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The fourth meeting of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) ministers in charge of fisheries and aquaculture was held in Brussels from 22 to 23 July 2015, preceded by a meeting of senior fisheries officials on 20 and 21 July.
It provided an opportunity for the ministers to take stock of progress made in implementing the strategic action plan for fisheries and aquaculture, which was adopted in Nadi, Fiji in 2012, and to agree on the way forward to ensure the sustainability of aquatic resources with a view to wealth creation and development in ACP countries.
More than 60 ACP member states are engaged in the export of fish and aquaculture products to regional and international markets, although these countries provide only 3% share in value of the global fisheries trade, worth US$150 billion per year.
At the conclusion of their meeting, the ministers adopted a roadmap for the implementation of the strategic action plan, calling for mobilisation of adequate financial resources and close collaboration with partner institutions which provide support to ACP fisheries sector, among them the EU, FAO, IFAD, UNIDO and the World Bank, to ensure effective implementation.
Given the negative impact of climate change on the fisheries sector, the ministers called specifically on the international community to agree to outline concrete, ambitious actions to reduce the effects of climate change during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is scheduled to take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.
In light of the persistence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and piracy, the ACP ministers also urged the international community to cooperate more closely with ACP countries and to provide financial and technical support for the efforts made at the national and regional level, to curb and eradicate these two extremely serious problems.
The ministers recommended developing aquaculture, the economic development of the fisheries sector as a means for creating decent jobs, especially for youth and women, as well as the preservation of aquatic biodiversity. They agreed to implement plans for the development of aquaculture and appropriate fisheries management measures in compliance with international agreements.
The ministers also stressed the need for coherence and appropriate policies among regional economic integration organisations and regional fisheries organisations to achieve this aim.
The ministers directed the ACP Secretariat to seek technical assistance and financial support from development partners, specifically the European Union, to strengthen ACP fisheries sectors and their national health and food security agencies to enable them to comply with increasingly stringent health requirements.
The ministers also agreed that the European Union should provide support to the ACP fisheries and aquaculture sector, through appropriate measures, to cope with the erosion of preferential tariffs for ACP fish exports to EU markets, and to support the ACP Position on Fisheries subsidies negotiations in the WTO negotiations.
Credit: Caribbean News Now
With only about one-sixth of the original coral cover left, most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to the loss of grazers in the region, according to the latest report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date – the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.
The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.
“The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover.”
Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region. An unidentified disease led to a mass mortality of the sea urchin in 1983 and extreme fishing throughout the 20th century has brought the parrotfish population to the brink of extinction in some regions. The loss of these species breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.
Reefs protected from overfishing, as well as other threats such as excessive coastal pollution, tourism and coastal development, are more resilient to pressures from climate change, according to the authors.
“Even if we could somehow make climate change disappear tomorrow, these reefs would continue their decline,” says Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report and IUCN’s senior advisor on coral reefs. “We must immediately address the grazing problem for the reefs to stand any chance of surviving future climate shifts.”
The report also shows that some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those that harbour vigorous populations of grazing parrotfish. These include the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda and Bonaire, all of which have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrotfish, such as fish traps and spearfishing. Other countries are following suit.
“Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” says Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”
Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Caribbean is home to 9% of the world’s coral reefs, which are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Caribbean reefs, spanning a total of 38 countries, are vital to the region’s economy. They generate more than US$ 3 billion annually from tourism and fisheries and over a hundred times more in other goods and services, on which more than 43 million people depend.
This video, featuring the report’s lead author Jeremy Jackson, explains the significance of the report:
Peruse the full report.
Credit: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Excellent footage showing the effect of conservation work in the Bluefields Bay Fish Sanctuary, Jamaica by Intasave-Caribsave. 2.5 years post deployment, the fish are flourishing in the artificial reef.
Did you know that a Parrot Fish can produce as much as 7 tons of sand in its life time? Learn more about our collaborative work to secure Caribbean fish sanctuaries by watching the Caribsave video below.
** Caribsave is a Not-For-Profit regional organization with its headquarters in Barbados. Caribsave was formed in 2008 as a partnership initiative between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the University of Oxford.