‪The Caribbean, hurricane central

Isobel Hurricane Isobel forms over the Atlantic Image: Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.

In October this year Georgetown, Guyana hosted the 7th Meeting of the CRFM (Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism) Ministerial Council, which gave a green light to its member states to adopt risk insurance that ‘would enable the fisheries sector and fishers to bounce back more quickly after a hurricane strikes.’‬

Considering the damage Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean hurricanes usually cause, they are most unwelcome visitors.

The October CRFM meeting was quite timely, I'd say, in view of the recent bunch of hurricanes that whirled all over the Caribbean Archipelago causing destruction and devastation in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Turks and Caicos.

Two recent catastrophic hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which devastated several Caribbean countries, have underscored the need for the CRFM member states to press forward with risk insurance for the fisheries sector. This scheme was being developed by the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company (CCRIF SPC, formerly known as the CCRIF) in collaboration with the World Bank. This initiative to develop risk insurance for the fisheries sector in CARICOM States is supported also by the United States government under the Caribbean Ocean and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST).

The people of the Caribbean are quite used to those uninvited predatory winds and have organised themselves in the CCRIF-SPC (Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company), an insurance company headquartered in the Cayman Islands, which is exemplary with respect to the swiftness of its responses.

For example, Dominica received a payout of US$19,294,800 under its tropical cyclone policy following the passage of hurricane Maria in September. This payout was made within 14 days of the hurricane.

While payouts had been made under the broader umbrella of the above fund, none has been provided specifically for the rehabilitation and recovery of the fisheries sector.  But now CRFM says the recent catastrophic hurricanes have highlighted the need for risk insurance for fishermen.

According to Milton Haughton, CRFM’s Executive Director, having such an insurance scheme for individual small-scale operators is one of the good things the fund could do. The development and implementation of the livelihood protection policy that the CCRIF SPC is working on now assumes greater urgency for the sector, he stressed.
Milton Haughton expressed his hope that in light of the destruction and devastation which the recent hurricanes have caused in many CRFM Member States, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Turks and Caicos, all parties will redouble their efforts to get the risk insurance facilities for the sector established as soon as possible and certainly before the next hurricane season. He said that the insurance policies are being designed to provide quick relief to those fishers who experience distress as a result of disasters such as hurricanes.
A report published by the Antigua and Barbuda Fisheries Division in September states that: In terms of the impact hurricane Irma had on fishers and their families, considering the role the sector plays with respect to employment, food security and as a ‘safety-net’ for other economic activities (i.e., occupational pluralism), a total of 778 individuals were affected including 193 fishers and 585 financial dependents… This accounted for 25.5% of the population of Barbuda (1,800) (i.e., one in every four persons) and 0.3% of the population of Antigua (91,440). "Irma" destroyed 37 boats, over 2,000 fish traps, and 17 gillnets.

These figures talk for themselves.

In general, major risks confronting fishermen can be divided into general categories: asset risks, production and management risks, market risks, and personal and health risks. Asset risks include loss of or damage to fishing vessels, equipment, and gear as a result of natural or man-caused disasters. Production and management risks involve the loss of catch, production failure, i.e., inadequate yields, and fish spoilage. Market risks relate to fluctuations in the prices of outputs and inputs, and in interest rates. Personal and health risks include accidents at sea and death and job-related illnesses.

While the development and establishment of fisheries insurance schemes is rising, overall, there is still significant scope for further promoting such schemes, particularly in developing countries.

However, fisheries insurance should be viewed from the perspective of the small-scale fishermen, who represent the majority of the fishing population in developing countries. Such fishermen need protection against losses caused by natural and human-caused disasters. Fisheries insurance schemes are therefore indispensable and, where needed, government support should be provided for their establishment.

In view of the high level and many types of risks associated with marine fisheries, private insurance companies are still reluctant to get involved in this sector, particularly, in traditional small-scale fisheries and especially in developing countries.

There's no point in fishermen waiting for somebody to come and organise things for them. Those are their risks and their likely benefits and those are their groups and organisation that need to take care of it.

The advantages and benefits of fisheries insurance vary from scheme to scheme. In general, the principal benefits fisheries insurance provide are:

·       protecting fishermen against accidents and natural hazards beyond their control.

·       providing basic compensation for the loss of or damage to fishing vessels, gear and catch, thus contributing to stabilisation of incomes within the fisheries sector.

·       reducing the risk to financial institutions, which provide credit to marine and inland fishermen.

·        reducing the risk for fishermen-owners in investing their own resources in the adoption of new technologies and acquiring improved equipment.

·       fostering mutual assistance and cooperation among fishermen and their organisations.

·       reducing the unpredictable burden on government of providing emergency assistance in the wake of natural disasters.

·       promoting stability in fishery enterprises and contributing to the general welfare of fishing communities.

·       stabilising the contribution of the fisheries sector to national economy.

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