|Statement by the Minister of Agriculture at The IOI Module On Ocean Governance In The Caribbean|
|Written by Mark Byer|
|Friday, 02 July 2010 10:13|
SENATOR THE HONOURABLE HAYNESLEY BENN
MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE ON THE OPENING OF THE IOI MODULE ON OCEAN GOVERNANCE IN THE CARIBBEAN
MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010
Thank you, Mr. Chairman
Members of the Head Table
Faculty of the University of the West Indies
Distinguished Academics from Dalhousie University, Canada and
Tulane University, United States
Officials and Associates of the United Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen
Representatives of the Media.
On behalf of the Government and People of Barbados, I bid you a warm welcome to this International Oceanographic Institute (“IOI”) Training Module in Ocean Governance. I should really say a warm Caribbean welcome because my information is that this is a regional seminar designed to examine issues in ocean governance in the Caribbean and that participants have been drawn from Barbados as well as our sister countries of the Caribbean Community. I am also pleased to learn that the presenters represent an exciting blend of Caribbean, Canadian and American experts, as well as United Nations officials. Their experience and research will undoubtedly further the cause of ocean governance in the Caribbean.
My Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture, which includes responsibility for Fisheries, makes policy for management of both terrestrial and marine resources. In some ways it is much easier to formulate and administer policy relating to land resources than it is to exercise policy directions over the living resources of the oceans. For one thing, in dealing with issues on terra firma only Barbadian cabinet colleagues need to be consulted. Like other Caribbean people, Barbadians take the security of their food supply very seriously. So, placing an emphasis on food security can go a long way to winning debates with colleagues in the Cabinet.
However, when it comes to the oceans, policy-making must take account and include diverse interests beyond these shores. Also, in making ocean policy, we have had to confront the traditional view that the oceans were inexhaustible and impervious to use by humans. We now know that this is not so. Fishery resources can and often are over-exploited; in addition to depleting stocks, fishing was having direct and indirect effects on the ecosystems in which it was taking place. We also now realize that humans are degrading the oceans in other ways through non-extractive uses, especially by construction in coastal areas, and through land-based impacts in watersheds and coastal zones.
It is therefore obvious that ocean governance presents a unique set of issues relating to sustainability of use; of scale and accessibility, and of jurisdiction and ownership of resources.
In my humble opinion, the people of the Caribbean need to pay more attention to relevant principles for sound ocean governance. Our very survival as inhabitants of small islands and low lying countries depend on it; and our intervention and involvement must be at all three critical levels: the national, regional and global.
As is well known, Barbados has been active in this arena for a long time. We take ocean governance seriously. Barbados believes that it is important to be effective at the national level first. We have therefore worked to build an effective integrated system of oceans governance, based on a solid scientific base from its very inception. Our small geographic size did not allow us the luxury of a second chance if we failed to make good decisions using sound scientific principles.
Ocean governance at the national level was the rationale for the established of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, which attempts to bring together separate functions of government at different levels together with other stakeholders to provide a unified approach to interventions in the managed area.
That was also the impetus behind the adoption of the Coastal Zone Management Act which provides for a comprehensive, statutory basis for coastal zone management and planning in Barbados. The Act coordinates and updates the existing fragmentary statutes relevant to coastal management and makes provision for protection of coral and other marine resources, the creation of marine reserves. The Act is supported by other pieces of legislation on the control of marine pollution, management of fisheries. Other coastal zone related legislation includes the marine areas (Preservation and Enhancement Act; the Marine Boundaries and Jurisdiction Act the Shipping Act and the Town and Country Planning Act.
Also, in terms of national policy, we have negotiated with neighboring states on ocean issues; sometimes those negotiations become protracted and have even led to legal disputes which have to be submitted to international arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Arbitral Award in the Barbados/Trinidad and Tobago grants Barbados reasonable access to the flying fish resources in relevant waters between these two countries conditioned on sustainable management of the fish stocks. We are in the process of formalizing an agreement on these matters as we are legally obligated to do under the terms of the award.
At the regional level, Barbados recognizes the need for a unified effort among Member States of the Caribbean in order to achieve collective goals for the oceans. That is why this country had been at the forefront of the regional effort, along with other members of the Association of Caribbean States, to have the General Assembly of the United Nations designate the Caribbean Sea as a special area within the context of sustainable development. Such designation recognizes that the Caribbean Sea is difficult to manage as a single large marine ecosystem because it is impacted by many diverse stakeholders from within and outside the region.
We believe the Caribbean Sea deserves this status because:
Small Island Developing States, such as ours, have sovereign rights over our own natural resources. Our ecosystem provides ecological corridors linking major areas of biodiversity around the world. However, our biodiversity is among the most threatened in the world. Our efforts to conserve, protect and restore our ecosystems deserve international cooperation and partnership.
It is my fervent hope that the United Nations (U.N.) will take swift and decisive action on this matter. The Caribbean needs and deserves this recognition.
At the global level, Barbados and its sister CARICOM States have undertaken obligations on a host of international oceans-related agreements. Servicing these agreements places significant burdens on our countries in terms of technical, financial and human resource requirements and this has hampered implementation. I believe that this is one of the major finding coming out of the Report on Ocean Governance done at the Faculty of Law here at Cave Hill.
However, the fact is there is little or no point to negotiating and accepting these international treaties if they are not to be implemented by all states which are parties to them. Implementation is absolutely necessary if the agreements are to deliver on their objectives. In this regard the U.N. and other relevant international agencies could assist the region by streamlining in various aspects of science, management and law into a single coherent programme.
In this regard, too, we shall need to use the vast stores of expertise within Universities across the world to work with us in implementing these objectives. The increasing acidification of our oceans, decimation of our fisheries, the bleaching of our beaches, and erosion of our beaches are eloquent arguments in favor of urgent governance reforms.
It is against this background that I welcome the initiative taken by the organizers of this event to bring the discussion of ocean governance to these shores.
I am thoroughly impressed by the breadth and rich diversity of the topics to be considered during this week. I am particularly pleased at the prospect for discussion on ecosystems management, the social and environmental dimension of ocean governance and IUU fishing. I hope the organizers will find avenues to make the discussions and findings of this workshop accessible to the wider general public.
With these brief observations, I have great pleasure in declaring this IOI Module on Ocean Governance in the Caribbean open. And I extend my best wishes for fruitful deliberations.