First regional conference on fishing sustainability held at Anse Marcel | THE DAILY HERALD

Marine Biologist Jasmin Ruan presented Anguilla’s Beach Monitoring Programme.

MARIGOT–The first conference on the sustainability of the local fishing industry (Assises de la Pêche) organised by the Préfecture in Anse Marcel on Tuesday brought together French St. Martin, Dutch St. Maarten, Anguilla and St. Barths to take part in exchanges that could lead to future agreements, to discuss topics including preserving and managing fish resources, standardising regulations and restructuring the industry in the face of climate change and coastal erosion.

Other issues impacting the neighbouring islands and local fishermen are illegal fishing and over-fishing. Training and infrastructure were also topics included. Many fishermen and representatives of Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Kitts were in the audience.

The principal dignitaries who participated in the conference were Governor of Anguilla Julia Crouch, Préfet Délégué of the Northern Islands Vincent Berton, President of the Collectivité of St. Martin Louis Mussington, Vice President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe Camille Pelage, President of the Collectivité of St. Barths Xavier Lédée and Dutch St. Maarten Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.

Before the conference started the dignitaries viewed the exhibition stands featuring St. Maarten Nature Foundation, Réserve Naturelle, One Shark and Life Biodiv’om, a European programme to protect biodiversity in the French Overseas Territories.

A poem on the theme of fishing was read out by Sonia Fleming to start the conference.

President Mussington said in his opening remarks, “Today [Tuesday – Ed.] we have identified the need collectively to address fishery issues and alongside that, protecting our natural habitats and environment. I’m very pleased that we have this setting to share our views, but what I’m most focused on is the end result, for the islands to work closer together for development of the industry to benefit all of us.”

Préfet Berton said in his remarks that he hoped the conference will lead to “more cooperation and initiatives.”

“Fish resources are fragile; they are threatened by global warming, rising sea temperatures and climate change, all of which affect our islands,” he added.

Governor Crouch, President Mussington, Préfet Berton, Prime Minister Jacobs and President Ledée took part in the panel discussion: “Fishing: a Shared Cultural and Economic Heritage”.

Jacobs agreed that fishermen on all the islands face challenges due to climate change, as well as unsustainable fishing, over-fishing, coral bleaching and Sargassum.

“This all puts a strain on our resources, and is further exacerbated and challenged by unsustainable building,” she said. “I’m very proud that St. Maarten Nature Foundation is driving the CORENA project. The government is collaborating with the foundation and the Department of the Environment and I applaud non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for doing the work unrecognised. They are more concerned about ecosystems than we ourselves are.

“Education is also key. If we don’t reach the children first, we won’t get the adults. We will continue to foster stronger collaboration with our stakeholders here today and anyone else who wants to come on board. We are small island states that are very vulnerable. Although we don’t contribute to emissions causing climate change, we are impacted by them. Let’s make sure we have a sustainable blue economy around this region to ensure we can survive.”

Berton touched on the issue of fishermen from Anguilla not being able to sell their fish in the Marigot market. “I’m determined to make it easier for fishermen to sell their fish in St. Martin,” he said. “It makes no sense to me that because of European regulations we have to import fish from France, 3,000 miles away, when Anguilla is right next door, selling local fish that are preferred on our restaurant menus.”

Marine Biologist Jasmin Ruan from the Fisheries and Marine Resources Unit in Anguilla gave an overview of Anguilla’s Beach Monitoring programme, the impact of coastal erosion, and 20 years of data collection.

“Our beaches are our second line of defence after coral reefs helping to prevent inundation, especially during storm surges,” she noted. “They provide habitat for many species. They are also essential for the life cycle of endangered species; sea turtles use the same beaches for nesting. If we lose the beaches we lose the turtle population, and not just in Anguilla.”

Ruan’s presentation was followed by St. Maarten Nature Foundation’s CORENA project presented by Sabrine Brismeur, Laetitia Mathon and Gaia Piccaluga. CORENA stands for Coastal Resilience Needs Assessment and is a partnership of the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI and the non-profit conservation foundation.

Julien Chaliflor from Réserve Naturelle also gave a presentation before the lunch break. The afternoon was devoted to two workshops: “Towards Expanded Inter Island Cooperation” and “Strengthening Relationships among Fishing Professionals”.

There was also emphasis on raising awareness among primary and high school students about marine environment issues.

Source: The Daily Herald