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The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries facilitated a round of meetings with fishers throughout the Territory as part of the Darwin Plus Funded Project, “Capacity Building in Fisheries Evidence, Networks and Management in the Virgin Islands”, September 26th - 29th.
Representatives from the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), the UK government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO) held successful discussions with fishers last week on Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Tortola.
The project began in 2020 and aims to strengthen fisherfolk capacity and engagement in sustainable fisheries management including supporting the development of a formalised network of fisherfolk to enable a collective voice and greater participation in decision-making. The project also reviews and merges existing evidence, data and maps for the marine areas and creates a centralised fisheries database and a fisheries evidence report to improve the capture and display of fisheries data to support future licensing and management decisions.
Mrs. Melanie Andrews-Bacchus, representing CANARI, said, “We were able to meet with about 50 small-scale commercial fishers who expressed an interest in getting better organised. A common sentiment repeated by several fishers across the four islands was the need to have ‘one voice’. Along with our project partners, we look forward to providing support to the fishers with this effort”.
Cefas representative, Dr. Peter Randall, described his visit by saying, “The coronavirus pandemic forced us to gather information remotely for the Fisheries Evidence Report for the (British) Virgin Islands. This collaborative visit to the four main islands helped us to understand the local context. The interaction with fishers provided valuable insight to our remote findings on both the nature of the fisheries and on the prevalence of Abandoned, Lost and otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear around the Virgin Islands (also known as Ghostgear). The responses from the fisherfolk will be fed into the fisheries evidence report which identifies key issues and gaps for fisheries management.”.
Mr. Adrian La-Roda, Chairman of CNFO, described his visit as productive. “Fishers here have an interest in organising, they understand the benefits but need support. We are hopeful that fishers will organise, create a local fishers network and ultimately join CNFO”.
Director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Theodore James, away during the CANARI/Cefas/CNFO visit, thanked everyone for their participation and congratulated the team on executing a successful round of meetings with fishers.
Upcoming activities for the project include training DOAF staff in GIS, follow-up meetings with fishers to support the development of a local fisherfolk network, joining CNFO and capacity building in sustainable ecosystem-based fisheries management for fisherfolk.
The final report and recommendations will be available in early 2023 and will support the development of the fisherfolk network to better support coordinated efforts, and protect the fisheries and natural environment.