(ZIZ News) — The Honourable Eugene Alastair Hamilton, Minister for Agriculture, on behalf of the Government, today signed instruments of accession to two important international fisheries agreements, reinforcing the commitment of St Kitts and Nevis to meet or exceed international standards for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems.
This will fortify global actions to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities (IUU fishing) and the marketing of illegally caught catch.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is now party to the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA), focusing on high seas fishing for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and the 2009 Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) on combating IUU fishing through harmonized measures in port. Minister Hamilton declared that “the country will step up its efforts to make fisheries more sustainable, protect the stocks and generate a food supply and long-term revenues”.
The Agreements provide a framework for strengthened control of the Saint Kitts and Nevis flagged offshore fishing fleet, which caught over 150 000 tonnes of fish last year off the coast of west Africa and transported hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish and fish products in the North Eastern Atlantic. The fleet consists of huge vessels that help to provide food for millions of people world-wide and generate significant revenues for our country.
By becoming party to the Port State Measures Agreement, Saint Kitts and Nevis plays a frontrunner role in the Caribbean, being the first country in the region to install port inspection measures of international best-practice standards.
Minister Hamilton also announced that the new Government is working together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop a new Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Resources Bill and related Regulations. They will replace existing outdated legislation and implement the requirements of the Agreements and provide Between April and last week three stakeholders consultations with more than 100 participants were held on the new Bill and Regulations, which the Government plans to approve in 2015.
Saint Kitts and Nevis has recently been negatively in the news because of IUU fishing and transhipments by some of its offshore flag vessels. The European Union notified the Government that it may close its markets to our fish. They gave Saint Kitts and Nevis a “yellow card” and unless measures to combat IUU fishing are put in place a ban on our exports of fish to the EU may follow. Moreover a media campaign against a Saint Kitts and Nevis flagged vessel carrying whale meat was held last week. The Minister said that “These events do not truly reflect the efforts of our country to be a leading sustainable fishing nation in the region and internationally. We are determined to strengthen our efforts and accession to these Agreements contributes to this process.”
The two Agreements will allow St Kitts and Nevis to manage and monitor its offshore fishing fleet, collaborate with regional fisheries management organizations, apply best-practice port measures including inspections of fishing vessels and exchange of information with other countries and RFMOs. They guarantee better collaboration internationally and support from other states to the Department of Marine Resources in its attempts to manage the fisheries sector and its resources.
At the opening ceremony of a national workshop on the implementation of port and flag State measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on 6 July 2015, Minister Hamilton said ”We cannot continue business as usual in the fisheries sector, we are serious about fighting illegal fishing here in Saint Kitts and Nevis and internationally”. He added that the time for action has come and that Saint Kitts and Nevis has given today a clear signal that illegal practices in fishing and related activities will be powerfully opposed, identified and addressed.