The Fisheries Sector is strategically important to the CARICOM region and will be increasingly so in the future for the following reasons:
• It employs over 142,000 persons, directly or indirectly, who are mostly from remote rural communities which lack other income earning opportunities;
• It earns over US$150 million per year from export and saves the region at least three times as much in foreign exchange since the volume of production is four times the volume of export.
It accounts for up to 8% of GDP in some Member States. (Guyana 8.3% and Belize 3.97%).
• It is a major source of protein especially in rural communities which usually exhibit a higher percentage of poverty than the national average.
• It complements and enhances the region’s tourism through its use as a vehicle for fishing excursions and fishing tournaments.
• Shrimp, conch, reef fishes, deep slope and bank fisheries, offshore and coastal pelagics make up the marine capture component, which is by far the most important economically in the Fisheries Sector. Annual fish production in CARIFORUM countries is approximately 200,000MT, with an estimated value of over US$700 million
We know that we can have a highly productive ocean, and this can provide valuable livelihoods and future job opportunities if managed well. Yet the effects of over exploitation of fisheries, pollution, climate impacts, and the arrival of predatory invasives like the lion fish, has put the Caribbean Sea under increasing pressure. The arrival of the coronavirus to our shores, combined with the looming threat of climate change, has allowed us to focus on restoring our oceans and harnessing the potential of the Blue Economy.
Caribbean innovators can now use this window of opportunity to accelerate their work in connecting the regions fisher-folks to e-commerce platforms, whilst helping to ramp up climate- smart capacities. One of the ways this is currently being done, is through 'digitalization and e-commerce.'
A key driver of the new digital revolution is the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). Their mandate to reduce cash use by 50% by 2025, means fishers will soon need to get familiar with e-commerce platforms and technologies. What's also encouraging, is seeing Caribbean people, like those at the Caribbean ICT Research Programme, leading the way with mobile innovation, designing the software and platforms needed, that ensure these new tech solutions are pro-poor, people-focused, and exclude no one.
New Apps and Pilots on the market include:
1.) Farm Finder, a registered Not-For-Profit organization, is based on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados, which allows fishers and farmers to take advantage of modern techniques to sell and market their produce. A Facebook marketplace model for Caribbean fishers.
Farm Finder allows you to shop online for fresh produce from lettuce to fish via their online marketplace. You can order your food on Whatsapp or the telephone, and this can be delivered directly within 1 hour.
Benefit: This approach considers gender mainstreaming, renewable energy, green procurement, project management, and financial management. Just what's needed to build resilience in food security in our changing climate.
2.) The Fisher Early Warning and Emergency Response (FEWER) mobile app gives fisher-folk in the Caribbean the tools to prepare and respond to climate-change-related disasters. This multi-functional app, provides for navigation assistance, price information, an SOS emergency service, and is available on android download via the google store.
Benefit: Sea safety, and the integrated potential to management IUU, illegal fishing in the region, where fishers can report illegal trawler activities. Further reducing fishers risks from weather-related hazards.
3.) MFisheries also puts buyers and sellers in close contact, making the fishing business, faster and safer. The app contains a virtual market place, safety at sea function, SOS alert system.
Benefit: Addresses the unpopularity of small scale sustainable fisheries by further reducing fishers risks from weather - related hazards.
The arrival of this digital revolution in fisheries offers possibilities for much needed remote business support to the regions fisheries sector such as in, admin, marketing, data, and business mentorship. Another opportunity for our diaspora to get involved and help our region transition to a blue economy.
If we collaborate well, and integrate sectors and policy, such as health, education, and public works, a centralized e-commerce system can become a reality in the region within ten years.
Imagine, you can track your fish as it arrives at the port, choose your catch of the day from your favourite sustainable fisher, and pay for it instantly, and within an hour, the filleted fish arrives at the door, and you pay for it using our Caribbean cash app. Our fisheries get flexible, cash flow! You even have special membership privileges that allow you to contribute to various conservation initiatives helping to educate the next generation of ocean stewards.
Founder of Fish 'N Fins Inc. & Blue Economy Consultant, advocating for a bluer future that provides economic opportunities and benefits to coastal communities and those most vulnerable and marginalized. Supporting initiatives and programs that value and protect coastal and marine ecosystems as natural capital, and ensure that activities operate within environmental limits. As an Island Innovation Ambassador, I will be helping to organize and promote the 2nd Virtual Island Summit, aiming to connect 10,000 people from around the world to share and learn about island stories and sustainable development, this year.