A move to more sustainable fishing in the Caribbean

Updated on 28 October 2022

80 representatives from Caribbean countries and the US have received Conch Shelltraining to better ensure the long-term sustainability of local marine species that are crucial for the livelihoods of communities in the region. The waters of the Caribbean are home to species that are heavily commercially traded, notably queen conch and sharks, which are included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Convention, if properly implemented and enforced, will ensure the sustainability of the species.

To support Caribbean countries in meeting their commitments under the Convention, particularly with respect to CITES-listed species, the CITES Secretariat and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Development Law Service (LEGN) jointly organized this workshop in early June. The objective of the workshop was to train representatives of national fisheries administrations, CITES Management and Scientific Authorities and other relevant institutions and strengthening cooperation between fisheries and CITES authorities for the effective implementation of CITES in the fisheries sector.

Queen conch fishing contributes significantly to the livelihoods of communities in the region, and brings economic opportunities through international trade. The sustainable use, management and monitoring of these species, as well as the regulation of their trade is of paramount importance for their conservation.

The 80 participants came from 12 Parties to CITES: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America. Representatives from the European Union, the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also took part in the meeting.

During the four days of the workshop, each country shared their knowledge and practical experience of CITES implementation, outlining the relevant institutional and regulatory framework, the importance of CITES-listed species, the remaining challenges and current initiatives. The WECAFC also gave a presentation that looked at how its members were implementing the Regional Queen Conch Fisheries Management and Conservation Plan.

During the workshop, the participants used the FAO-CITES Legal Study and Guide, which contains options for enhancing national fisheries legislation for better implementation of the Convention.

Mr Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Officer at Belize Fisheries Department, Mr Romeo Lala, Chief Permit Section at Suriname Nature Conservation Division, and Ms Laura Cimo, International Policy Advisor at the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) shared their next steps: Belize and Suriname intend to create working groups to enhance the cooperation between CITES authorities and fisheries authorities, particularly on the creation of non-detriment findings (NDFs) and LAFs for CITES-listed species, and the ongoing process within the countries regarding the development of a new CITES Act, which will allow for further implementation of the Convention and strengthening the related work. In the US, the sharing of information and strengthening of enforcement through higher penalties to deter illegal activities were also emphasized.

In her remarks during the closing of the Workshop, Ms Rachel Gaughan, Legal Officer of the CITES Secretariat emphasized that “working together on CITES and fisheries matters can lead to more constructive results on cross-cutting issues, avoid working in silos and [rather] be mutually supportive”. Ms Gaughan also encouraged the participation of States parties at the upcoming 19th Conference of the Parties of CITES, which will happen in Panama from 14-25 November 2022, noting the importance of their contributions to ongoing discussions on matters such as LAF and introduction from the sea.

The workshop had the assistance and support of the FAO Subregional Office for the Caribbean, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, and FAO Offices in the concerned countries. This was the second workshop delivered by FAO and the CITES Secretariat under the project on implementing CITES through national fisheries legal frameworks. The first workshop with Pacific Island Countries was held in November 2021.