JIS News

The Government will be moving swiftly to assess and address the poor sanitary and environmental conditions at Pedro Cays.

This was the word from Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, as he addressed the Jamaica Institution of Engineers' conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston on September 17.

Media reports had recently outlined the poor health and environmental practises at the Pedro Cays. The absence of running water, a lack of toilet facilities and a rapidly increasing garbage dump, were some of the issues highlighted as affecting the area.

The Environment Minister informed that representatives from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) have been sent to the Cays so as to get a "better understanding" of the situation.

"You know what we will have to do if certain things prevail, but certainly, I know that both the Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, are going to be doing something immediately," Mr. Pickersgill said.

He noted that the area is "very important because that is the breeding ground for conchs and lobster. The conch industries produce about two per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)", he said, noting that the area must be in the best state of health in terms of safety and sanitation.

The Pedro Cays are regionally important seabird nesting and roosting areas and also provide nesting grounds for several endangered turtle species such as hawksbills and loggerheads.

With an estimated 99 per cent of mainland Jamaica's reefs in danger, the coral reefs on Pedro Bank are vital to long-term reef conservation in the country. In July 2004 the bank was declared an underwater cultural heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) as it is a veritable treasure trove of sixteenth to seventeenth century shipwrecks and artifacts.