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Economic Revival, Jobs and the Sea

Marine aquacultureThe lifeline of Antigua’s economy has always been massive borrowing by the government. The government is currently hanging on for life. But can it last?

When this lifeline was cut in early 2000s the economy ground to a standstill.  Government introduced a ‘stop and frisk’ policy towards business persons in order to help. But the businesses’ lifeline seems to have been already severed. Residents are anxious for a stimulus. What do we do now? Do we wait for it to cut?

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with borrowing.  Every nation should borrow and be allowed to borrow.  But borrowing should be reserved for development and capital expenditure and not current expenditure.  Any nation that borrows for current expenditure is like someone borrowing to buy food.  That person is in big, big trouble financially.  Antigua is in big trouble.



In some instances, there may be cases of emergency, disaster or force-majeure when unforeseen current expenses may occur, but the constitution of Antigua & Barbuda makes a provision to take care of that. Section 94, Contingencies Fund, states:

“There shall be such provisions as may be made by Parliament for the establishment of a Contingencies Fund, and for authorising the Minister for the time being responsible for finance, if satisfied that there has arisen an urgent and unforeseen need for expenditure for which no other provision exists, to make advances from that Fund to meet that need…and when the supplementary estimate has been approved by the House, a supplementary appropriation bill shall be introduced as soon as possible in the House for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.”

However, at considerable risk to the nation, in the event of a catastrophe, none of the country’s budgets have ever been compliant with the constitution. There are no contingencies.

The winter looks bleak, our resources are rapidly depleting. Businesses are drying up; the capacity to borrow will soon be exhausted; people, our most valuable resource, are leaving; the land mass is being reduced and eroded by stealth; only our three most abundant resources are left – sun, sea and sand.

This may be the light in a very dark tunnel. With all else failing, backs against a wall, Antiguans, a resilient people by nature, will of necessity dig deep and find ways to exploit the enormous potential in these three resources.  The sea, the most potent of these resources, if utilized, has the potential to transform Antigua into a wealthy, developed, debt-free nation, with abundant high tech jobs in ten years.

Antigua & Barbuda consists of three islands that create one of the larger Exclusive Economic Zones in the Caribbean. Our zone is over 42,000 square miles. The area is rich, diverse and very special. According to the Global Coral Reef Alliance, ‘Antigua and Barbuda have the most extensive coral reef habitat of any Caribbean islands east of Hispaniola because of their unique geological and climatological conditions’.

The same source infers that the location of Antigua and Barbuda in the extreme northeast corner of the Lesser Antilles exposes them to open ocean waters transported by the trade-wind driven currents from the Atlantic Ocean, and places them up-current of all, but locally generated sources of land-based pollution. The waters surrounding the island are therefore, of pure ocean quality.  In addition, they note that the unique formation of Antigua from soft limestone has allowed a large shallow basin-like shelf to be eroded which produces abundant marine life.

However, catch from the wild is experiencing difficulties. These difficulties may provide opportunities for Antigua.  A report was released on 6 January, 2014 by the Natural Resources Defence Council, which is lobbying the U.S. administration to start enforcing a domestic law that bans seafood imports from countries that fail to follow American fishing standards.

The document says that about 650,000 sea mammals are killed each year in the process of netting fish, and that nearly all fish imported into the U.S. come from countries that fail to provide similar protections or do not meet United States’ reporting guidelines.


Catch from the wild are depleting. In addition to reduced catch, by-catch controversies, turtle-free and dolphin-free industry requirements, all dictate that a new approach to marine fish production be developed. Meanwhile the demand for fish is increasing rapidly, especially marine fish, as the consumer demand for marine fish grows.

The prospect for marine aquaculture worldwide is therefore, very good. The world population is increasing at 90 million per year and the per capita consumption of fish is about 42 pounds. The output for the world skyrocketed from US $79 Billion in 2006 to US $135 Billion in 2012. The latest estimates project an increase to US $195.1 Billion in 2019 at 5.1% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CARG). Marine aquaculture is expected to increase by 2.5% for the period 2013 – 2019 CARG.

In 2011, the United States imported 5.3 Billion pounds of fish at a cost of US $16.6 Billion (Annual Summary 2011). Much of this is tropical fish.  The United States has the largest Economic Zone in the world and is the fifth largest producer of fish. Much of this catch are temperate fish from the Alaska region. China, the largest producer of fish in the world, cultivates 2.7 Billion pounds of marine fish annually by aquaculture or fish farming.  This is done on 6000 square miles of sea.

Antigua is ideally suited to produce fish on an enormous scale from aquaculture. Antigua comprises of three major islands, over thirty islets, many, many coves and inlets, and large square miles of sea. In addition, the water is shallow, not cold, and the many barrier reefs keep it relatively calm. Antigua can begin to ready itself to supply the insatiable needs of the United States for fish. The target can be set to reaching a capacity of 500 million pounds of fish (including conch, crab, shrimp, lobster) by 2020.

The technology for fish farming is not rocket science. Brood fish are acquired, either from the wild or preferably purchased from suppliers. They are induced to spawn then the fry raised in tanks or ponds until they are large enough to grow-out, either in larger ponds, cages in the sea, or in swamps. They are fed and monitored as required then harvested at the desired weight.

According to Global Aquaculture Alliance – ‘Marine Fish Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean’: “…the candidate species with the brightest potential for commercial aquaculture development in coastal and offshore areas of Latin American and Caribbean countries are the snappers, dolphin fish or mahi-mahi, jacks and pompanos, tunas, cobia, groupers, snook, mullets, drums and corvinas, and flounder (Note: all the Scientific and Family names have been deleted)”

Obviously, the areas of specialization will be determined by the international market although some local delicacies like the shellfish may be considered also. The following information may be helpful. The United States imported in 2011: Whole Snapper – 30 million pounds at a cost of US 81 million dollars; Tuna Fillets & Steaks – 36 million pounds at US 160 million dollars; Dolphin fish – 35 million pounds at US 141 million dollars; Shrimp – 1.2 billion pounds at US 5.1 billion dollars; Spiny Lobster – 21 million pounds at US 256 million dollars.

Most of the lobsters are imported from the Bahamas.  Lobster is the Bahamas’ leading export to the United States. It can be Antigua’s also. If there is alchemy in aquaculture, then the raising of lobsters from egg to table is close. Next to fossil fuel products, fish is the second largest natural product imported into the United States. Antigua does not have oil, but fish seems competitive enough, an economic substitute.  

In 1985, the Smithsonian Institute chose Antigua as a pilot site for the production of the Caribbean King Crab (Mithrax spinosissimus) and production of the Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus). The results showed that the crabs could grow up to a weight of 3 lbs to 5.5 lbs in 450 days.  Raising them in cages was costly and therefore the project abandoned. The results of the production of the lobsters were never shared with the government of Antigua. It is my belief however, that lobsters can be raised in abundance in Antigua.


Researchers in the Turks and Caicos have successfully bred the queen conch (Strumbus gigas) in captivity. This is a big breakthrough. However, Antigua may be a long way off in developing this technique to perfection. The queen conch also takes a relatively long (3-4 years) time to reach marketable weight. There is no need though for Antigua to urgently pursue queen conch aquaculture.

Ash from the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat has created a huge blanket of humus-rich, fertile, grass-bed area, ideal for conch, to the south and south-west of Antigua and immediately around Redonda. Large quantities of mature queen conch inhabit this area up to a depth of about 100 feet.  
 
Sea moss is not worth a tickle test – it’s a no-brainer. Cultivation of sea moss does not require drip irrigation, plough, fertilizer, nursery, shade-cloth, herbicide, water or insecticide. It can be cultivated by plaiting small twigs of it into yards of nylon rope at three-feet intervals. It grows very fast and reproduces at 10 times its weight in 45 to 60 days. Antigua, with low freshwater runoffs, has the clear quality water to produce maximum growth.

According to Dr. Carol Hopper Brill and Lisa Ayers Lawrence, (Training Aid: Who Harvests Sea Weeds, Virginia Institute of Marine Science) Sea moss is a US 200 billion dollar business worldwide.  The United States imports US 50 billion dollars of it annually. This is at about US 70 cents per pound.

The refined product carrageenan, is an approved food. Sea moss is used to thicken evaporated milk, chocolate products, processed meats and foods. It also helps to stabilize foods like cheese, ice creams, jellies, and is used in many gelatinous confectionaries. Many pharmaceuticals and skin products, like lotions an creams, contain sea moss. The starch in sea moss carrageenan, unlike other starches, is not fattening and very nutritious.

Another area in which the sea may bring economic changes to Antigua is if we use it for wind farms. The five hundred square miles of sea between Antigua and Barbuda, going westward towards the Agouti and Anoli Banks, do not much exceed 100 feet in depth of water. Wind farms can be stationed in this area. These wind farms have the potential to give Antigua an edge competing with Trinidad as an industrial haven of low cost energy.

Antigua is ideally situated for transshipment. Cheap energy has the ability to attract many forms of light industries to Antigua.  Industrial estates may be set up, perhaps around the port, or at Crabbs, that get subsidized energy. The light industries may include assembly, packaging, warehousing, bottling, canning, labeling, and then redistribution.

Increased exportation and importation will reduce the cost of shipping. As a result, Antigua will then be poised to transform itself into a major hub linking the Northern Caribbean and North America with the Southern Caribbean and South and Central America and visa versa. Instead of flour, for instance, going as far south as Grenada, it may be shipped from North America to Antigua in bulk, then milled, packaged, labeled and exported from Antigua. Other goods may be imported from South to Antigua as concentrate then diluted, bottled, labeled and exported.

The obvious question is – how do we tap into this reservoir of development? The theory is that Japan has in interest in Antigua. Both countries vote together at the International Whaling Commissions. We have maintained this position, although we do not know how the campaigns against Antigua’s tourism affect the nation, as a result of our position on whaling. To this effect Antigua has acquired four fish-processing plants from Tokyo in exchange.

However, none of these fish processing plants have filleted any fish; none of the plants have packaged any fish; none of the plants have minced any fish; none of the plants have scaled any fish; none of these plants have headed or gutted any fish; none of these plants have made fishmeal; none of the plants have exported any fish; none of the plants even smell rawish, the plants have only produced ice.

They tell me, that one of the most treacherous deeds against any people is that Baggawire sold out Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI for rice. But isn’t this worst – selling out our tourism and that magnificent beast to Tokyo and the Japanese for ice? Ice? Can we not raise the stakes higher? If we must be treacherous then it should be for something more than ice.


The Japanese knew when they gave us the plants that we could not use them.  They must expect to finish the job and put them to use some day. At the next round of negotiations we just have to let them know that the first plant was for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four…we are ready to go. We now need the capital, technology, expertise, infrastructure and training to develop our aquaculture capacity.

If the Japanese are unwilling, then the project may be either privately or government funded. There are consultancy agents that have expertise in setting up these operations turnkey. Many changes will have to be implemented by the government. There are currently no laws to provide for leasing or parting areas of sea or for aquaculture in general.

Government needs to get serious. Studies for best suitable sites need to be instituted.  Laws will need to be passed denoting these zones of sea and land for specific projects; and also enabling them to be leased. One hundred square miles of Barbuda Sea may be earmarked, and two hundred to five hundred square miles in Antigua and on two or three of the offshore islets. With this legislation behind it, the Investment Authority can begin to market Antigua as the premier destination for the fastest growing food industry worldwide.

Changes to the educational curriculum will also be necessary, to include aquaculture and aquatics. Edexcel (formerly London) has some useful programs like: ‘Understanding Aquaculture Systems’ and ‘Warmwater and Marine Aquaculture’. Formerly, Antigua utilized London as an examining body, in addition to Cambridge, which lent flexibility to students. I think we should maintain this concept, since CXC does not offer many of the disciplines critical for cutting-edge national development. Antigua should not be retarded by the deficiencies or limitations of CARICOM or CXC.

Many of the jobs will be high-paying specialized jobs. Researchers, scientists, chemists, offshore cage technicians, chilling and heating technicians, hygiene technicians, processing and control specialists, aeration technician, marine biologists, microbiologists, bio-security specialists, veterinarians, their assistants, interns, divers are some of the jobs that will be available.

The high density of specialized professionals, the increased research and development capacity, the new impetus towards data gathering and analysis – may serve to attract other high-skilled technological jobs and industry to Antigua. Antiguans will have more to do than receptionists, security guards, bartenders, waiters and waitresses. Disappearing jobs will reappear. Many Antiguans will hopefully return home, to continue the transformation of the economic revival from the sea.

Leonart Matthias

Hits: 1927

11 Comments In This Article   

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RE: Economic Revival, Jobs and the Sea

#11 Time to pay » 2014-01-23 09:58

GOOD IDEA SKYEWILL...! USE THE WIND...! LETS GET THE NEW GOVERMENT ON THIS RIGHT AWAY...!
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Time to pay

leonart matthias

#10 tenman » 2014-01-23 07:42

leonart matthias, not sure why you would surmise, I would doubt our potential. I pointed out some handicaps. Even agreed with your suggestion of wind farms and their effect of removing many handicaps. As far as your conclusion that we are not in danger of storms, you must be living some where else. International bodies, like the IMF state this as a major risk for Antigua and the region. As far as Malaysia, the current minimum monthly wage is 270.11 USD (900 ringgit ) (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17903906). In Antigua its 478 USD a month (2.76 USD an hour or 7.50 EC an hour)

Len we are aware of some of the impediments, it makes no sense to jump headlong into anything, without putting a plan in action to deal with them.


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tenman

doubting our potential

#9 leonart matthias » 2014-01-23 00:33

tenman the reason you blog, as an academic, is to educate. I think you are doing yourself a disservice to regurgitate myths in order to perpetuate the psychological damage done to us by our colonial experience. They taught us that we cannot accomplish anything and gave us many reasons. So we look at how big the mountain is rather than how BIG our power and resource is. These are two myths you mentioned.
myth 1 – antigua is not a high wage destination. the minimum wage in antigua is US133.00 per week. The minimum wage in the high end Malaysia is US290.00 per week. The low salary area where the Darden project is has a minimum wage of US260.00 per week.
myth 2 - antigua suffers from storms. antigua has had at most six hurricanes in the last sixty years. any one would take a risk with one every ten years, especially when compared to malaysia’s four-six months of monsoon flooding and cyclones every year.
let us get off the doubt-ourselves train and begin to ask ourselves what malaysia does to pay these wages and attract investment. the secret is customer service and high skills. if persons want highly skilled workers and excellent service they are happy to pay for it wherever in the world. this is somethig we should emulate especially in tourism
ps. i forgot about feed. anu is self sufficient in egg production. at the end of the laying life of the chickens, those that the hispanics dont buy are burnt
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leonart matthias

tenman

#8 leonart matthias » 2014-01-23 00:22

Tenman am shocked. you would have noticed that I referred to the feasibility in my piece about the crabs and lobsters. so you know that I saw it. no study in a technological field can be credible after 30 years. you are an accredited person and know this very well. the aquaculture technology has leaped light-years since. the reasons given for the failures of the feasibilities done here in ANU are not a problem any more.
for instance, the reason shrimp failed in ANU is because they could not procure sufficient healthy baby shrimps. today they import the parent brood shrimps and these give you 600K to 2Mil babies in a year. The last time I checked (about 3 years ago) a pair cost US 30.00. compare that to catching hundreds of babies then shipping them in barges of water. The same can be said of fish in the study.
I quoted from a more recent study by the leading marine scientist in the world dr. daniel benetti on the fish that are suitable for latin america and the caribbean. It means that scientists have overcome many of the past difficulties with those species.
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leonart matthias

skyewill - energy is the key

#7 tenman » 2014-01-22 12:18

skyewill whats interesting is China the place where we got the junk WPP from, is the leader in producing wind power. Once we can deal with our high energy handicap, there are many projects that would come our way. I suspect not only will existing consumers feel a needed relief from their high energy bills, so also will the unemployed. We had a a brewery leave our island for St. Vincent due to these high costs. Honestly I can see the benefit of such a move on all industries here. It would be good if the powers that be could come forward and explain what stymied this push in 2004? Recall big talk back then about alternative energy, then I later hear Lovell suggest, its not feasible without showing us any side work
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tenman

tenman

#6 skyewill » 2014-01-22 02:22

I did the research and wind farming is great for Antigua. During the slave owner Codrington's days he had win mills built. This was a brilliant idea. Everywhere there is a wind mill the potential for power generation is possible. In fact no feasibility study needed. Codrington has already done that. Go to Betty's Hope and sit for a moment under the mills and feel the constant trade winds. It is like that at every wind mill on the islands both A & B.
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some data part 2 of 2

#5 tenman » 2014-01-21 20:01

A Huffington post 04/ 9/2012 article notes:
Quote:
Darden has been developing the idea for its lobster farm for years. Past attempts at lobster farming were hampered by the slow growth and voracious appetites of lobsters, which make them hard to raise profitably. Darden is banking on the idea that new technology and a big heap of cash will allow it to skirt those problems in Malaysia.
As far as fish farming, there have been many suggestions that current farmed fishes are less healthy than fish from the wild. Will it be feasible for us to provide proper feed? Energy costs are also a major factor. When you consider the fact that fish farms in the US are struggling with these issues, seems to me that we have more handicaps to deal with due to our higher energy costs (perhaps the suggested wind farms would remove this handicap)

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tenman

som data part 1 of 2

#4 tenman » 2014-01-21 19:07

Its clear to see why Mr. Mathias's nick name is professor. The man spends time thinking about solutions. The feasibility of these options were examined in the 80's and in general found unfeasible (see pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDAAU941.pdf). By the way persons should note that then government was noted as being very interested in these options. It would have been good if the writer had provided examples of places where Marine aquaculture have been found financially viable. Since the study donein the 80's others hae attempted lobster farming. One eg. is Darden farms which has decided to build a farm in Malaysia. They will invest 300 million usd (project will cost about 600 million) and expect to create 12K jobs. Now why Malaysia? Because it does not have the risks of storms that places like Antigua have and also low wage costs. Interestedly their focus market is Asia, not the US (see www.shrimpnews.com/FreeReportsFolder/LobsterFolder/DardenRestaurantsLobsterFarmMalaysia.html. This farm is expected to be the first commercial lobster farm. Though construction was expected to start last year, it won't be completed until 2029.

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tenman

Very insightful opinion piece

#3 Parishman » 2014-01-21 12:00

Tough times are ahead for us in ANU/BAR as we have borrowed from Tom, ** and Harry and not been able to pay back, but ministers and their cronies are laughing all the way to the bank. The former admin borrowed and did not pay back and the now admin is doing the same. Lord help us tax payers. Which ever party forms the government after the election will have a very tough time to make ends meet.
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Parishman

RE: Economic Revival, Jobs and the Sea

#2 interested reader » 2014-01-21 09:10

Dear Mr Matthias,

This is an excellent opinion piece, great ideas and insight.
I would welcome a discussion on how we realise these types of transformational industries.
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interested reader

Economic revival, jobs and the sea.

#1 Woods » 2014-01-21 09:08

As usual your piece is well researched Leonart. Every thing you have said is on point, however we are saddled with an unusually high incidence of immorality among our politicians.
The very real cases of potential and actual investors local and expat being asked "Whats in it for me?" by politicians red AND blue has caused the proverbial chickens to come home to roost. Have a look around today and see for yourself how many politicians who have started out broke that are now multi millionaires and in allegedly in the cases of our ex Prime Minister, MP Micheal and MP Yearwood, multi Billionaires!
As much as it would be good for the nation, would you really want to invest in that situation? Pit Bull was hounded by the banks, now he has a fleet of vehicles sitting idle in his yard and so much cash he wastes it down town in a dual purpose restaurant.
Still Antigua and Barbuda would be a blessed nation if only we could find leaders who genuinely had the country at heart instead of their personal off shore accounts.
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Woods

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