By Kevon Browne
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Marc Williams, director of the Department of Marine Resources argues that aquaculture, the rearing of aquatic animals or the cultivation of aquatic plants for food is a food security investment worth taking.
On the September 15 broadcast of “Leadership Matters”, Williams reported on the status of aquaculture in St. Kitts and Nevis and the challenges to its development.
“Over the years there have been significant fluctuations in fish landings which gave rise to concerns about the future of the marine resources sector. These fluctuations are attributed to climate change, inadequately planned coastal developments, land-based sources of marine pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices.”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 goals for the marine resources sectors suffered set-backs. In light of this the government through its stimulus package initiatives allocated EC $10,000,000.00 to the marine resources and agriculture sectors.
To date the Department of Marine Resources has used approximately EC $3,000,000.00 of the COVID- 19 relief funds to ensure that local fishers can continue earning a living while also minimizing food and nutrition security concerns.
The funds were used to purchase fishing gear and equipment including fish wraps, fishing wire, fishing hooks, fishing lines, and ropes, which are sold to fishers at 50% of the landed cost.
Williams reported that many net fishers, divers and aquaculturists were not sufficiently accommodated under the first dissemination of relief funds for the sector. As a result, preparations are being made to cover the needs of those groups under the next drawing of funds.
The totals for the first and second quarter 2020 fish landings, that is the catching of marine fish landed in foreign or domestics ports, amounted to 282,405 lbs valued at $3.2 million representing a 44,335 lbs increase from 2019 where total fish landings were 326,000 valued at $3.7 million
The decrease is attributed to insufficiencies and inconsistencies in fish supply as well as a result of the reduced fishing effort due to the COVID-19 pandemic and movement restrictions particularly in the month of April 2020
Second-quarter data reveals that in April – June 2020 the total fish landings amounted to 144,460 lbs worth $1.6 million this represented a 140 lbs increase from the same period in 2019 which had total fish landings of 144,320lbs worth $1.6 mil.
Williams credits the increase in total fish landings to the stimulus aid received.
Since the relaxing of restrictions Williams also reported that the Marine Resources Department has recognized an increase in fishing activity resulting from unemployment and underemployment in other sectors.
He reported that during the period May 1 to August 31 of 2019 there were 26 newly registered fishers and comparatively during the same period this year, May 1 to August 31 of 2020, there were 46 newly registered fishers, reflecting a 77% increase in the number of fishers. Williams suggested that this increase is indicative of people’s desire for work during this economic downturn.
Williams went on to express several plans the department of marine resources has for the four major landing sites in order to support the development of marine resources in St. Kitts.
“In Basseterre, we’re looking at upgrading the fisher lockers and dredging of the fishing harbor; in Old Road, the completion of the construction of the breakwater, the extension of the jetty, vessel slips, and a vessel ramp; in Sandy Point, construction of a new jetty, refurbishment of the cooperative building, new vessel ramp, and a new fisheries complex; in Dieppe Bay, new jetty, refurbishment of the cooperative building, a vessel ramp, and a new fisheries complex.”
Williams noted that aquaculture is the fastest-growing subsector in the world and concluded by emphasizing the opportunity that aquaculture has presented in terms of combating food security concerns and as a new generator for possible revenue streams locally and through exports.