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Getting off EU’s radar can be used to country’s advantage – Fisheries Minister

Getting off EU’s radar can be used to country’s advantage – Fisheries Minister

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The fact that St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has landed on the European Union’s (EU) radar, as it pertains to fishing in international waters, can be used to the country’s advantage.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Saboto Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT that to get off the EU’s sensor, a number of jobs are expected to be created.

Last week, the Government received official communication from the European Union (EU) Misson in Barbados, informing that this country has been listed as a non-cooperating state, as it pertains to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The listing by the EU does not include Vincentian fishermen, but 33 vessels that are owned by Taiwanese companies and registered in SVG and therefore fly the Vincentian flag.

Caesar said that the EU has also explained to SVG what they must do to get off the list. There are several matters of concern which have been raised by the EU, the main being SVG’s inability to “at all times” verify what is being caught by these vessels on the high seas.

To get off the EU’s radar, SVG must place trained observers onboard all the vessels, have the fish landed in SVG instead of Trinidad and Tobago and establish a fully functioning monitoring unit within the Division of Fisheries to monitor where these vessels are 24 hours a day.

The Minister said employment will be created, as SVG would prefer the observers on these vessels to be trained local personnel.

Caesar said that the Government is moving speedily to address the situation and a lot of good can come from what seems to be something negative.

“I don’t want this to be seen as a disaster; instead it is an opportunity,” said Caesar, who explained that if the vessels could bring their catch here instead of to Trinidad, that would be a boost to our fishing sector and economy.

Caesar said that in the past, if the Government had asked the Taiwanese companies managing these vessels to have the fish landed in SVG, that would not have been practical, because the fish would have to then be transhipped to Trinidad, as we did not have the airlift capacity.

He said that it is now practical since the opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) and that the 767 owned by Amerijet has a capacity of 110,000 pounds each time it lands, which is twice weekly.

“Amerijet is providing the capacity and by January 1st, 2018, based on discussions with several airlines, we should have an airlift capacity for 300,000 pounds of cargo every week and that now can be dovetailed with our quest to have the fish landed in SVG,” said Caesar.

“We are seeing an opportunity whereby it’s not the Government asking the companies to land their fish here, but the EU is asking that the fish be landed here, because it would increase our ability to effectively monitor what is being caught and it is going to be an excellent opportunity for us to export more fish from SVG… to have more persons working on these vessels,” stressed Caesar.

Caesar said that the best fit that was noted by the EU is to have the fish landed in SVG and if these countries set up in Kingstown, this will create an excellent opportunity, where hundreds of pounds of fish coming in from the long liners are packaged and loaded and taken out to the AIA.

“We have started discussions to have the vessels comply. I am seeing it as an opportunity opened to us,” said Caesar.

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