Several initiatives are being undertaken by the fisheries division of the Ministry of Agriculture which will see positive changes for the over 70,000 Jamaicans who depend on the industry for their economic survival.
Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke said that in order to stem the exploitation of the island’s offshore fishery by fishermen from other countries, an alliance had been formed with the Ministry of National Security, and efforts were under way to acquire more surveillance equipment to address the problem.
He said that the nature of the threat posed by the poachers was compounded by the fact that the range of boats used by the poachers was more than those owned by the local sector. Minister Clarke also mentioned that the poachers reportedly used the opportunity to bring drugs into the island.
“There is greater collaboration now between the United States Forces (coastguards) and (Jamaica’s) in dealing with (that problem),” he indicated.
“We are going to be actually taking one stone to kill two birds, we are dealing with drugs and we are dealing with poaching,” he told JIS News.
Minister Clarke explained that efforts were also being made to utilize technology similar to that used in Cuba for lobster culturing to restock certain areas with lobster. He informed that this would be done on the island’s south coast some time this year. The Black River, Pedro Plains, Alligator Pond and Rocky Point areas are being targeted.
The Agriculture Minister said getting these plans off the ground would be dependent on what was “available in the budget. The technology is there, it’s just for us to get some funding,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Minister Clarke reported that the sector had been working on new technology in aquaculture. This, he explained, featured “more intense stocking with more aeration, with which (there is) a larger carrying capacity for the ponds.” The technology was adopted from Taiwan through the Agricultural Support Services Project.
Fishermen stand to receive additional benefits as the sector is in the process of upgrading all its 22 service stations. Minister Clarke said arising from an arrangement with the Petroleum Company of Jamaica Limited (PetCom), the facilities were being worked on “to enable the fishermen to access fuel in a more efficient manner.” Two such facilities are to be opened this weekend.
In terms of future developments, Minister Clarke said a partnership had been formed with a Trinidadian-based entity and a local company to explore possibilities where deep-sea fishing was concerned.
In the case of inland fisheries, the hatchery at Twickenham Park has been upgraded and farmers are now being supplied with fingerlings (baby fish), which have been helping to deal with their fish expansion. The Agriculture Minister said he believed there could be much success in that area as there was a ready market.