KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – More than 20 years after St. Vincent and the Grenadines was banned from exporting seafood to the European Union, Minister of Fisheries, Saboto Caesar is promising that the situation will be resolved soon.
Addressing the opening of the Jamaica-owned Rainforest Seafoods’ processing plant in Calliaqua over the last weekend,, Caesar said “quite recently”, St. Vincent and the Grenadines received technical support “so that we can be up to date with our Port State Measures regulations”.
The agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Its objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in IUU fishing from using ports and landing their catches.
In this way, the PSMA reduces the incentive of such vessels to continue to operate while it also blocks fishery products derived from IUU fishing from reaching national and international markets.
The Rainforest Seafood, says that its two processing plants in that country have Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), US Food and Drug Administration and European Union certification.
“We have hired international legal advisors, and very soon we are going to see the removal of the red card so we can export again to the European Union,” Caesar said.
Rainforest Seafood chief executive officer, Brian Jardim, also addressed the issue of EU certification, saying that EU certification of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) fisheries is one of the critical hurdles “for us and country certification is actively a work in progress at the government level.
“This will open up another world of possibilities and lucrative untapped markets that we currently shop to from other plants in the Caribbean. So that is just one more opportunity for growth we see out of this facility,” Jardim said.
The ban on Vincentian seafood entering the European Union has been raised in Parliament, with Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday tabling a question for the July 25 meeting of the National Assembly.
According to the Order Paper, Friday notes that “over two decades ago, SVG exporters were banned from exporting seafood to EU markets, principally in Martinique, pending certain improvements in the handling of the seafood catch in our facilities.
The Government of SVG initiated steps to improve the fish handling conditions in our facilities. Yet, SVG fish exporters are still not able to export to EU Markets”.
Friday wants Caesar to state “why, in over 20 years, the government has not been able to satisfy the conditions to restart the export of seafood to EU markets, and whether the government has abandoned efforts to re-enter that market”.
Meanwhile, Caesar said that there will be enough seafood for local consumption as Rainforest Seafood SVG Ltd officially commissioned its 25,000 square fish processing plant.
“And I know that the housewife in San Souci, the housewife in Lauders, the housewife in Calliaqua, sometimes they ask the question. So if we put so much of our marine resources in these facilities, will we have enough for ourselves?
“And I want to say this to all Vincentians, that we are going to ensure that there are sustainable measures put in place to protect and to ensure food security and food sovereignty in this country. Under our watch, fish would always be affordable, accessible, and available,” Caesar said without further elaboration.
He said that the country will see “the largest fleet expansion program ever in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Over the next few weeks, we are going to start and this is going to be rolled out over the next few years.
“And over 90 fishers in St. Vincent and Grenadines have already applied and will be approved very soon to put fish not only in local dishes, but in dishes across the world.”
Caesar said he and Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture, Pearnel Charles Jr., shared the stage at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference, held June 27 to July 1 in Portugal, where they discussed important issues of sustainability and that Rainforest Seafood SVG “started, of course, with a clear expression of a political will.
“But the political will alone and the discussions at cabinet alone cannot bring dreams to reality. The legislative framework had to be put in place. And before the end of this year, we are going to see through the Parliament of our country a modern Fisheries Act. We continue to work to ensure that we follow international standards.”