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Caricom working to avert likely US fish ban

The 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is working to avert a United States ban on a number of fish species that an American non-governmental organisation says is endangered due to overfishing, officials said at the weekend.

Chairman of the just concluded agriculture ministerial meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development, Roland Bhola said the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has been tasked with providing data to counter claims by the NGO that queen conch and grouper are now endangered.

“CRFM is tasked with the responsibility to get the scientific data…. The CRFM believes that the research that they (NGO) are looking at is not authentic,” said Bhola who is Grenada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

The issue, he confirmed, was discussed “in-depth” at 45th special COTED meeting that was held from October 8 to 11 in Georgetown to coincide with the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).

Already, he said the CRFM has disputed the unnamed NGO’s position on grounds that the region’s fisheries management plan shows that those fish species are intact. Bhola said at the same time the regional fisheries body believes that those species might have been depleted in US waters. “In the Caribbean, we are still very much within the limitations of harvesting at this time,” he added.

Bhola said the US has not yet taken a decision to accept the NGO’s recommendations, paving the way for the CRFM to table a defence. “They are preparing the necessary response to ensure that the US doesn’t accede to the request by that NGO to ban those species,” he added.

This issue first surfaced in October 2012 when the CRFM itself had said that it was on the agenda of that year’s agriculture ministerial meeting.