A school of fish n the Caribbean Sea (Photo: St Lucia Online)

Virgin Island’s sustainable fishing project gets help from UK Gov’t

A school of fish n the Caribbean Sea (Photo: St Lucia Online)

The Government of the United Kingdom (UK), through the Darwin Initiative, has financially backed a project in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that will build capacity in fisheries evidence, networks, and management to support ongoing sustainable fisheries.

The UK will, therefore, disburse £317,000 to the project, which will last for three years.

Fishermen pull their draught onto their boat. (Photo: CANARI

With the funding from the UK Government, joint partners on the project — UK Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Government of the Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) — will review and consolidate existing evidence, data and maps for the marine area. They will, in addition, produce a centralised fisheries database and fisheries evidence report to improve the capture and display of fisheries data and support future licensing and management decisions.

According to BVI’s Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Virgin Islands Dr Natalio Wheatley, “This project will assist us to better manage our fisheries resources, which are an important part of the Virgin Islands culture and economy. We are happy for this partnership with CEFAS and CANARI and the technical expertise these agencies bring to our shores.”

Giving a voice to fisherfolk

The project also aims to strengthen BVI fisherfolks’ capacity and engagement, as well as to facilitate the development of a formalised network of fisherfolk to speak with a collective voice and have greater participation in decision-making.

An aerial view of Tortola, British Virgin islands (Photo: BVI Consortium)

Wheatley pointed out further that in addition to organising themselves, fisherfolk in the British Overseas Territory must understand their role in sustainable fisheries.

Also commenting on the project, Cefas Chief Scientist Professor Stuart Rogers said, “We are delighted to be working with the Government and fisheries stakeholders in the Virgin Islands to build on the progress already made on sustainable fisheries management. We understand the importance of evidence to support good decision-making and are looking forward to working in partnership with managers and the community.”

Speaking on behalf of CANARI, Executive Director Nicole Leotaud noted, “We believe this project will contribute to strengthening the small-scale fisheries sector for food security, protecting valuable ocean resources key for economic development in the Virgin Islands, and supporting fisherfolk livelihoods in the face of COVID-19, climate change and other key risks. CANARI welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Government and fisherfolk in the Virgin Islands to enhance their capacity for sustainable management and resilience.”