Prime Minister Mia Mottley has disclosed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has started to have dialogue with representatives of other countries whose citizens are guilty of fishing illegally in Barbados’ waters.
Without providing details or naming any country, Mottley suggested that Bridgetown was working towards a “cooperative agreement” with those guilty of the practice.
She made the comments on Friday as she addressed the launch of phase two of the Alliance for Coconut Industry Development in the Caribbean programme at the George Washington House.
“We have to recognize that the notion that people are going to come and poach in our waters to fish, only happens because we allow it to happen,” said the Prime Minister.
“If we take a different perspective, and if we say to them, as we have started to do with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Barbados, ‘if you want to fish in our waters come let’s have a cooperative agreement and let us see how you can appropriately locate yourselves and do legally that which you have been doing illegally,” said Mottley.
Over a year ago the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that the Caribbean was losing some US$750 million each year due to the estimated 20 to 30 per cent of illegal fishing taking place in the region’s waters.
This resulted in the organisation warning of overfishing and the risk of the region’s marine environment coming under increasing pressure.
Local and regional officials have also warned of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region’s waters that were undermining the fish stock.
It is believed that some illegal vessels come from as far away as Asia and Europe.
At the same time, Bridgetown and Port of Spain have been trying for years to ease tension between their fisher folk, who often complain about fishing in each other’s waters.
Mottley said the issue of coming to an agreement did not stop with those in the fishing industry.
She said there were many other examples of people doing commerce illegally on the island. She said it was up to lawmakers to determine the terms of engagement.
“That is why even this week when others were trying to suggest to me that because people have practiced in illicit trade, that they should be precluded from practicing in that trade when it becomes legal, I have difficulty with it because there are too many other examples of people doing commerce illicitly, being accepted in legal trade once the trade becomes legal. But the bottom line is, it is us who set the terms of engagement on how we operate,” said Mottley.
She also used the opportunity to call on the European Union (EU) to give better representation for the region in Brussels.
Urging EU representatives in Barbados and the region not to be offended by her comments, Mottley suggested that the Caribbean was often forgotten when certain decisions were being made in Brussels and she wanted that changed.
She suggested that while the EU representatives in the Caribbean understood the region’s plight, those leading discussions in Brussels were sometimes insensitive to the consequences of their “action that lead to unilateral damage or loss” to others.
“The sensitivity and the knowledge that must exist in Brussels is not yet where we need it to be on all fronts. Families have very often to remind each other that you are ignoring me today, you were ignoring me yesterday, you were ignoring me last weekend, please, don’t ignore me next week,” said Mottley, as she called on the EU to pay closer attention to the region’s developmental needs.
“Understand that we can only allow our passion to move to the next level of passionate partnership if you remember that you need to see me carefully and not treat me as invisible or dispensable,” she added.