This project has identified the clear intention of CARICOM countries and their CRFM to optimize the returns from large pelagic resources through responsible fisheries. In particular, they intend to collaborate with non-CARICOM countries and RFMOs on management of these resources according to relevant international instruments. This intention is clearly stated in the articles establishing the CRFM (Haughton et al., 2004). The strategy emerging from this project involves two thrusts:
fullest feasible participation of CARICOM countries in the activities of ICCAT, coordinated by the CRFM; and
the CRFM taking the lead in promoting management of Caribbean regional species, most of which may be included in ICCATs mandate, but are not presently managed by the commission.
The project identified several opportunities, as well as some constraints that must be overcome in moving forward with these thrusts. Whereas the CRFM has indicated that it is prepared to take on the role of the RFMO for the species in the latter thrust, there is a need for clarification of its legal standing vis-à-vis the requirements for becoming a competent organization for the wider Caribbean. Specifically, there is a need for legal clarification as to whether the levels of membership in the CRFM would satisfy the requirement for equitable membership of non-CARICOM Caribbean countries in the RFMO. The question of whether non-Caribbean fishing nations can be accommodated also needs to be resolved. A related matter that may require further elaboration and discussion is whether CARICOM member states perceive their CRFM as an organization that will promote their particular needs within the wider Caribbean, or as one that will serve the needs of all wider Caribbean countries equally and impartially as an RFMO.
The way forward must involve early and extensive discussion with ICCAT on how that body perceives the implementation of management of Caribbean regional species and, in particular, the extent to which they may be willing to delegate responsibility for regional species to a Caribbean RFMO. Even though the cost of membership in ICCAT may be affordable for many countries, the cost of representation in meetings is likely to be prohibitive for all but the most active fishing countries. Thus there is also a need for negotiation with ICCAT regarding the extent to which CARICOM member countries could be represented by a CRFM delegation.
Each country must place the management of large pelagic fisheries prominently on its fisheries agenda if the strategies identified and proposed are to work effectively for CARICOM countries. This involves mainstreaming these fisheries into the fisheries management planning cycle, where one exists, and establishing an effective planning process where one does not. Fishing industry representation and participation in planning and management should be an integral part of this process. In many countries, routine collection and reporting of information must be enhanced to meet the basic requirements of a functional RFMO. Sharing and pooling of data and information for fishery assessments must also be addressed. Updating the fisheries legislative framework to meet new challenges in fisheries management and development, particularly enabling legislation for the relevant international instruments, should also be a high national priority for partners in collaborative management of large pelagic fisheries in the Caribbean. For management to be effective, the interplay between national, regional and international partners must be well structured and continuous.