparts from the three Caribbean countries of Barbados, Dominica and Grenada on the fishing grounds, in the fishing communities and in government offices.

“It is not often fisherfolk get the opportunity to engage in dialogues with their brothers and sisters in other countries – even though these people are on the frontline of development and risk taking,” said Jessica Sanders, FAO Fisheries Officer.

Fishing  nearshore with FADs is gaining momentum in the Pacific region as a tool to enhance food security and income for fishers and communities, and to reduce pressure on lagoon and reef stocks.  Evaluating how communities engage in FAD fishery development in other parts of the world, such as the Caribbean, can provide greater insights into opportunities associated with fisheries development, and most importantly, reduce risks associated with development.

"As much as possible, we aimed to hold our discussions in the fishing ports, beach landing sites and on the water where fisherfolk are most comfortable. The CRFM were instrumental in setting up these site visits and facilitating dialogues,” said Sanders.

Oceans apart – common objectives

Through mutual agreement, the team looked at strengths and weaknesses across issues such as safety at sea, FAD effectiveness, organization of fisherfolk, profitability of the fishery, and innovation in gear and boat use and design.

Visits began with fish markets and landing sites in Barbados and meetings with representatives of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organizations, the gateway to those island countries with vibrant FAD fisheries and then on to Grenada and Dominica where they visited markets and landing sites, and held meetings with fishing associations to discuss local priorities and constraints as well as sharing fishing experiences at sea with local fishers.

”The study tour was inspirational and all the participants benefitted greatly from these cross-regional discussions. The sharing of ideas in the use and management of nearshore FADs by those who use and depend on them for their livelihoods provides unique insights into practical improvements,” Sanders said. 

The information shared will be compiled to produce a publication detailing the characteristics and status of small-scale FAD fisheries in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The report will focus on fisheries management, fishing operations, the technology used, the engagement of fishers in decision-making, care of the catch, marketing and sale of products, data collection, as well as best practices for the fisheries.

The study tour was funded by FAO through the FAO Multi-partner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM) and was implemented in close partnership with CRFM.

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