The informal nature of the fishing industry in the Caribbean is placing restrictions on its growth.
This view was expressed today by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Esworth Reid.
He was addressing the two-day Regional Validation Workshop of the Fisheries Component of the EU Funded Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures Project, at the Accra Beach Resort and Spa.
Mr. Reid said there was a need for a more formal business and corporate approach to the fishing industry, especially at the primary level, for it to grow and develop.??He expressed the view that the percentage contribution fish harvesting makes to the GDP of countries such as Barbados was highly underestimated or not estimated at all.
He continued: ???Records on the landing of fish, the amounts distributed for retail or processing are badly kept in many countries or not kept at all and thus the true contribution that the industry makes to the GDP of our nations cannot be accurately determined or reflected in statements on the estimation of the GDP.
???If the region is to fully realise the potential benefits of vibrant and viable fishing industries, and this includes benefits as major foreign exchange earners, we must first move to ensure that the informal economic activities associated with this potential growth industry be transformed and integrated into the economy as a formal economic sub-sector.???
According to him, this move would not only set the stage for the creation of a better recording system to monitor and evaluate all economic activities in the industry and contributions to the GDP of member states, but it would also give governments a better view of the amount of revenue they should be collecting in the form of taxes and fees.
???Furthermore, the formalisation of all activities in this industry, especially at the level of harvesting, may very well work to reduce the chances of vessels at the individual level being registered as fishing boats and then being used for something other than fishing, for example, movement of illegal drugs or firearms.???
Mr. Reid also expressed the view that the region should allow legitimate fishermen to operate their legitimately registered vessels without hindrance anywhere in the Caribbean, but subject to set rules and a set fee or levy paid either to the member state in whose water the vessel is operating or to a central regional body agency established by CARICOM.
???The proceeds from the fees and levies collected by this agency can then be divided and distributed among the member states based on an agreed formula by the member states involved,??? he stated.??He added that such an agency might also serve as a monitoring and evaluating mechanism to manage fishing activities in the region.