By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis spoke of the risks to small island nations, such as The Bahamas, from climate change yesterday, as he referred to the findings of the world's leading weather experts, who continue to draw parallels between global warming statistics and the frequency and severity of storms.
His comments came at the Fifth Meeting of the ACP Ministers in Charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
During his remarks at the Melia resort, Dr Minnis called on nations across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) to "rise to the challenge with new ideas for fisheries and aquaculture."
Reflecting on recent devastation across the Caribbean due to the passage of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and now Maria, the Killarney MP insisted the complex challenges resulting from climate change include an increase in the amount of acid in the ocean and the loss of coral.
To that end, Dr Minnis said climate change poses just as big a risk to land and property as it does to sustainable fisheries, sustainable development and tourism - all integral segments of the respective economies of ACP states.
Dr Minnis said: "Climate change is now one of the most fundamental development challenges for countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. Various climate models suggest the damage from natural disasters have increased sharply."
He continued: "Such damage is likely to worsen, especially from flooding. The National Wildlife Federation in the United States notes, and I quote: 'The latest science connecting hurricanes and global warming suggest that more is yet to come. Tropical storms are likely to bring higher wind speeds, more precipitation and bigger storm surge in the coming decades.'"
On the issue of fisheries and aquaculture expansion in The Bahamas, and the need for more focused attention in the Caribbean, Dr Minnis said his government will promote investment in agriculture, mariculture and modern sea farming strategies.
He also said his administration will promote the study of the country's marine resources with a view to creating opportunities for the artificial propagation and enhancement of local fishing spots.
Additionally, Dr Minnis said the government will create more protective breeding areas with a view to achieving the stated national goal of protecting 20 per cent of the national seabed by 2020; and seek the assistance of international organisations to provide ongoing technical and financial support to ensure the growth, protection, viability and sustainability of our marine resources.
Dr Minnis said: "Aquaculture production in Caribbean community countries, CARICOM, has been around five per cent of total fish production of these countries in recent years. In most Caribbean small island, developing states (SIDS), the aquaculture production is nearly insignificant."
He continued: "The import of fish and fisheries products shows a steep rise with an increase of 35 per cent in just over a decade. Fish imports are currently about ten per cent, ten times higher than aquaculture production."
According to Dr Minnis, the continued increase in population in the region, together with the impact of a more demanding tourism industry and the ongoing promotion of healthier lifestyles and diets, spurs demands for healthy, safe and high-quality foods, including fish and aquaculture products.
He also stressed that more public and private sector investments are required if the aquaculture sector is to develop into a viable sector throughout the Caribbean.
At the Third Meeting of the ACP Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture, held in Nadi, Fiji, in 2012, a five-year strategic plan of action was adopted.
That plan sought to address key issues affecting ACP states, specifically in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
That plan also noted that ACP states lacked sufficient technical or financial resources to effectively or sustainably harvest their fishery resources.
Moreover, the plan also outlined five strategic priority areas of action: the effective management for sustainable fisheries; promoting optimal returns from fisheries trade; supporting food security in ACP states; developing aquaculture and maintaining the environment.
The ACP conference contnues through today.