Belize City, Thursday, 8 December 2016 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has been working with other Caribbean agencies and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), a marine science and technology agency sponsored by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The agencies are preparing the first ever marine climate change report card for the Caribbean, under the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme funded by the UK government.
Peter A. Murray, CRFM’s Programme Manager – Fisheries Management & Development, is a part of the working group which was meeting in Belize this week to review the major themes being assessed, as well as the “hot topics” emanating from those themes.
“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore... because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” Murray said.
“Against backdrop of the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector that was approved by the CRFM’s Ministerial Council in 2013, it means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” he added.
According to CEFAS, the report card, due to be launched in March 2017, will provide comprehensive, peer-reviewed and highly accessible information on what is already happening, what could happen in the future, case studies from across the region, knowledge gaps and potential socio-economic impacts.
Bryony Townhill, Marine Climate Change Scientist at CEFAS, one of the experts who facilitated the working group meeting in Belize, hopes that the initiative will bring together climate change knowledge in the region so that it is both digestible and accessible “in one place,” especially for those who need it for decision-making.
Townhill reviewed the main themes chosen earlier this year for the review, a process which engaged a range of Caribbean experts. She elaborated on the focal themes: (1) ocean processes – ocean acidification, extreme event (storms and surge) and sea temperature; (2) biodiversity – fish, shell fish, coral reefs and mangroves; and (3) civil society – fisheries, tourism and settlements.
Townhill said that for each of the areas cited, the working group members have helped to identify scientists and practitioners in the region who have provided the paperwork used for the review.
Even before the initiative started in March 2016, CEFAS began by engaging the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), another CARICOM agency which forms a part of the working group. The University of the West Indies (Mona) Climate Studies Group has also been engaged through Dr. Michael Taylor.
Grace Chun, Deputy High Commissioner at the British High Commission based in Belmopan, said that the initiative emanates from a commitment by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to put £5.6 million into helping Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in The Commonwealth, which are eligible for official development assistance (ODA). Chun attended the working group meeting Thursday to primarily solidify the Commission’s support for the experts engaged in the process.
Paul Buckley, Marine Climate Change Project Coordinator at the Marine Climate Change Center at CEFAS, the second expert engaged from the UK, said that they are trying to draw from what has been used in the UK over the last 10 years to apply at the Caribbean level, in the hope that the Caribbean report card can inform policy-makers.
On the first day of the working meeting, participants focused on formulating the right message to capture the attention of those who will be targeted by the report card—a 12-page document that will consolidate the wealth of information documented within hundreds of pages of reports produced across the Caribbean. One overarching aim is to raise awareness of climate change issues across the region in a way that will spur action and drive future change.
“The CRFM is very grateful for the support being provided by the UK Government to improve awareness and understanding of the impacts of climate change on fisheries and marine ecosystems and to empower government agencies, regional and local organisations, and persons to respond to these challenges on the basis of the best available scientific information,” said Milton Haughton, CRFM Executive Director.