A new Chief Fisheries Officer has been appointed for Barbados – Dr Shelly-Ann Cox, who started her new position on 3 January 2023. In an interview with Barbados Government Information Service, she outlined her vision for the fishing industry and her top priorities going forward.
Dr Cox brings extensive experience and impressive credentials to the role. She has a PhD in Natural Resource Management from UWI Cave Hill and a BSc with Honours in Environmental and Natural Resource Management with Marine Biology from UWI St Augustine. She has worked in fisheries management for over 10 years and is an experienced ocean professional.
She has outlined a five-pronged vision for the industry with the aim of raising the profile with the Barbadian public and taking the industry forward into the twenty first century and beyond.
- Raising the profile of the fisheries industry and changing public peception of pursuing a career in the industry. She pointed out that there are many viable jobs in the industry outside of fishing such as boat building, marine mechanics, fish processing, sports fishing charters etc.
- Integrating digital technologies in order to improve efficiency. She mentioned satellite technology to help vessels find fish as well as analysing surface temperatures and sea surface heights to inform smart fishing. She wants to see boats equip with integrated monitoring systems, electronic log books, on board cameras, tablets for data collection and more, all working towards data-driven solutions for the industry.
- Engaging more young people and women in the industry. She noted that most boat captains are over the age of 50, and that there needs to be wider recruitment beyond the traditional coastal communities to seek out others who may be interested in fishing.
- Responding to climate change and disasters. She stated that this needs an "all hands on deck" approach to the many challenges in this area including the influx of Sargassum and the reduction in flying fish landing sites.
- Updating the Fisheries legislation from the 1993 Act. Dr Cox plans to create a Sustainable Fisheries Management and Development suite of laws, with regulations for the size limits for threatened species such as swordfish and blue marlin. Another part of this vision is for more transparent traceability of high fish quality from "hook to cook", with access to more premium export markets.
Dr Cox has ambitious plans for the sector, with a vision for the fishing sector to increase from 0.07 per cent of the Barbados GDP to five per cent within ten years.