Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen; Madam Chairperson, Ms Ann Marie Jobity, Director of Fisheries; Mr Bissessar Chakalall, FAO Subregional Office in Barbados; Dr David Doulman, Fishery Policy and Planning Division, FAO headquarters, Rome; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Specially Invited Guests, Members of the Media; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to you this morning, on the occasion of the opening of this very important three day Regional Workshop on the Elaboration of National Plans of Actions to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated or (IUU) Fishing in the Caribbean. I especially wish to welcome our overseas visitors and sincerely hope that while you here in Port of Spain, you will find the time to enjoy some of our local culture and delectable cuisine in our beautiful twin-island State of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this regional Workshop represents the third of its kind this year, organized by FAO and held in Trinidad and Tobago. I wish to offer my gratitude and that of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to FAO for once again choosing Trinidad and Tobago as the venue for this regional Workshop. You may recall that in June earlier this year, my Ministry together with the FAO jointly hosted a Regional Workshop on Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and information was disseminated to participants pertaining to modern cutting-edge technologies for VMS. My Ministry is currently exploring proposals from VMS providers with a view to testing VMS equipment on some of our offshore fishing vessels. We recognize that an appropriate VMS is pivotal and essential to any national or regional effort at Monitoring, Surveillance and Control (MCS).
Ladies and Gentlemen, in September this year, my Ministry again in collaboration with FAO hosted yet another regional workshop for countries of the CARICOM and Latin America. This Workshop targeted those countries, which are participating in the global project aimed at the introduction of technologies to reduce the level of by-catch and discards in tropical shrimp trawl fisheries. The issue of by-catch and discards in the shrimp trawl fishery is a major challenge to the sustainability of fisheries and the knowledge and information gleaned through this Workshop was intended to encourage the industry to use these conservation-oriented technologies.
This sequel of workshops demonstrates unequivocally FAOs continuing commitment to information sharing and technology transfer and its facilitation of the active engagement of regional fisheries scientists and policy-makers on current technical issues now being promoted in the international fisheries arena. FAO's critical role in the provision of technical assistance to regional fisheries authorities to develop the intellectual capacity to effectively conserve and sustainably manage their fisheries resources is further proof of this commitment. Through these regional efforts, countries are brought to the forefront on critical fisheries issues. Therefore, I wish to add, that these very critical fisheries management issues are accorded the priority they deserve on our countries' national fisheries agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated or IUU Fishing presents major problems to fisheries worldwide, whether this type of irresponsible fishing is conducted in areas under national jurisdiction or on the high seas. It is an activity that poses a direct threat to the sustainability of fisheries resources in the present and future. Here in the Caribbean, such activity is no less severe, and is further exacerbated by our incapacity for effective monitoring, surveillance and control (MCS). For instance, we have only recently been introduced to the VMS technologies and these have yet to be effectively instituted in this region. IUU fishing is disastrous to fisheries in that it undermines all efforts at sustainable conservation and management of fish stocks. I wish to reiterate at this juncture the fishing activities deemed to constitute IUU fishing activities. These include inter alia:
Fishing without a valid licence or authorization from the flag State;
Lack of accurate records of catch and/or misreporting of catches;
Fishing in a restricted area, out of season and time;
Fishing stocks for which a moratorium has been imposed;
Using prohibited or destructive gear;
Lack of proper registration, including re-flagging of vessels to evade controls;
Conducting fishing activities that may undermine conservation and management measures.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the onus is on all of us who are entrusted with the responsibility to monitor the above activities to do our utmost to combat this serious affliction in fisheries. The challenge is for all flag States, coastal or port States and regional fisheries management organizations which all have a part to play in eliminating IUU fishing from our waters to take concerted and decisive action against those who choose to flout the rules. Countries too must therefore work assiduously to ensure that the supporting national legislation and monitoring systems are in place to deal with this problem.
IUU fishing is of particular significance to us here in the Caribbean. It is especially important at this juncture in our development, as we fast-forward plans to establish a Common Fisheries Policy and Regime. Such a Regime is fraught with difficulties if a mechanism cannot be asserted to eliminate IUU fishing not only in the Exclusive Economic Zones of countries but even more significantly from the territorial seas under national sovereignty.
IUU fishing has been the subject of international discussions since the late 1990's. It is an activity that is in breach of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. IUU fishing activity does not respect the applicable rules of international instruments governing fishing activity. It is an irresponsible fishing practice; it is a problem that has assumed global dimensions. The negative consequences of IUU fishing must be underscored in respect of diminishing all efforts to sustainably manage and conserve fish stocks worldwide.
Over the next five days participants, would be introduced to the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU fishing or the IPOA-IUU. This IPOA has been developed within the framework of the Code of Conduct. As stated in the IPOA-IUU, its interpretation and application must be in a manner consistent with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1993 Compliance Agreement, the 1995 UN Fish Stock Agreement and where applicable the rules of WTO.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the prospectus distributed to all participants here today, indicates the major objective of this Workshop as being to develop national capacity to render countries capable of elaborating their National Plans of Actions to satisfy requisite means to implement the IPOA-IUU. This is a very laudable target you have set yourselves and all participating countries would benefit in terms of being directed and guided in implementing the IPOA-IUU to promote sustainable fisheries conservation and management. I wish to take this opportunity to wish you a fruitful and productive five day workshop and a successful endeavour. I am sure that on your return to your respective countries, the knowledge and experience acquired over the next five days would be translated into positive actions to eliminate IUU fishing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion, I wish to give the assurance that my Ministry would be much obliged over the next week to facilitate the smooth operations of this workshop in any way possible.
I thank you!