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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has emphasised the need for greater collaboration between the fisheries officers, the marine police, and the Coast Guard, in enforcing the laws governing the fisheries sector.
“Our approach to enforcement is that we are going to have to depend on strengthening the authorities that are responsible for enforcement..there has to be a greater sense of co-ordination between the three, and I intend, as part of the way forward, to have discussions with them. We have started already, we are going to continue to try and get that level of co-ordination, so, the enforcement,” Dr. Tufton said.
He was speaking at the fourth in a series of public consultations and awareness fora, focusing on the fisheries sector, held at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on October 15.
The Minister noted, however, that “no matter how many marine police and Coast Guards you have, it’s not going to work if there isn’t self-enforcement mechanisms in place. And what we plan to do come next year, we are going to be spending a lot of time and effort, even if it means bringing more fisheries officers on board, to work with fishers on a community level.”
Dr. Tufton noted that the Government would also be working with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to monitor the fishing sanctuaries, eight of which are to be established to support the existing two. “We are going to provide them (NGOs) with resources, and so for every declared fish sanctuary, there is going to be an NGO with the resources to monitor those sanctuaries, to ensure that the laws are observed, and to work with the Marine Police to support that,” he said.
The Minister said he was of the belief that “Ninety-nine point nine per cent of fishers are honest, hardworking people, who want the best for the industry. But the point one per cent can spoil the whole bunch, and give everybody a bad name. And I believe, if we have to identify those people and single them out, I am prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the enforcement takes place. But it is going to be a community effort, it’s going to be a partnership, that we will have to work on to get this process going.”
Dr. Tufton further pointed out that more resources were being taken out of the sea, than could be replenished. “At that rate, one day you are going to wake up and you go to fish and you are not going to catch anything. I am sure you are experiencing declines in catch right now..But we have to get to the point where we allow the fish and the other resources in the sea to replenish itself. Therefore, we have to put in place some infrastructure, (and) some enforcement mechanisms, because (it’s) one thing to have the law (but) if we don’t have monitoring and enforcement, we’re not going to get anywhere,” he stated.
Turning to the purpose of discussions with the fishers across the island, the Agriculture Minister noted that they would inform the various stakeholders “as to what we’re trying to do to reform, to modernise the fisheries sector, and to solicit from you, some of the issues of concern that you have, so we can be in a position to act on those issues, to clarify (them), and to establish a common understanding as to what we are trying to do.”
He said that the objective of the consultations, which have been held in St. Elizabeth, Montego Bay, St. James, and St. Mary, is to pursue a policy supported by legislation, that will engage a process of sustainable fishing.
The consultations also aim to foster among stakeholders, a better understanding of the major elements of the draft National Fisheries Policy, in addition to some of the key provisions of the new Fisheries Act, as well as inform of some of the priority programmes and projects of the Fisheries Division for this year.
Dr. Tufton further informed that the consultations stem from the proposed review of the 1956 and 1976 fisheries legislation, based on study that was supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to develop a policy.
The Agriculture Minister further noted that the guidelines of the legislation are being worked on. “We are hoping that come next year, we are going to be entering into new arrangements in terms of how we operate, how we conduct ourselves, in terms of the fisheries sector. It is in all our interest, because you depend on the resources of the sea to survive. It is in our interest as a Government because we want you to have economic activity that allows you sustainability,” he asserted.
Dr. Tufton said that the feedback from participants has been positive so far. “All of them (consultations) have been well-attended, and I’ve been very impressed with the attendance. Many have said this is the first time that they have seen the level of engagement in the sector, and we are happy for that because we believe it’s an important sector. This Government takes the position that the fishers of Jamaica, are critical to the development of many communities,” he said.