Minister Rambharat on diversity and the blue economy: “Development can cause disruption. This must be minimized.”

“In building capacity we must recognise that we will never get to a point where we can develop without causing disruption. The challenge is to minimize such damage and manage the process of development.”

Such was among the sentiments expressed by Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries on Wednesday 12th September, 2018, at a meeting to discuss Trinidad and Tobago’s potential involvement in the upcoming ‘Sustainable Blue Economy Conference’ carded for November (26-28) in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting – which took place at the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) in Chaguaramas – was at the request of the Canadian High Commission. It was attended by the High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Carla Hogan Rufelds; Canadian Ambassador and Co-ordinator for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, Mr. William Crosbie; Senior Advisor to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canada), Mr. Dexter Bishop and officials of the IMA.

The conference, which is to be co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Canada, will provide a platform for over 4,000 participants from around the world to share ideas on how the potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers can be harnessed in order to sustainably improve the lives of those in developing nations and conserve these waters for future generations.
In his articulation of some of the challenges Trinidad and Tobago has had in optimising its blue economy, Minister Rambharat alluded to the dichotomy of the Energy and Fisheries sectors which both require a considerable degree of balanced management to be sustainably maintained. He admitted that while the current Fisheries legislation in the country was one of “the barest of legislation” the current draft Fisheries Management Bill 2018, is a complete overhaul of how we manage Fisheries and strike the balance between exploitation and conservation. The Minister believes that these provisions can “actually work”, having regard to the drafting and practicality of it with the aim of “future proofing the legislation so that it could withstand the next twenty (20) years.” The Minister said that in many ways, “we are trying to develop on one hand and recover and make up some ground that may have already been lost with the other”; all whilst trying to get “all the actors” to come to work on the same day. “I think any discussions on the issue must and will centre around: how we work together; how we share information; how we craft laws that are protective but practical and how do we build the capacity that acknowledges the inevitable damage that comes with positive change and development,” he said.

Minister Rambharat noted that while the prospect of renewable energy was attractive enough to explore, there was a financial element to be factored in and such made it challenging if not prohibitive, even for those nations with economies of scale. “You will also find that the investment that is required is not going to come from our country and will require the input of multinationals and international investors which carry with their investment, a long-term debt which we will all be tasked to repay,” he added.

From a technical standpoint however, Minister Rambharat lauded the country’s progress in academic research citing that as a nation, “we are the least bit starved of information and ideas”. He noted too that while such was the case, Trinidad and Tobago took “too long to implement legislative and policy changes and develop capacity”; a challenge which he cited as being “no different from the experiences of other developing countries within our region where more time is spent on thinking and not necessarily on executing.”

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