Gov't Spending $20 Million To Tackle Illegal Fishing In Jamaican Waters

Gov't Spending $20 Million To Tackle Illegal Fishing In Jamaican Waters

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw (centre) responds to questions during a press conference at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in St Andrew on March 12, 2019. He is flanked by Minister without Portfolio J.C. Hutchinson (left) and Minister of State Floyd Green 

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 Agriculture and Fisheries  Audley Shaw made the disclosure at a press conference at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in St Andrew yesterday.

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 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.

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.

In the meantime, Shaw 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 Coast Guard recently, after they were caught fishing illegally.

The poachers were reportedly caught with queen conch, spiny lobster, crabs, fin fish and octopus. 

 “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.

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 fishing.