With diverse ecosystems, the ocean is a key source of marine life and resources. Because the Caribbean region is surrounded by ocean, exporting marine resources could potentially be a key driver in the region's economy. However, because of overexploitation and poor management, many Caribbean countries have not made full use of their marine resources, which has limited their ability to expand economically.
Economic and social development rely highly on fishing in the Caribbean community. The Fishery sector provides direct employment for more than 120,000 people and indirect employment for thousands of others in processing, marketing, and other support services. However, the contribution of fisheries to GDP is minimal. For example, Trinidad and Tobago’s fishery sector only contributed 0.09% to its total GDP in 2006. Since ocean areas far exceed land areas in the Caribbean region, fishing has the potential to be a key industry. Caribbean countries thus should think of ways to better utilize their maritime spaces in order to increase economic growth.
One way to realize the full potential of the ocean is to increase investment in research and development. Identifying resource areas and improving the technology for exploitation are key to obtaining resources without damaging the environment. The government also needs to create a favorable business environment in order to attract and retain investments.
The globalization of logistics opens another door for Caribbean countries to grow their economies, as the Panama Canal in the Caribbean Sea is an importation linkage between the East and West. However, poor performances of most container terminals in the Caribbean impede most Caribbean countries from earning profits from these canal connections. This is largely due to the fact that handling charges at Caribbean terminals are two or three times as high as in similar ports in other regions. These high costs deter some shipping carriers from using the Panama Canal. Again, investing more in market research and adopting advanced tools will help the terminal become more cost efficient.
In all, the fishing and shipping industries play significant roles in the Caribbean economy. If Caribbean countries are able to integrate their marine management, the region could sustain substantial economic growth.