Photo: 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Nassau, the Bahamas. Credit: ACP Press. - Photo: 2017

79 ACP Countries Resolve ‘Blue Growth Initiative’

By Jaya Ramachandran

BRUSSELS (IDN) – The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, constituting the ACP Group of States, are determined to develop the fisheries and aquaculture sector in their countries, and unlock the potential of the ‘blue economy’ through a new 40 million Euro (about US$46.8 million) “ACP Blue Growth Initiative”.

The decision to that effect was announced at the conclusion of the 5th ACP Meeting of Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who gathered in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas – the coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean Bahamas with 700-plus islands – from September 18 to 21, 2017.

Of the total 79 member states of the ACP Group of States, more than 60 export fish and fisheries products, both from maritime and inland fisheries and from aquaculture, making 3 to 5 billion Euros per year in revenue. Of these, more than 50 countries are coastal States, most of them with important coastal fishing communities.

The importance of the Blue Growth Initiative is underlined by the fact that the fisheries and aquaculture sector is crucial to reducing poverty and eliminating hunger. This is particularly true for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, the vast majority of which are members of the ACP Group.

Besides, as Dr. Patrick I. Gomes, the ACP Secretary General, told the gathering on September 20, fish and fishery products continue to be one of the most-traded food commodities globally. Indeed, the participation of ACP countries in the global seafood trade has increased substantially. As much as US$5.3 billion worth of ACP fish exports from at least 65 ACP countries entered the international market in 2014, with most of this for the market of the European Union (EU).

While aquaculture development is taking off, the capture fisheries sector is confronted with serious challenges, Dr. Gomes said. “Data on economic loss is very disturbing. For instance, one third of the assessed fisheries globally are overfished and according to World Bank estimates, the sum of net losses, due to overfishing, is at least $84.6 billion, including $10.4 billion per year from Africa.”

Additionally, in West Africa alone, more than $1 billion is lost each year due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; while in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, IUU claims at least $470 million annually. Further, the actual lost revenue to Pacific Island countries is estimated at $140 million annually.

“These concerns together with other unsustainable practices such as pollution, habitat destruction, climate variability and technical market barriers, rigidly restrain many developing countries in their efforts for sustainable fisheries management and development,” the ACP Secretary General said.

Ministers and senior officials from the ACP Group of countries put their heads together to generate joint approaches to ensure the sustainable development of some of ACP’s most precious resources. The meeting followed momentous steps already taken an the global level, such as the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including SDG 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources; the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; and the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.

In this context, Dr. Gomes believes, it is timely to highlight that ACP cooperation has proved useful in some very tangible ways. “We have sought to use every occasion in these global fora to highlight the issues of great concern to our member states, and developing countries as a whole, in particular, preparing the climate change negotiations for COP 23, the UN ocean conference and the ongoing negotiations at the WTO on fisheries subsidies. Our goal is to ensure that the resultant multilateral outcomes reinforce the development aspirations of ACP states.”

He added: “We recognize that there are still many challenges to sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture, but, the ACP Group remains determined to play a catalytic role to enhance the sustainable flow of benefits from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for development of our countries and particularly coastal communities, so heavily dependent of fisheries and marine resources.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 5 October 2017]

Photo: 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Nassau, the Bahamas. Credit: ACP Press.

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