JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be acquiring additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, as the Government moves to further strengthen law enforcement initiatives, aimed at curbing illicit fishing in Jamaica’s territorial waters.
  • Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, made the announcement during a media briefing today (May 14), at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters in St. Andrew.
  • Mr. Kellier said use of the drones is expected to significantly reduce “severe gaps” in Jamaica’s fisheries trade, which saw the country recording net seafood imports totalling US$135 million, compared to exports of US$35 million in 2013, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be acquiring additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, as the Government moves to further strengthen law enforcement initiatives, aimed at curbing illicit fishing in Jamaica’s territorial waters.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, made the announcement during a media briefing today (May 14), at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters in St. Andrew.

He said that with the one-year drone pilot project now complete, “our next step is to work closely with the Ministry of National Security, with a view to identifying and sourcing drones with longer endurance, so as to increase our reach as well as our law enforcement presence within the island’s maritime jurisdiction.”

The drones are also expected to be pivotal in search and rescue missions for fisherfolk stranded or reported missing at sea. Persons will be trained in their operation.

Mr. Kellier said use of the drones is expected to significantly reduce “severe gaps” in Jamaica’s fisheries trade, which saw the country recording net seafood imports totalling US$135 million, compared to exports of US$35 million in 2013, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

This, he attributed, to continued “drastic and rapid” decline in Jamaica’s marine fishery resources, due to poaching and environmental degradation.

Chief Executive Officer of the Fisheries Division, Lieutenant Commander Paul Wright, who also spoke at the briefing, advised that persons to be trained in the operation of the drones will initially be selected from the Division.

He said emphasis will be placed on ensuring that the trainees operate “seamlessly” in collaboration with the relevant law enforcement agencies.

The one-year test project was undertaken by a task force comprising representatives from the Fisheries Division, Ministry of National Security, Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (Marine Division), Jamaica UAV, and Rainforest Seafoods Limited.

Mr. Kellier informed that the final of five scheduled test flights was completed at Pedro Cays in April 2015.

“The…pilot project was conceptualised to test drones as well as their live feed capabilities within the marine environment, with a view to increasing law enforcement presence within the island’s jurisdiction,” he said, adding that the protocols have also been tested for “safe and efficient” deployment.

“I wish to…thank all our partners in this project for having joined with the Ministry (of Agriculture and Fisheries) to complete the initial phase. This has been a true demonstration of collaboration, not only among the state agencies, but, indeed, with our private sector partners,” Mr. Kellier said.

In his remarks, Rainforest Chief Executive Officer, Brian Jardim, said his company welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the initiative and assured that “we remain committed to supporting the Government in this excellent endeavour.”

During the media briefing, the two drones used in the pilot phase were officially handed over to Minister Kellier by Jamaica Robotics and Avionics Design Group, and Jamaica Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

A cheque in the sum of $575,000 was also presented by Rainforest Seafoods to assist in funding further development of the initiative, which Mr. Kellier advised, will also be financed by the Fisheries Development and Management Fund.