As the government continues on its path to effectively tap into the Blue Economy, steps are being taken to ensure that the country’s marine resources are leveraged in a sustainable way.
As such, a baseline assessment study was officially launched yesterday which will help to assess the general biodiversity of fisheries in the waters of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) with a specific look at the conch and lobster stock.
The study is a Blue Marine Foundation project, funded by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund (SVGEF) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Senior Fisheries Officer, Kris Isaacs thanked the participating agencies for the opportunity to look at what is present in the environment and build for the future.
“It is important that we protect our vulnerable resources as we leverage their economic value in a sustainable way. The opportunity provided to us here in St Vincent and the Grenadines by the Blue Marine Foundation and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environmental Fund is a chance to learn more about the general population that’s out there for marine resources, their health and the biodiversity in general,” Isaacs said.
The senior fisheries officer added that the Fisheries Division will be able to use the data provided in their management plans to ensure that conch and lobster fisheries operate at a sustainable level by allowing stocks to regenerate and by extension, protect local livelihoods for future generations.
The Blue Marine Foundation team arrived in SVG last Thursday and conducted the first of many dives over the weekend.
The team is being headed by senior project manager, Dr Judith Brown.
Executive director of SVGEF Louise Mitchell, said diving exercises will be conducted over the next three weeks with the focus areas being the Grenadines, and the south and leeward coast of St Vincent.
“Blue Marine is actually gonna be training local persons so that the survey can continue after they go. Some of the persons trained are gonna be fisheries officers and some of them are gonna be local conch divers,” Mitchell explained.
She also noted that conch and lobster was specifically identified by local authorities as it is envisaged that those species were particularly popular exports.
And they want to ensure that the industries they are building would be sustainable.
The SVGEF director said studies like this have been said to cost millions of dollars.
And while there is no estimate as to how much SVG’s study will cost, Mitchell said the environment fund is committed to seeing it through, no matter the price tag.
“…It’s so important to have this information for our fisheries sector to thrive over the years. We have to know what is there so we know what needs protecting, so we’re gonna finance it whatever it costs,” Mitchell said.
It is the hope that the scientific information gathered will be used by policymakers to develop successful policies that will help shape the future of the fisheries sector.
Minister with responsibility for fisheries, Saboto Caesar said that the government remains guided by science.
“I am certain that you have heard with this growth in demand for fisheries, fish and other products, that we have to be extremely careful because we have to monitor our resources,” he said at yesterday’s launch, as he addressed the issue in the context of increased exports over the years.
Caesar noted that there is a long history behind the government’s attempting to have a baseline study done locally,
“In fact, we have budgeted for it on several occasions but because of the unavailability of the technician out of Jamaica and then the COVID-19 pandemic, it was just not possible,” he said, while expressing appreciation for the collaborating agencies finally making it possible.
The fisheries minister said many families, particularly those involved in the sector will benefit from the baseline assessment study as it will ensure that policymakers do what is necessary to protect the industry for generations to come.
The SVGEF is prepared to fund this type of research for at least another three years.
This study is also expected to include community consultations with fishers; the first taking place today, February 15 in Union Island. Another is slated for February 28 in Bequia.