The unity Labour Party (ULP) regime has failed to recognize the importance of the fisheries sector to the economic development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. During COVID- 19 pandemic and the discussion of food security, the ULP regime has not developed any meaningful policy to enhance the fisheries sector. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is cognizant of the importance of the fisheries sector to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its considerable contribution to the livelihood of the fisher-folk.
After nineteen (19) years in power, the ULP government has not implemented any creative policy to develop the fisheries sector. The ULP regime has only offered lip service to the sector. The methods of fishing have remained the same. Also, it appears that the government has taken a ‘hands off’ approach to the marketing of fish and fish products. Further, the fisheries complex at Owia has been unoccupied for the most part since its completion. Recently, the government has entered into an agreement with a regional company which has drawn criticism from the stake holders in the fishing industry; undoubtedly, a government that does not have a plan for the fisheries sector.
The world seafood market, which encompasses fresh, canned and frozen seafood products, is expected to exceed $400 billion by 2026, according to Global Industry Analysts. It is predicted the market will be fuelled by a rising global population, increased discretionary incomes, and technological advances such as packaging and improved transportation. Demand will be particularly strong in developing regions including Latin America and Asia-Pacific. The overall market for aquaculture and fisheries will continue to expand exponentially. Other factors driving the market include a growing trend towards healthier eating.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines can benefit tremendously from this trend. In order to realize our full potential which will enable our country to maximize the contribution of this sector to the economy, the NDP will establish a Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Conservation. The introduction of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Conservation is definitely a novel idea. It shows the vision that our leader, Dr. Friday, has, not only for the fisheries sector but for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The establishment of this ministry will demonstrate to the stakeholders in the fishing industry that the NDP is serious about fisheries development and the overall protection of the marine environment, as we develop a blue economy.
The fisheries sector is critical to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. While the overall economic benefit from the fisheries sector is astronomical, the NDP is also mindful that hundreds of jobs can be created from the sector. It is with that in mind that we hope that hundreds of jobs will be created for Vincentians so that their standard of living can be improved.
We will ensure that fishing industry plays an essential role in food security. Widespread incidents of natural disasters and uncertainty of the global environment and now COVID- 19 have made food security a major issue. The quality of life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines can be improved at all levels if our country increases its capacity to provide for its food needs. The only way our nation can safeguard our food supply is to become more self sufficient.
It is said that sustainable, productive fisheries and aquaculture improve food and nutrition security, increase income and improve livelihoods, promote economic growth and protect our environment and natural resources. Those are some of the reasons why the NDP will place tremendous emphasis on the fisheries sector.
Marine conservation is critical to the development of the fisheries sector. The experts in the fisheries sector have advised that, “A sustainable approach to fisheries and aquaculture will help to protect our natural resources and ensure that fish stocks are available for future generations. Currently, overfishing, ineffective management practices, industrial development and agricultural pollution have reduced fish stocks. While sustainable fisheries management is a challenge, solid global and regional governance of these vital resources will ensure that we can produce enough fish for those living in poor regions.” Hence, we propose the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Conservation.
To achieve all the benefits from the fisheries sector, the NDP will: do what is required to get St. Vincent and the Grenadines off the EU black list as it relates to fishing; upgrade and reopen existing fishing facilities and ensure that fisher-folk are involved in the management of these facilities; assist fisher-folk with the usage of fish location devices to enhance fish catch; offer concessions to fisher-folk to enable them to buy boats, engines and other equipment; spearhead an overall program to lift the status of the fisheries sector in national development by introducing education awareness in schools and communities.
We will also seek technical assistance with a view to opening a fish cannery in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to capitalize on the amount of fish and fish products available; encourage the usage of ICT in fisheries in an effort to upgrade the sector to maximize gains and also for safety especially in the case of those lost at sea; explore the possibility of creating markets for by-products such as blackish oil; build capacity among fishers in all aspects of fishing, navigation, fish handling and processing, value added and business planning; encourage deep sea fishing; and funds will be available through the Development Bank to assist fisher folk to expand their businesses.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is well placed to benefit immensely from the fishing industry. We have an Exclusive Economic Zone of two hundred (200) miles where we can fish. And we have not been doing any large scale fishing so our species are far from depleted. The NDP will make St.Vincent and the Grenadines work for all Vincentians.