Jamaica News: The Government will be spending $20 million to ramp up coastal surveillance and enforcement activities to militate against illegal fishing in Jamaican waters and protect the island’s fisheries sector.
The money will be provided under the Fisheries Management and Development Fund, which was established to facilitate the sustainable management and development of the sector.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, made the disclosure at a press conference at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in St. Andrew on March 12.
He said that appropriate technology will be employed to effectively monitor the country’s waters.
“Regulations will be put in place, very shortly, to mandate all locally licensed motor fishing vessels to have on board a vessel monitoring system (VMS) device. Very importantly, to complement this technology, we are arranging access to satellite imagery of our waters to enable us to actually see these perpetrators,” he noted.
Minister Shaw said that the surveillance and enforcement activities “will be spread far and wide to stop illegal fishing in our near-shore areas and… activities on mainland Jamaica such as the illegal storage and sale of fish and fish products”.
He informed that plans are far advanced for the establishment of multi-agency enforcement teams, which, at a minimum will be comprised of the police, coast guard, and personnel from the Ministry’s Fisheries Division and the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit.
“Of course, it is expected that other enforcement entities will provide support, when and where necessary. These teams will be checking fishers, fishing vessels, fish vendors, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and cold storage facilities and any other relevant persons and/or establishments,” he pointed out.
The Minister, in the meantime, indicated that a revision of the relevant laws will be undertaken soon to address the issue of poaching in Jamaican waters.
This comes against the background of the interception of two illegal vessels from the Dominican Republic by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard recently, after they were caught fishing illegally.
The poachers were reportedly caught with queen conch, spiny lobster, crabs, fin fish and octopus.
“I am advised that the court case, involving the foreign poachers, will take place soon,” Minister Shaw said.
“It is indeed, my hope that our courts will send the strongest signal possible to all poachers, both local and foreign, that Jamaica is very serious about protecting our fisheries resources, and, by extension, the livelihood of our fishers and fish workers,” he said.
Mr. Shaw informed that over the last eight years, from January 2011 to March 2019, a total of 10 foreign vessels were caught fishing illegally in Jamaican waters, noting that this reflects only 14 per cent of foreign illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
He said IUU fishing is a global problem that has plagued both developing and developed countries, and a comprehensive multipronged approach is being undertaken to address the issue.
The Government recently imposed a one-year ban on the harvesting and trading of conch from March 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020, due to a depleted population. Scientific survey of the queen conch population conducted in November 2018 showed that conch stocks are in a degraded state.
Minister Shaw noted that illegal fishing and environmental influences are two of the factors resulting in the depletion of the conch stock.
He said that the Government will be employing a comprehensive strategy of advocacy and diplomacy to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing as well as curtail the trade of illegally caught fish and fish products.
This will be done through bodies such as the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) West Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission.
Minister Shaw said the objective is to achieve meaningful collaboration and cooperation amongst queen conch-producing and importing countries, and the Flag State of foreign poachers.
He said he intends to meet with colleague Ministers at the upcoming Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in St. Kitts on May 2 and 3, 2019 to discuss the issue.
“At the international level, we intend to engage Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to ensure that all relevant provisions of this multilateral arrangement is transparent and properly implemented.
The truth is, we do have some concerns regarding how some queen conch-producing countries have been able to satisfy the strictures of the CITES convention,” he said.