SEARCHLIGHT welcomes the initiative to carry out a baseline assessment study of the marine resources of St Vincent and the Grenadines which was launched earlier this week. The study is being carried out by the Blue Marine Foundation with the generous support of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
In recent years more and more attention has been paid to matters related to marine resources globally, under the broad heading of the Blue Economy. This encompasses all the resources, including valuable minerals, of the seabed and ocean floor. For countries like ours with very limited land resources, the biodiversity of our marine resources is of critical importance to our developmental thrust.
Indeed, by focusing on marine resources, even our concept of SVG as a “very tiny” island chain changes drastically since our territorial size is multiplied several times over when our marine borders are considered. It also increases our scope for development bringing to bear rich marine resources never fully integrated into our development strategies.
In recent times this has become an area for external attention and investment, and it is all the more of critical importance that we become aware of what resources we possess, what is their state of health so as to be able to ensure that these resources are best utilized in the interests of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, first and foremost.
There have been several allegations and complaints about the activities of foreign fishing vessels in our waters, not always substantiated because of our own limited knowledge and monitoring of marine activities. In addition, there has been a major investment relating to the export of conch and lobster in particular from our shores. We have to be on top of the ball if we are to maximize our benefits while of course ensuring that our fishery is not depleted and there are commensurate returns to investors.
This is precisely where the importance of the baseline study comes in, for it presents an opportunity to examine what is there at the present and to plan and build for the future. It is not by accident that the valuable conch and lobster resources are specifically mentioned, not only for their value but regarding their vulnerability.
It is not just the various marine resources, the fish, the conch, the lobster, that we must care for, the health of the marine environment is vitally important and given climate change issues, the study will help us to understand what is taking place in this regard. It will be critical that the valuable information gleaned from such a study is utilized in the best interest of all, that it is fed into policy formulation so as to enable those responsible to be able to identify and address issues of concern.
Vigilance at all times will be necessary if we are to protect our national interests and avoid the mistakes made on Mother Earth.
Let us not forget the important role of our fisherfolk in this. We are pleased to note that local people such as conch divers and fisheries officers will be trained as part of the project. There must be ongoing interaction between government and fishing communities, with emphasis on the involvement of young people not only in the study but in the industry and the Blue Economy as a whole.
The SVGEF and the Blue Marine Foundation must be thanked for this important initiative and the support and collaboration of the Agriculture Ministry is a vital element of its success.