JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture is in the process of employing a Chief Executive Officer, to head the Fisheries Division in its capacity as an Executive Agency, and will be relocating the agency from its Marcus Garvey Drive premises in Kingston to expanded office space, and a better environment.
This is part of the Ministry’s programme of restructuring agencies for which it has responsibility, to ensure increased efficiency and to better serve the agricultural sector, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, said recently.
The move will also ensure effective implementation of the Fisheries Policy, which has been completed and is on its way to the Houses of Parliament, following a series of public consultations across the island.
The policy, among other things, addresses sustainable production of capture fisheries and aquaculture to supply domestic consumption; increased returns from the export of high value seafood and processed fish products; and safeguarding the sustainability of domestic fisheries by appropriate regulation of fishing and aquaculture activities.
Under the improved management of the capture fisheries component, the policy will seek to provide for: limited and fully controlled access to all capture fisheries in Jamaican waters; an extracted resource rent that will partly cover the costs of fisheries conservation and management; restoration of resources in over-fished areas; and optimal protection of all fishing areas, by carrying out monitoring, control and surveillance actions and enforcement by sea, land and air.
All capture fisheries will be managed by Fisheries Management Areas and by way of Fishery Management Plans, that will be agreed upon by all major stakeholder groups. These fisheries will be divided into zones and licences will be issued per zone according to the Fishery Management Plans.
Meanwhile, the conversion of the Division into an Executive Agency, is a critical part of the process to promote transparency, accountability, and efficiency and involvement of all stakeholders in the management of the sector.
The Government will build partnerships with stakeholders in the sector, and also complete the establishment of the National Fisheries Advisory Council, as it encourages management by non governmental organizations in fisheries.
In collaboration with all stakeholders, a research and development agenda will be formulated and implemented, while partnerships will be encouraged with national, regional, and international institutions, and with stakeholders including the private sector.
Another critical component in the successful restructuring of the industry is increasing protection of all areas, by carrying out monitoring, control and surveillance by air and sea, involving fishing communities and local game wardens. There will also be monitoring of aquaculture activities and inland fisheries and an increase in public awareness and education in capture and culture fisheries and related issues.
In addition, mandatory standards will be established for safety at sea and measures implemented to ensure that all vessels and fishermen comply with the relevant regulations. Controls will therefore be increased and stronger measures taken to enforce compliance.
The Government will also adopt and develop appropriate measures to ensure the rights of consumers to safe, wholesome fish and fishery products. This is in keeping with standards in fish handling, hygiene and processing, and marketing and international trade in fish and fishery products.
Furthermore, support will be given to improvements in fishing and aquaculture technologies, through research and development activities, as well as fiscal and other incentives. The acquisition of modern equipment will be facilitated as these are necessary for economic exploitation and lowering the cost of producing fish and fishery products in the island.
Non-fishery employment alternatives will be promoted, and steps will be taken to ensure that female fishers are effectively integrated into the industry, and that issues arising from the changes in management policies do not have a disproportionately adverse effect on women.
Also critical to the survival and growth of the industry, is providing appropriate facilities for fishers and to this end, the Fisheries Division is responsible for the development of at least 30 fishing beaches over the next two to three years.
Acting Director of the Marine Branch at the Fisheries Division, Ian Jones, tells JIS News, that the works will involve putting in basic amenities on beaches, such as sanitation and toilet facilities, with associated environmentally-friendly waste disposal systems; gear locker units for storage of fishing equipment; and fish handing/vending facilities.
The Division began the policy process in 2003, with the assistance of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Public consultations were held with some 1,600 persons representing all fishers, fish farmers, and other stakeholders.
This was the most extensive consultation ever held within the sector, reflecting the participatory approach to fisheries governance being employed by the Division.
Mr. Jones explains that “the policy will in effect be the driving force for the new draft Fisheries Bill and it will outline the Ministry’s mandate as it relates to the policy direction for the sustainable management and development of the fishing industry”.
Pointing out that the discussions surrounding the legislation have been ongoing for quite sometime, Minister of Tufton, at a recent consultation, expressed the view that on completion, it should be very comprehensive.
“It speaks to a framework of engagement that is going to ensure that we have sustainable fishing. It will have some restrictions; it will address issues such as mesh size, it will speak to closed season for certain types of fish, it is going to speak to things that are undermining or affecting negatively, the fishing sector now,” he stated. He outlined that matters such as the use of dynamite, bleach, spear fishing in certain areas, and the establishing of fish sanctuaries, are issues that will be covered under the new legislation.
The fishing industry is being severely affected because of loss of habitats and biodiversity; over fishing; increased costs of production and; piracy, larceny, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices; and reduced production.
Mr. Jones explains that since 1995, the FAO has provided technical assistance to the Ministry in the drafting of new legislation to replace the current Act of 1975 and Regulations of 1976. He said the overhauling of the law is, “a major priority for the Ministry and will entail new measures to harmonise the law with international conservation measures”.
He informs that the Division collaborates with all the relevant environmental agencies and organizations on issues relating to the impact of fishing on the environment and that “the Fisheries Division is very concerned with environmental matters, because it shapes the sensitive ecology on which effective fisheries management rely, such as habitat sustainability, temperature, production, among others”.
The agency primarily functions as a regulatory division of the Ministry, and is charged with licensing and registration all fishers and fishing vessels and for effecting specific fishery protection mechanisms, including the designation of fish sanctuaries, closed seasons, and management areas.
It is responsible for all matters having to do with the capture fisheries and aquaculture sectors, except for quality control related to export fish and fish products such as conch and lobster. The Division’s two main branches are the Marine Branch, which deals with capture fisheries and the Aquaculture Branch, which covers statistical data collection, registration and licensing extension services. The station in Bowden, St. Thomas, deals with research services related to mariculture, which is the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products.
There are currently 17,806 registered fishers in the island, and a total of 187 landing sites. Last year, some 11,838.24 tonnes of fish were caught, the second highest amount since 1997, when 7,746.87 was recorded. A total of 13,067.83 tonnes were recorded for 2006.

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