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WECAFC Meeting Highlights Need for Greater Cooperation

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By John Emmanuel

September 27, 1999 - Against the backdrop of dwindling fish stock in the region, representatives from over two dozen-member countries of the Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC) began meeting in St. Lucia on Monday. But as they grappled with the issue of limited fish stock, an equally disturbing trend loomed on the horizon.

Increasingly international funding agencies are cutting back on their financial support to affiliated groups and WECAFC is facing that very situation with its parent entity - the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Undergoing significant restructuring, the FAO's statement to WECAFC members attending the 9th session here is St. Lucia was sobering - exercise greater independence in conducting their affairs.

According to Director of FAO Policy and Planning Unit, Zbigniew Karniki "This is the time when WECAFC member countries need to look more closely into their own affairs. WECAFC is your commission, which should assist you in the sustainable management of your resources. Although we say that WECAFC is an FAO baby, your commission is grown up enough to stand on its own feet and watch out for its members."

As opposed to financial support FAO, through WECAFC, is instead offering member countries assistance via cooperation, getting them to pull their resources together in tackling the issues confronting fisheries.

St. Lucia is also advocating that line of thought, noting that it might become necessary for WECAFC member countries to begin making monetary contributions to the organization.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Dr. James Fletcher noted, "Regional and sub-regional cooperation based on specific criteria would provide WECAFC member states with a greater range of expertise than can be found within any single state. Currently member states do not contribute financially to the organization, however in the spirit of increased cooperation and attempts at meeting our goals, it has become necessary for member states to give serious consideration to reviewing that mechanism and pledge support either financially or in kind."

Over the remaining two days delegates will attempt to cooperate on issues pertaining to sustaining the region's fish stock. Locally efforts have gotten underway at establishing a modern fish-landing infrastructure while encouraging a transition to improved fishing vessels.

Another major achievement the sub-region is hoping to share with Caribbean and Latin American colleagues, is the development of a Fisheries Management Strategy, that is to be approved at the upcoming meeting of OECS Ministers of the Environment in Anguilla later this week.


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