The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has reached out to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for assistance in reviewing the Fisheries Act of 1986, with a view towards modernization and making it more compliant with international law.
According to Legal Officer with the FAO, Manuela Cuvi, the review of the 32-year-old fisheries legislation is being done under the 3-year Global Environment Facility (GEF) USD 1.95 funded – Caribbean Billfish Project, which aims to reduce billfish mortality and increase billfish stocks in the Caribbean through the development of business models for long-term sustainable management of fisheries in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Cuvi met recently with various stakeholders in the fisheries industry at Allamanda Beach Resort in Grand Anse, to give them an opportunity to contribute to the review process and share with them the FAO’s preliminary findings and recommendations.
“What we have done is a desk review, we have read and reviewed the legislation, together with a national lawyer but it is one thing to read what is written in the law and it is another one to know how it is being implemented in practice”, she said.
“So, we want to hear from them (stakeholders), if they agree, disagree, have more challenges than the ones we have identified, different opinions or ideas as to how things should work,” she added.
Noting that 32 years have elapsed, the FAO official stressed that a lot has happened in the world in the fisheries sector and pointed to new challenges in the fishing industry such as “illegal fishing (and) sustainability of resources and a decline in fish stock.
“The idea is how to make it more efficient and take measures so that monitoring surveillance conveyance can be better so that you can monitor the situation of the stocks …and to ensure that you have conservations measures in place that are important for the future,” she added.
A need for stronger coordination between government institutions is one area the FAO representative said the Grenada government should help strengthen in going forward.
According to Cuvi, there are different government departments with competencies and they need to complement each other better.
“For example, to prevent illegal, unreported fishing you need to have good coordination between the coast guard, the port authorities and the fisheries authorities,” she said.
Additionally, she cited need to have “better definitions about a number of things that are needed” such as the “fisheries advisory committee that is in the legislation,” which she said “needs to be strengthened in practice”.
The FAO official also pointed out that “monitoring surveillance and control systems” are also among the areas, where improvement is needed as well as a “legal basis for the use of fish aggregating devices” also known as FADs, which are currently being used by fishermen to attract fish.
A draft regulation on how to regulate the use of FADs was also among the recommendations presented to stakeholders during the meeting.
It was also recommended that “government consider acceding to the 1995 UN fish stock agreement that goes together with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” which Cuvi noted “is important because it is a legal basis for the membership of Grenada in international organisations (and serves) as a governing structure on how countries regulate together shared stocks (or) highly migratory species that go from one country to another.”
It was also recommended that Grenada accede to “the 1993 FAO Agreement on the Responsibility of the Flag State,” which Cuvi said, “gives the state that, gives the flag to a fishing vessel, responsibility over the functioning of the vessel even if the vessel goes to other countries to fish”.
“So, we are also promoting that Grenada become a party to this agreement to make sure that it complies with all of these obligations,” said the FAO Legal Officer, who is optimistic that the “report with our (FOA’s) technical findings and recommendations will be ready (for presentation to the government) by October this year,” ahead of the conclusion of the Caribbean Billfish Project in December this year.
“So, we are going to give the government a technical opinion on how the legislation could be improved but it’s for the government to decide and implement,” she added.
According to Chief Fisheries Officer, within the Ministry of Fisheries, Crafton Isaac, the legislative review is necessary because “Grenada has signed on to a number of conventions, protocols and treaties; however, we can’t really comply with them because the law does not give us the power to do so.”
Once the FOA report is handed in to government, it will be reviewed by the Ministry of Legal Affairs before it is presented to Cabinet and Parliament for approval.
At this point, there is no set timeline for the completion of this process.