History & Achievements

In 2003/04, a regional study conducted through the collaboration of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), examined the organisational needs and operational strengths and weaknesses of existing national and primary or community-based Caribbean fisherfolk organisations and made recommendations to address them. At that, CTA/CARDI/CRFM Regional Workshop held in Belize, the study and the proposed recommendations were reviewed and an explicit recommendation was made to launch a regional network of national fisherfolk organisations. It was also decided that the network would be established when at least 50% of the African Caribbean Pacific Group of States (ACP) would have National Fisherfolk Organisation (NFOs). Therefore, CNFO was born from support from Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in 2004, when the preferred form of organisation, a regional grouping was selected over a structure that was more rigid.

A Working Group was created to develop a strategy for the launching of the network and make proposals for strengthening the institutional capacities of fisherfolk organisations, with the strategy being aimed at addressing the following issues:

  • Lack of critical mass of NFOs for launching the network as defined by the 2004 Belize Workshop;
  • Fisherfolk organisations’ weak management skills;
  • Insufficient access to relevant information by fisherfolk; and
  • Fisherfolk organisations’ limited communication and advocacy skills.

The Working Group met in Guyana in June 2005 and produced a Strategy and Medium Term Action Plan for the Institutional Strengthening of Regional Fisherfolk Organisations (2006-2010). Based on the Strategy and Medium Term Action Plan, a proposal for the development of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations was submitted to the CTA. Since then the CTA and CRFM and other collaborating partners have been working together in support of this dynamic process initiated by the fisherfolk groups in the Caribbean to establish the regional network. Other collaborating partners include Centre of Natural Resource and Environmental Management (UWI-CERMES), Caribbean Natural Resource Institute (CANARI), Commonwealth Foundation, Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). To date through its work, CNFO has maintained these strategic and equitable partnerships.

Within the next three years that followed CNFO with the support of CRFM and CTA developed strategic action plans with the main aim to improving and strengthening the national organisations. The first phase of the process, which lasted from 2006 to 2008, included the following elements:

  • identifying the potential for a regional network among fisherfolk groups;
  • establishing and formalizing national fisherfolk organisations (NFO), as the backbone of the regional network; and
  • training fisherfolk leaders in areas related to network management and use of communication tools.

In 2007, CNFO implemented structured capacity building initiatives among its members in order to enhance their ability to support the fisheries sector and effect policy change. The focal areas for the capacity building initiatives included:

  • developing and improving leadership and management skills,
  • improving advocacy and negotiation and
  • conducting policy analysis.

Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia and Suriname have officially formed NFOs and Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have established steering committees to legalize NFOs in the near future. NFOs from these countries along with those from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago form the core group of the CNFO which was formally launched in 2009. These countries were represented in the CNFO Coordinating Unit (CNFO-CU) which was established at the 2007 Grenada Regional Fisheries Stakeholders Workshop. The aim of this Workshop was to Promote the Launching of a Caribbean Network of National Fisherfolk Organisations to develop and execute a work plan for the formation and legalization of the regional network and its development. It is expected that the remaining countries in the CARICOM/CARIFORUM region will eventually join the Network in the years to come as a result of CNFO-CU’s continued mobilization efforts and understanding of the benefits of being members.

CNFO has made strides to empower its members through affirmation of their personal scientific expertise and experience (due to their numerous years of practicing their trade and observing processes and changes). CNFO has successfully promoted food sovereignty and security however there is a need to change the mind-set of national decision makers to evaluate the importance of fish and its nutritional value when weighing investment decision.

CNFO has recognised that climate change and its impacts is of significant importance to fisherfolk as fisherfolk and their livelihood are one of the most vulnerable to its impact. CNFO has therefore focused efforts on increase awareness of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation relevant to the fisheries sector. CNFO efforts have increase fisherfolk influence on national and regional fisheries policy.

To date CNFO has:

  • made significant contributions to developing a CARICOM Common Fisheries Policy and operationalising the Castries (St. Lucia) Declaration on IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing,
  • attained observer status on the CRFM;
  • collaborated and established partnerships with fisheries management agencies,
  • participated in the implementation of the EU-ACP Fish II Project which aimed at assisting in the development and execution in the CARIFORUM region and other parts of the ACP region
  • Participated in the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystems Project which focuses on governance of fisheries at the wider Caribbean applying an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF)
  • played an active role in the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystems Project which focused on governance of fisheries

CNFO has increased fisherfolk influence on national and regional fisheries policy. It has contributed to drafting a CARICOM Common Fisheries Policy, gained observer status on the CRFM, and collaborated with the fisheries management agencies in many member countries.

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