Statement by Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley in the House of Representatives on Friday 12th June, 2020
The Fisheries Management Bill 2020
Madame Speaker, on January 13, 1992, I assumed office as the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries for what at the end was a term of three (3) years and ten (10) months. My first job in the public sector was as a fisheries Officer in Tobago, so by the time I was appointed Minister with responsibility for fisheries, I was well versed in fisheries management and more specifically the fact that for 76 years the country’s fisheries resources were managed via a piece of legislation with a mere 9 sections.
One of my early tasks Madame Speaker, was to move to review that short piece of legislation in the context of all that had been happening globally, in particular the need to preserve fish breeding grounds, the need to improve craft and fisherfolk safety, and the need to ensure that we were fishing sustainably.
In 1992 Madame Speaker, under my leadership as Minister, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), initiated a process for updating the fisheries legislative framework.
This was in recognition of:
· the severe constraints in the range of management options that could be applied under the 1916 Fisheries Act;
· the limited legislative support for implementing international obligations as a consequence of Trinidad and Tobago ratifying, acceding or becoming signatory to a number of fisheries and fisheries-related regional and international Agreements and Conventions; and
· the need to implement international best practices in fisheries management.
Madame Speaker when I took the Ministry along this route 28 years ago I could not imagine that the final product would arrive 28 years later.
Madame Speaker, upon my appointment as Prime Minister on September 8, 2015, this work came back to me, and it fell to me as Prime Minister to appoint a Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to bring this work to fruition. I am here today because the work, 28 years later, is sufficiently advanced to lay today a Fisheries Management Bill in this House.
Madame Speaker, this process spanned almost three (3) decades, with legislative review exercises being undertaken in five (5) major periods 1992 to 1997; 2004 to 2007; 2010 to 2012; 2013 to 2015 and 2017 to present, with five (5) drafts Bill being developed in 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015 and this 2020 Bill that is being laid in the House of Representatives today.
Of these five (5) drafts Bills Madame Speaker, the 2011 and 2014 drafts were presented to previous Cabinets but did not go much further. The 2018 draft Bill presented by the current Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries was approved by our Cabinet as a draft and this has advanced to this stage as a 2020 Bill ready for the consideration of the Parliament.
Madame Speaker let me briefly retrace our steps in this 28 years.
Madame Speaker, in June 1992, Cabinet approved the first comprehensive review of the legislative framework for fisheries management in Trinidad and Tobago. Then, in 1993, consultations with stakeholders commenced, supported by a Legal Counsel of the FAO. Recommendations included the creation of new and comprehensive legislation to consolidate existing legislation and extend the substantive and geographical coverage to address issues of concern to the fishing industry and the needs of fisheries administration and development.
Subsequently, in 1995 the FAO Legal Office in Rome produced the document entitled “A Bill: An Act to repeal the Fisheries Act, Chapter 67:51 to provide for the management of the fisheries resources in the waters over which Trinidad and Tobago has jurisdiction and for matters incidental thereto”. This 1995 Bill was drafted in collaboration with the Fisheries Division and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC), with inputs from several stakeholders including the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Maritime Services Division (MSD) of the Ministry of Works and Transport, Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). The 1995 Bill underwent extensive review between 1996 and 1997.
Nothing further happened until 2004.
Madame Speaker in 2004, efforts to advance the Bill resumed and in accordance with a 2004 Cabinet decision, a consultant was hired via the FAO to expedite the revision and finalization of the 1995 Bill. Stakeholders were again consulted and then by 2007, the Draft Fisheries Management Bill and 2007 Draft Fisheries Management Regulations were produced.
Madame Speaker, there were further delays between 2007 and 2010 and based on these delays, in 2010, Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a Cabinet Appointed Committee, chaired by the Director of Fisheries, to review, update and finalise the 2007 version of the Bill and Regulations. This Committee produced the 2011 Draft Fisheries Management Bill and 2011 Draft Fisheries Management Regulations which emanated from extensive review and amendment of the 2007 Bill and Regulations by the Cabinet Appointed Committee, with inputs and guidance from both technical and legal experts from Ministries and Government Agencies. In 2012, the 2011 Bill and Regulations were submitted to Cabinet and were subsequently referred to the Legislation Review Committee of the Cabinet for further consideration and advice to Cabinet.
Madame Speaker, in 2013 and 2014, the 2011 Bill was subjected to further review by stakeholders. The comments from this review period were considered in a process of amendment with the assistance of a legal consultant with expertise in Criminal Law and these amendments led to the development of a 2014 Bill, which was submitted to Cabinet and again referred to the Legislation Review Committee of the Cabinet for further consideration and advice to Cabinet.
Although the 2014 Bill was submitted to Cabinet, the desire to make further amendments persisted and after several further consultations with stakeholders, a 2015 Bill was produced.
Madame Speaker we continue. In September/October 2015, the Government commissioned a review of the existing draft legislation and a review of the Ministry’s policies and activities in fisheries and aquaculture. In November 2015, the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (EC DG MARE) conducted a mission to this country to review and evaluate national fisheries management arrangements to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. The review was conducted in the context of the country’s compliance with binding obligations under existing International Conventions and Laws to which we have acceded.
The evaluation report stressed that the current national fisheries legal framework does not specifically address IUU Fishing and identified a number of deficiencies in the administrative and legal framework for fisheries management; inter-agency collaboration for integrated fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance; and co-operation with other States whose vessels utilize our ports. The EC DG MARE also reviewed the 2015 Bill and concluded that a number of improvements were needed in order to ensure fulfilment of basic principles of international law.
Madame Speaker, let me say that again. Notwithstanding-
· the establishment of a Cabinet Appointed Committee in 2010;
· the 2011 Draft Fisheries Management Bill and 2011 Draft Fisheries Management Regulations produced in 2011;
· the inputs and guidance from various experts;
· further review by stakeholders in 2013 and 2014;
· the development of a 2014 Bill; further consultations with stakeholders; and
· the development of a 2015 Bill
the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (EC DG MARE) found that 2015 Fisheries Management Bill to be woefully inadequate. In particular, the Commission found that there was a severe inadequacy in the national fisheries management arrangements to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.
Madame Speaker on that basis this country was pre-identified as a non-cooperating state in the global fight against IUU fishing and was assigned a ‘yellow-card’ as a warning. If Trinidad and Tobago did not make progress on the areas of deficiencies in national arrangements to combat IUU fishing, the country faced listing as a non-cooperating third country and would be assigned a ‘red-card’ in accordance with Article 33 of the EU Regulation 1005/2008 concerning the fight against IUU fishing.
The implications of a red card are catastrophic not only to our local fisheries sector, but also to our regional neighbours and to our relationship on this and other matters with the EU.
At the same time Madame Speaker, there was an ambitious project in the 2010-2015 period on the abuses of the law and regulations dealing with trawling, particularly by large industrial trawlers. Upon review in 2016, the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries concluded that the work attempted in the 2010-2015 period was inadequate, largely impractical and in large measure was likely to expose the State significant liabilities.
It was the view of the Government that the legislative work on the management of fisheries should take precedence.
Madame Speaker, on the recommendation of the Commission, this country instituted a Plan of Action to address the deficiencies highlighted in the Evaluation Report.
· Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a Cabinet-appointed Committee, for a term of six (6) months, to finalize and initiate the Implementation of an Action Plan to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in the Ports and Waters under the Jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago;
· to accept the offer of technical assistance from the EC DG MARE to review the 1916 Fisheries Act; and
· to develop a new Fisheries Management Bill which would meet all this country’s local, regional and international commitments.
Furthermore, Madame Speaker, the Government, via the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, embarked on a project with FAO titled “TCPF: Strengthening Fisheries Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago – Focus: IUU Fishing” with a timeline of July 2017 to December 2018.
Madame Speaker, after much stakeholder consultation, in April 2018, a first draft of this 2020 Bill was finalized for the consideration of Cabinet before being referred to the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet.
Madame Speaker, in June 2018, two years ago, the Cabinet approved the first draft of this 2020 Bill and requested that it be reviewed by the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet supported by the Chief Parliament Counsel (CPC) and other officers of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.
Since that time, this Bill was subjected to extensive work by the Legislative Review Committee; the Chief Parliament Counsel (CPC); the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; the FAO and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA); and several other stakeholders including the Tobago House of Assembly, fisher folk and fisher folk groups.
Madame Speaker, let me be very specific on these consultations which took place even after the Cabinet approved the first draft of this 2020 Bill and requested that it be reviewed by the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet supported by the Chief Parliament Counsel (CPC).
· there were 153 organizations represented at these consultations;
· these consultations generated a 200-page report;
· there were 539 recommendations for amendments to the Bill; and
· these recommendations were received from more than 50 organizations attending the consultations.
Madame Speaker, of these 539 recommendations, 204 were accepted for inclusion in the Bill. Thereafter the Bill previously approved as a first draft by the Cabinet in June 2018 underwent significant review by the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet supported by the Chief Parliament Counsel (CPC) and the FAO in order to accommodate the views expressed at the consultations and approved for further consideration.
Madame Speaker, before this House today, laid by me as Prime Minister, is the end result of work I initiated 28 years ago.
· The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supported Trinidad and Tobago all the way:
· The European Commission and its various organs including our country representatives have been extremely supportive, particularly on the issue of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing;
· The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) has provided technical support;
· Many regional and local organizations including the UWI, THA and various Ministries have provided technical input;
· The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries through about 15 Ministers, numerous Permanent Secretaries and more than a dozen Directors of Fisheries has been the lead Ministry on the legislation.
For every version of a Bill, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and other officers of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs have guided us through this lengthy process.
Madame Speaker, the gratitude I express spans 28 years and more. The Bill before you now:
· strengthens and incorporates fisheries management and international obligations, in relation to its antecedent drafts as it allows for broader responsibilities, jurisdiction and powers in relation to fisheries management by the State and its representatives;
· it creates a legal basis for compliance by stakeholders;
· it establishes a legal framework for the State to fulfil its obligations as a flag, port, coastal and market State in accordance with the existing international framework for fisheries management and related sectors;
· it establishes the legal basis for State to collect revenue through application fees for authorizations, licences and permits as well as penalties that are significant for deterring IUU fishing; and Madame Speaker; and
· it provides a way into the future in which the law can be relevant for at least 20 years, as it provides for validity of measures to give effect to other agreements and treaties, which Trinidad and Tobago may adopt in future.
Madame Speaker, I save my final praise and thanks to the stakeholders whose lives and livelihoods this Bill seeks to protect.
· Vessel monitoring and other safety and security measures would make seafaring less dangerous.
· Families should expect loved ones to leave home, go to sea, and return home safely.
· The strict management of breeding grounds and the sustainable fishing of our waters are critical.
· We must ensure that in the context of all that is happening around us, we can secure livelihoods particularly in the many fishing communities around Trinidad and Tobago.
Madame Speaker, for the first time in 104 years a Bill is being laid to replace this old Fisheries Act. After several attempts, this Bill represents our best efforts to date. It has been endorsed by our international and regional partners. It takes into consideration the bulk of views expressed by local stakeholders.
And even then Madame Speaker, a Bill of this size, over 200 clauses, requiring a special majority, is best handled through a Joint Select Committee. I recommend that this House adopts that course.