Honourable Ministers; Directors of Fisheries; Chief Fisheries Officers; Ladies and gentlemen

I am delighted to offer welcoming remarks at the opening of the Fifth ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture meeting. On behalf of the Government and the people of The Bahamas, we are pleased to welcome you to our shores.

Let me begin by offering the solidarity and concern of The Bahamas with our Caribbean neighbours who have been affected by Hurricane Irma and Maria.

I know all of you join The Bahamas in the expression of our solidarity.

To offer you some geographical perspective, the Bahamas archipelago extends south-west from Southern Florida in the United States to northern Cuba.

Our far-flung archipelago, with approximately 21 major islands and many hundreds of cays and islands, extends from north to south, approximately the same geographic length from the northern to the southern end of Britain.

To put it another way, The Bahamas extends from north to south, the same distance as from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago, off the coast of South America.

The Bahamas has extensive land and sea parks across our archipelago. Though we have our challenges in sustainable fishing, our sea parks have aided in helping to boost fish stocks in The Bahamas and in the Caribbean.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you are aware, this has been an extremely active hurricane season in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Harvey and Irma are responsible for the loss of life and tremendous devastation.

We are waiting confirmed reports of the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane season in the Atlantic does not end until November 30th.

Like typhoons and monsoons, these superstorms leave many communities and countries in Asia and the Caribbean particularly vulnerable.

This includes small island states and low-lying areas such as The Bahamas and a number of small island Pacific states here today.

Climate change is now one of the most fundamental development challenges for countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Various climate models suggest that damage from natural disasters have increased sharply. Such damage is likely to worsen, especially from flooding.

The National Wildlife Federation in the United State notes: “The latest science connecting hurricanes and global warming suggests more is yet to come.”

It was noted that ACP states lacked sufficient technical or financial resources to effectively, yet, to sustainably harvest and to gain maximum benefit from their fishery resources to aid in their development.

The Strategic Plan of Action outlines five strategic priority areas of action:

· Effective management for sustainable fisheries

· Promoting optimal returns from fisheries trade

· Supporting food security in ACP countries

· Developing Aquaculture

· Maintaining the environment

During the period 2009-2014, the ACP Fish II programme, which was financed under the 9th European Development Fund, assisted The Bahamas with the sustainable development of its spiny lobster and conch fisheries.

Allow me to outline a number of policy directions for The Bahamas. We will:

· Promote investment in aquaculture, mariculture, and modern sea farming strategies;

· Promote the study of the country’s marine resources with a view to creating opportunities for the artificial propagation and enhancement of local fishing stocks.

· Create additional protected marine areas with a view to achieving the stated national goal of protecting 20 percent of the national seabed by 2020;

· 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.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me for a moment to mention some concerns particular to the Caribbean.

Aquaculture production by Caribbean Community Countries (CARICOM) has been around five percent of total fish production by these countries in recent years.

In most Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the aquaculture production is nearly insignificant.

The import of fish and fisheries products shows a steep rise, with an increase of 35 percent in just over a decade. Fish imports are currently about 10 times higher than aquaculture production.

The continuing 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 demand for healthy, safe, and high-quality food, including fish and aquaculture products.

Public and private sector investments are required if the aquaculture sector is to develop in a viable manner in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Community must do its part to boost aquaculture and sustainable fisheries throughout our region.

Participants conference organisers;

I commend the organisers for providing this opportunity for such a forum of this magnitude to be held here in The Bahamas.

I extend best wishes for the continued collaboration between the ACP member states.

I wish you all a successful conference. Please return to The Bahamas and discover the Islands of The Bahamas beyond New Providence.

Our islands are an archipelago of adventure, wonder and discovery.

Thank you and good morning.