Feature Address by Minister Beckles at IMA's Community Symposium in Warrenville

It is indeed a pleasure to address you this afternoon at the IMA’s Seventh Community Symposium being held here, at the spacious Warrenville Regional Complex. The presentations and ensuing discussions that will take place under the theme, ‘Community and Ecosystem Connections – Improving Human Wellbeing Sustaining Livelihoods’, should deepen our awareness of the adverse impact of nutrient pollution on the fisheries and agricultural sectors, both of which are deemed necessary to sustain the livelihoods and well-being of our communities.

 

  1. and gentlemen, the significance of the fishing and agricultural sectors to the socio-economic development of our twin-island nation cannot be underrated. Over the last five years, data from the Central Statistical Office has shown that the agricultural sector is estimated to contribute about 3 percent to the national GDP, while the fisheries sector also accounts for 3 percent of the country’s GDP. Although the contributions to the national GDP may seem statistically inconsequential, both sectors play a major role in contributing to food security and sustaining livelihoods in several households and communities across Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, the contribution of the fisheries sector to food security and supporting livelihoods is most apt and could not have been more timely, given that the United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, in recognition of small-scale fishers who contribute to eradicating hunger by providing nutrition to billions of people globally. According to the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report published in 2022, the total amount of revenue earned for the human consumption of fisheries was US 151 billion dollars – monetary values that demonstrate the importance of fisheries and aquaculture to sustaining livelihoods and fighting hunger.

 

  1. both sectors are under environmental threat. Supported by local and international scientific data, growing evidence indicates that nutrient pollution continues to adversely impact our natural marine resources and agricultural practices dependent on marine resources.

 

Nutrient pollution, as we will learn in more depth during this symposium, is often a direct result of human activities. Our unconcerned habits and flippant behaviour towards our environment have worsened the contamination/or/pollution of our land, marine resources, and coastal areas. How can communities earn a livelihood when they are subjected to high levels of toxic waste?

 

Ladies and gentlemen, our environment is such an integral part of our health and well-being, that it should not be considered as an afterthought when managing the national economy. Instead, environmental management should be integrated into our national economic and fiscal policies. The Government regards our marine environment as paramount to our national development; so much so, that Theme Five of the National Development Strategy - Vision 2030, places the environment front and centre of our economic development, with the understanding that environmental conservation is critical to our sustainable development.

 

  1. conservation can also earn revenue. Several scientific studies published over the last decade have demonstrated the monetary value that can be derived from terrestrial, marine, and coastal environments. One such approach is the Ecosystem Based Management approach. This ecosystem-based approach, which incorporates an economic and non-economic value to marine biodiversity, aims to restore, protect and strengthen the resilience of marine environments and ecosystems. In this regard, the IMA is the national agency implementing the Ecosystem Based Management approach, and is assigned the responsibility of addressing the impacts of land-based sources of pollutants on critical coastal habitats such as mangrove forests, under the Marine Ecosystem Project titled, ‘Strengthening Ecosystem Based Management Frameworks and Ocean Governance in the North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem’.

 

I acknowledge and applaud the Institute’s consistent and long-term commitment to the conservation and protection of our natural marine resources. I commend its ongoing monitoring of our coastal and marine resources, and its continued research and dissemination of research data and analysis, both of which underpin the Ministry’s efforts formulate policies and enact legislation. Consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 14 – Life Below Water and committed to achieving the deliverables espoused in Theme Five of the National Development Strategy – Vision 2030, the Ministry of Planning and Development remains committed to supporting the IMA in its ongoing research and monitoring efforts and in its capacity as the Regional Activity Centre of the Cartagena Protocol by ensuring the following:

  1. Amending the Trinidad and Tobago Water Pollution Rules, 2019 (WPR) and the Water Pollution (Fees) Regulations, 2019 which became effective on October 10, 2019. This amended legislation authorises an integrated approach to watershed management, regulating point sources of pollution, managing non-point sources of pollution, and encouraging the re-use of treated wastewater.

 

  1. The appointment of an inter-ministerial Committee to oversee the implementation of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Policy Framework to mitigate the negative impacts on the coastal and marine environments. This will require the formalisation of institutional arrangements that foster better coordination and integration among agencies.
  2. Development of a Marine Spatial Plan for the Northwest Peninsula of Trinidad that will seek to implement an ecosystem-based management approach of marine resources.

 

That science and data must be shared and communicated cannot be overemphasised, as it is events like this symposium, which seek to bridge the gap between science and community, facilitate the sharing of community experiences, and foster interconnections between policymakers, academia, business stakeholders, civil society and community.

 

This symposium follows on from a series of symposia organised and convened by the IMA from 2016 to the present day, and it is my hope that thought-provoking, healthy and fruitful discussions and outcomes will form part of a larger conversation.

With regards to nutrients management, let us not slow the momentum; rather, let us advance to ensure that our agricultural and fisheries sectors are continually provided with the most accurate and up-to-date information necessary to help guarantee our food security.

 

As I conclude, I would like to congratulate the Acting Director of the IMA, Dr. Rahanna Juman, whose dedication to providing quality research over the years has enabled these community symposia to become a fixture on the calendar.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I thank you for the courtesy of your attention.