Third-party insurance for fishing vessels may soon become a reality for small-scale fishers as a result of the recent stakeholder meeting organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The meeting was attended by multiple stakeholders including Fisheries Divisions, maritime law authorities, and insurance company representatives from Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago who discussed the Insurance Legislative Frameworks for the Caribbean with this objective in mind.
The FAO Assessment Report on Insurance Needs and Opportunities from 2018 in the Caribbean fisheries sector showed that that several challenges face the sector from achieving full coverage for the sector. While there is a need for improved sectoral awareness of the available options for coverage, the report indicated that about 75 per cent of the fisherfolk surveyed stated that they have not considered obtaining insurance due to a lack of information on availability and accessibility.
In addition, 25 per cent of the fisherfolk surveyed reported that available plans were too expensive while the monthly commitment was also a factor due to the seasonal and unpredictable nature of their work with revenue and profit margins being volatile throughout the year.
Dr. Raymon van Anrooy, FAO’s Senior Fishery Officer, mentioned that only a low figure of three per cent of the fishing fleet in the Caribbean is currently insured. He indicated that the lack of insurance cover poses serious problems to the industry, as fishing is amongst the most dangerous occupations in the world and accidents and fatalities in small-scale fisheries are common. Many fisherfolk who get in an accident during their working life, cannot work for some time or end up disabled. This creates financial and social hardship for these fishers and their families.
While at the global level, insuring large-scale merchant vessels is as commonplace as vehicular insurance, small-scale fishing vessels are largely without insurance coverage. Conversely, there are approximately 116,000 small-scale fishers active in the CARICOM region who, together, possess approximately 33,000 commercial fisheries vessels. The majority of these vessels that fish in the territorial waters of the islands are smaller than 12 meters in length.
In speaking to the stakeholders at the meeting, Dr. Renata Clarke, FAO’s Sub-regional Coordinator, stated, “The average catches per vessel are often just a few tons of fish per year, but, together, our many fishers, and those working in the market and processing sector, are very important for our Caribbean economies, employment and providing food security.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Norman Martinez, Professor in Maritime Law and FAO Consultant, expressed that most Caribbean states have entry-points within their existing legislation, for example under the Fisheries Legislation or Shipping Act, that could be used to establish a mandatory third-party liability insurance for the fisheries sector. He indicated that such insurance cover could be made mandatory relatively easy within fishing license and/or fishing vessel registration processes, which will likely be much cheaper for all involved.
Dr. Iris Monnereau, Regional Project Coordinator of the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4Fish) at FAO, said the Caribbean region needs to develop a culture of insurance in the fisheries sector in order to mitigate the risks. “An island like Malta, for example, does have mandatory third-party insurance for small-scale vessels. Therefore, the small size of the boats should not be seen as a deterrent for having insurance and I hope that we can support Eastern Caribbean islands to follow suit,” she said.
Dr. Monnereau also indicated that draft regulations for mandatory third-party liability insurance for fishing vessels were prepared for each country to facilitate the uptake of third-party liability insurance by governments in the region and that the project also supports national level activities to support further implementation.