SMALL STATES BIG STAKES
World Environment Day is celebrated annually on June 5 to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. The UN General Assembly declared 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to celebrate the contributions that this group of countries and territories has made to the world. This year, the theme for World Environment Day “Raise your voice not the sea levels” focuses on SIDS. But what are SIDS? SIDS are low-lying coastal countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Currently, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists 52 small island developing states which include countries of the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Perhaps one of the most potent problems facing SIDS is sea level rise. Sure enough, the notion of Trinidad sinking has been well publicized but we are not sinking- a more sinister faith awaits us, we are becoming a causality of the worldwide problem of climate change. Global warming, climate change and sea level rise seem to be inextricably linked. According to Greenpeace, around 23% of the worlds’ population lives in the near coastal zone and the densities in these areas are about three times higher than the global average. Agricultural land and infrastructure also tend to be concentrated in the coastal zone, so any rise in sea-level can have significant and profound effects on economies and living conditions.
ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES THE HONOURABLE RAMONA RAMDIAL ON THE OCCASION OF
Good Morning, I wish to thank the Institute of Marine Affairs, for inviting me here this morning to address you on the occasion of the Commissioning of the Marine Re-circulating System , for the cultivation of Pacific white or white legged shrimp, and the launch of theÂ Jumpstart Aquaculture Programme.
We at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources are gratified to be involved in the Commissioning, of this marine re-circulating shrimp production system. This latest research initiative of the IMA, is yet, another manifestation, of our Government’s commitment, to implementing the programmes articulated in its 2010 Manifesto. This project is consistent with the Fifth Pillar of Interconnected Development, and the creation of a “More Diversified, Knowledge Intensive Economy”, with the focus on food production and food security. Our Government has been resolute in it is efforts, to significantly reduce our country’s annual food import bill, which now stands at TT$4 billion, in order to arrest the haemorrhage of foreign exchange from our economy. Sectoral policies have enabled the implementation of programmes and projects, towards achieving the goal of food and nutrition security, job creation, rural development and the elimination of poverty, and economic growth and prosperity for all, within a sustainable environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this marine shrimp production project, is aligned with our Government’s 2011-2014 Medium Term Policy Framework (MTPF), “Innovation for Lasting Prosperity”, which has defined as one of its Growth Poles, Urban Development in South West Trinidad, with an emphasis on agriculture, fishing and tourism. This project is therefore, both timely and opportune, in light of the recent oil spill in the south-western peninsula, which has heavily impacted our demersal shrimp resources. This project can serve as a stimulus for innovation and growth, within the aquaculture sector, and provide an opportunity for entrepreneurship and private sector investment. Such marine shrimp production, offers an avenue for the revitalization of the fishing industry, to mitigate the economic hardships experienced, in the aftermath of the oil spill, and challenges faced by those involved in the shrimp business.
The issue of demersal shrimp trawling in our waters, is yet another reason, for the support of this research initiative of the IMA. Trawling, which is an emotive subject, has evoked calls from various quarters, including advocates of environmental protection, to ban this type of fishing. Though trawling is the most regulated fishery in our local fishing industry, these calls have arisen, amidst concerns that trawling has deleterious impacts on the marine ecosystem, and that this fishing method is unsustainable. These concerns stem from levels of bycatch and discards of unmarketable juvenile commercial species, from this fishery. According to 2012 national fisheries reports, bycatch levels range from 1.07 kgs to 1.3 kgs per kg of shrimp landed respectively, for the artisanal and industrial trawler fleets. As a Member of Parliament for the Couva/North, within this Constituency we have a few fishing communities namely Orange Valley and Brickfield in which we have had to walk a very thin line between satisfying the needs of the trawlers to that of the ban made by the Ministry of Food Production and by extension the Government
In the context of any shift from wild harvests, this marine re-circulating shrimp production system, can present an economically viable alternative. Additionally, past assessments reveal that our shrimp resources are over-exploited, and overall stock biomass has been decreasing. Notwithstanding the status of stocks, 1552 tonnes of shrimp were landed in 2012, accounting for 13.73% of estimated total landings from the marine capture fisheries, with a value of TT$32.3 million or 16.4% of estimated total annual value. The national trawl fleets support over 348 fishermen directly, and over 566 nationals obtain full time employment, providing a range of on-land services to the fishermen. Therefore, apart from social and economic disruptions to communities, the opportunity costs of banning this type of fishing can be high.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the commissioning of this re-circulating system, for marine shrimp production, marks yet another milestone, in the IMA’s quest at realizing its vision, of being the premier regional marine research Institute. Once again, the Institute is at the vanguard in research, using a tank-based closed re-circulating sea water system for shrimp. In any proposed commercial fish farming venture, species selection is critical, to achieving economic viability, and shrimp, a high-priced commodity, fits the criterion. In light of the IMA’s strategic vision and research mandate, its thrust in aquaculture research, would now be centred on marine shrimp, and other high-valued commercial marine species.
In, 2012, the FAO reported white legged shrimp production, as the most successful internationally introduced marine crustacean species for aquaculture, accounting for 71.8% of all farmed marine shrimp species, and with Asia producing 77.9% of world production, the rest is produced in its native home, America. Over the last decade, global production of farmed white legged shrimp has shown an increasing trend, from approximately 1million tonnes in 2003, to approximately 2.71 million tonnes in 2010, and increasing to 3.18 million tonnes in 2012. According to the FAO, shrimp is the largest single commodity in value terms, accounting for 15% of the total value of internationally traded fishery products.
Ladies and Gentlemen, production of white legged shrimp in Latin America and Asia ranges, from extensive low technology, labour intensive systems, to intensive production in earthen ponds. Production levels in intensive systems have been reported as, with two or three crops per year, in places like Belize and Indonesia. Under unfavourable environmental conditions, this shrimp is vulnerable to many bacterial and viral diseases, such as Early Mortality Syndrome or EMS, caused by a virus which can result in chronic mortality that can wipe out the entire production.
Therefore IMA has adopted the biosecure greenhouse marine re-circulating system, using truck-in sea water. Marketable size shrimp has been projected, at local jumbo size of five to six to the pound, with the first crop expected around October. I look forward to revisiting the IMA, to witness your first shrimp harvest from this system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the marine re-circulating shrimp production system, represents, the conversion of 50% of an intensive closed or “re-circulating” freshwater production system (RAS), which reused more than 85% of its water, and was established at the IMA, in 2009. This pilot project was a collaborative effort, between the IMA and the Seafood Industry Development Company (SIDC), and was intended to grow imported freshwater genetically male tilapia (GMT) Oreochromis niloticus and red hybrid tilapia. Its primary purpose was to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of this RAS system, in cultivating GMT tilapia, under local conditions, to serve as a model for potential farmers, entrepreneurs and investors. The IMA continues with information dissemination and technology transfer, to interested members of the public, through workshops and training programmes.
This innovation in culture practice was a direct consequence, of the need to adopt appropriate technologies, in light of physical resource constraints, land and water, in countries such as ours, factors critical in freshwater pond culture. High land costs and water availability, in terms of quality and quantity, coupled with increasing competition from other economic sectors, agricultural, industrial as well as residential usage of water resources, are among the factors, which constrained development of the local aquaculture industry.
The IMA continues to keep abreast with global developments, in the formulation of its scientific research projects, and in responding to the needs of its stakeholders. Impacts of climate change and hazards, that result in disasters, to which Trinidad and Tobago and other Small Island Developing States (SIDs) are more prone, are of growing concern, regionally, where fisheries and aquaculture provide livelihoods. Climate change adaptation and disaster risk management are currently being addressed, through regional and international agencies. The focus, therefore in fisheries and aquaculture, is on assessing and identifying potential measures for reducing vulnerability, and building adaptive capacity and resilience in the sector. Aquaculture enterprises must be adaptive to the changing environment and find viable solutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, tilapia has had a long history in this country, and as a cultured species is favoured by local fish farmers. It is now an accepted food fish by local consumers, and a choice item in many upscale restaurants and other eating establishments. Substantial quantities are currently being imported, to satisfy local consumer demand. The IM!’s Jumpstart Aquaculture Programme focuses on local tilapia production and targets a select group of fish farms with commercial potential, providing technical advice and fingerlings as required.
These farmers were evaluated for quantity and where possible, activities were revamped to include best management practices with the aim of boosting production. Ten thousand two hundred and fifty tilapia fingerlings were distributed to farmers and increases were seen during the programme in the participating farmers’ tilapia production. The People’s Partnership Government is committed to supporting domestic tilapia production, in the context of its contribution to food and nutrition security.
In closing, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give my assurance, that the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources is committed to providing support to the IMA, for its scientific research initiatives in aquaculture, in our Government’s continued thrust, towards achieving food and nutrition security, and long term prosperity for all. I now officially commission the Marine Re-circulating system and the launch of the Jumpstart Aquaculture programme. I Thank You!
World Biological Diversity Day or Biodiversity Day is celebrated annually on May 22, the theme for this year is ‘Island Biodiversity’. Many of us may recall learning in school that an island is a piece of land surrounded by water. The unique islands of Trinidad and Tobago are considered Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and as such are among the most vulnerable of the developing countries. Factors that make SIDS vulnerable include; small populations and economies, susceptibility to natural diseases and climate change, particularly sea level rise from climate change, limited diversification in production and exports, dependence on international markets and export concentration, as well as fragility of land and marine ecosystems. Biological Diversity or “biodiversity” describes the variety of life on Earth – all plants, animals, and their genetic material. Biodiversity provides basic human needs such as food, shelter and medicine. It includes ecosystems that maintain oxygen in the air, enrich the soil, purify the water, protect against storm damage and regulate climate. It contributes to culture, aesthetics, support livelihoods, economies and tourism. Biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago plays a major role in the ecosystem services that support human well being. For a better understanding of biodiversity, it may be divided into three main categories:
(i) Genetic Diversity - refers to the different genes contained in all living species, including individual plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. For example, within marine species of fish, genetic diversity can be seen in various fish such as Grouper, Flying fish and Red Snapper. These are all species of fish but they are not the same because their genes are different.
(ii) Species Diversity – refers to the number of species or the range of different types of species within an area. Rich in species diversity, Trinidad and Tobago is home to over 100 species of mammals, more than 460 species of birds, over 3300 plant species, more than 85 species of reptiles, approximately 30 species of amphibians, at least 950 species of marine fish and 50 freshwater fish, over 650 species of butterflies, nearly 200 species of marine algae, 41 coral species, 4 mangrove species and an estimated 4 species of sea grasses!!!
(iii) Ecosystem Diversity - An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants and animals) that interact with the non-living, physical elements (air, water, sun, soil, etc.) within an environment. Major types of ecosystems include Tropical Rain forests, Grasslands, Coral reefs and Mangroves. Small islands comprising high proportions of marine and coastal areas are important sources of income. Coastal ecosystems offer shoreline protection and provide feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds to many marine species and support marine fisheries. In 2006, the value of the reefs to recreation and tourism was estimated to be between US$100 - $130 million or approximately 45% of Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year and shoreline protection was valued between US $18 million and $33 million.