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Fisherfolk Sharpen ICT Skills to Ensure Safety at Sea

A group of over fifteen fishers, staff of the Fisheries Division and fisheries organization representatives participated in the two day Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training workshop at the Fisheries Division, St George’s, Grenada, September 2019.

The two day training was funded by the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean fisheries sector project (CC4Fish) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and facilitated by the Caribbean ICT Research Programme (CIRP) of The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago and Fisheries Division in Grenada.

The ICT workshop focused on the three ICT devices most important to safety at sea for small-scale fishers: the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio, Global Positioning System (GPS) and cellphone. The preliminary assessment of uptake of these devices shows that current adoption and understanding of how to use these devices, in particular to improve safety at sea, is still limited in Grenada. Many fishers, for example, might own a VHF radio but are unaware of the correct procedure to make a distress call. In addition, they might also not know how to find and communicate their GPS location to rescue agents such as the Coast Guard. However, communicating their location is critical for swift and urgent rescue when caught in emergency situations at sea.

The workshop participants were taught instrumental, technical and procedural skills while also performing drills on the radio, GPS and cellphone in a classroom environment as well as at sea.

During the workshop, Dr Kim Mallalieu, Coordinator of CIRP indicated that there are a number of repeaters enlarging the area of operation of VHF radios as well as several coast stations at fish markets around the country contributing to the excellent VHF coverage at sea in Grenada. She urged small-scale fishers to take advantage of this infrastructure and, alongside the proper use and management of information and communications devices, work diligently to improve their safety at sea.

The training workshop also included discussions on the existing provisions for communications at sea for small-scale Fisherfolk in Grenada against international recommendations, an assessment of the Grenada Coast Guard’s capacity and procedures to administer mobile phone based SOS alerts and tracking; along with possible training opportunities.

Dr Iris Monnereau, Regional Project Coordinator of the CC4FISH Project who was present at the training, stated, “Fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and coupled with the expected impacts on climate change such as the increased number of high intensity hurricanes, improving fisher’s safety-at-sea is increasingly important. CC4FISH is supporting CIRP and the national entities to carry out a large number of these ICT trainings for fishers over the coming year, not only in Grenada but also in Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago”.

The participants who attended the training indicated that the information was quite useful including Cecil Joseph who has been fishing for 20 years. He stressed that, “based on learning to read the position of my boat on GPS and making radio calls I can now coordinate to get to another boat at sea if they are in distress”.

The CC4Fish project aims to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts in the eastern Caribbean fisheries sector, through introduction of adaptation measures in fisheries management and capacity building of Fisherfolk and Aquaculturists.

Royan Isaac, President of the Grenville FAD Fishers Organisation expressed that while he had a working knowledge of many of some of the devices focused on during the workshop, he felt the wealth of knowledge he attained was well worth the sacrifice of choosing to participate instead of heading out to sea. He stated, “I learnt something new today about the use of flares. I didn’t know that you needed to contact the airport and the coast guard to let them know what you’re doing”. Isaac added that he would like to see the ICT training replicated in the various fishing communities across Grenada.

The ICT workshop supports the increased collaboration between fishers, fishing cooperatives, government entities and other organizations to reduce the number of fatalities and accidents which involve fishermen and improve overall safety at sea.

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