In keeping with its mission to provide technical support and aid for economic and social growth in developing countries, the Japanese Government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is looking to increase its foreign aid to the Caribbean region.
Japanese Government officials recently met with Caribbean Fisheries Ministers in St. Lucia to discuss the fisheries industry in the region and to evaluate the status of grant aid for the development of the industry and other marine resources.
Dominica’s Fisheries Minister Hon. Dr. Kenneth Darroux represented the island at that conference.
According to Hon. Dr. Darroux, the Japanese Government has contributed immensely to Dominica’s economy through infrastructure, technical support and training in the fisheries industry.
“We’ve seen the construction of three massive fisheries complexes throughout the island. [Japan’s contribution is seen] not just [in] infrastructure but also the ongoing technical support through JICA, where we’ve seen education of our fishermen. We’ve really seen the fisheries sector move on to the next level. They have financed even the basic training manual which is what the Fisheries Division uses right now to get fishermen registered. All this has been funded by JICA,” he said.
The Minister highlighted Japans’ dedication to the cause despite facing their own financial responsibilities.
Hon. Darroux said a plan for the establishment of a multi-purpose fisheries complex in the south of the island is currently underway.
“This would be more or less the final complex that we have as part of our long term plan for the fisheries sector – we are talking about the Fond St Jean/Dubique area. This project’s concept paper was handed over to the Japanese Government Embassy in Trinidad about a year ago, and it seems to be picking up some speed. I am very confident and optimistic that pretty soon we will get an official word that this project has been approved” confirmed Hon. Darroux.
The Minister expressed optimism that the project will bring tremendous benefit to the Fond St.Jean community.
“This is good news for the fisher folk and the wider community. My vision of this project is not [simply] a fisheries project but a marine resources [complex]. We can have an area for the fishermen to store their boats, an administrative building and other marine related activities such as diving and the sale of value added products such as smoked fish.”
The Minister revealed that the proposal is at an advanced stage of review in Tokyo.
Meanwhile Hon. Darroux says Japan has proposed its continued support of small scale projects including capacity-building development ventures through the OECS secretariat.
This suggestion is due for approval by Caribbean finance ministers, pending which the funds will be utilised to improve the region’s fisheries industry.
Hon. Darroux voiced his intentions to utilise the financial aid to establish a credit facility for fishermen.
This venture, he hopes, will provide means for transforming casual fishing into careers for fishers.
“One of the plans I have for the use of this money once it comes through is to establish credit facility for fishermen. I have spoken a number of times before as to the difficulties that fisher folk have in accessing credit. Thanks to the Fisheries Division, the fishing communities are much more business savvy and they’ve been trained/taught and educated to look at fishing as a career. We see the more serious among them wanting to invest in bigger vessels, and in the advent of the new infrastructure we will see more and more of them wanting to invest in bigger vessels,” the Minister explained, “[however], a lot of the conventional financial institutions are not willing to make the credit available to the fishermen: one for lack of collateral, two because of the high risk of fishing activity and the lack of established insurance policies.”
Hon. Darroux affirmed that the meeting in St. Lucia has left him confident that with the aid of JICA, Dominica’s fisheries sector will move to the next level.