MONTEGO BAY — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, toured the Airport Point fish sanctuary in Montego Bay on Thursday August 9.
Mr. Montague participated in assembling a number of units, known as EcoReefs, which are ceramic based branching structures, designed to mimic a species of branching coral that has disappeared from Jamaican reefs due to storms and pollution.
After assembling the artificial reefs, the Minister assisted in placing and establishing the reefs in the sanctuary.
The tour also included Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry, Project Manager in the Fisheries Division, Peter Reid, Chief Technical Director, Dr. Marc Panton and Manager of the Montego Bay Marine Park, Brian Zane.
Speaking with JIS News after the tour, Mr. Montague said that the Ministry was pleased with the project, Improving Jamaica’s Agricultural Productivity (IJAP), which is involved in the installation of approximately 350 units of artificial reefs in the Montego Bay Airport Point fish sanctuary. He thanked the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for sponsoring the programme.
“We have nine fish sanctuaries across the country, and the Ministry has been doing a number of things to enhance the fishing industry and keep it sustainable, so that in years to come our fisherfolk will (still) have a living,” he told JIS News.
He also appealed to members of the fishing sector to partner with the Ministry, as without their active participation there would not be a sustainable fishing industry.
He said that the artificial reefs being established will help to regenerate growth within the marine park.
“This is a project costing some $18 million, and we are doing this in order to resuscitate and regenerate our reefs and give space for the fish species to multiply and to establish a sanctuary for them,” Mr. Montague said.
He indicated that the Ministry has developed and introduced a licensing regime based on international standards which is open, transparent and accountable within the conch and lobster industries, as there were serious challenges in poaching from overseas persons.
“We have started a fishing survey to look at our natural resources… and have changed the regulations to move up the mesh size from an inch and quarter to an inch and a half, because we have to try to protect the smaller fishes and we are very serious about enforcement in our sanctuaries,” Mr. Montague told JIS News.
After the tour, the Minister met with the management and fisherfolk at the River Bay Fishing Village off Howard Cooke Highway, to discuss the way forward.
The fisheries sector contributes to direct and indirect employment of over 40,000 persons, and contributes to the economy of many fishing communities.
By GLENIS ROSE, JIS Reporter