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JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture is looking at using artificial shelters to replenish lobster stock in the fish sanctuaries being established across the island, and will be seeking private sector support in the process.
These shelters, called condominiums, have already proved to be a success, where they are being used in lobster breeding at the Bowden Fish Sanctuary in St. Thomas.
Acting Director of the Marine Branch of the Fisheries Division, Ian Jones, tells JIS News that a pilot project using lobster condominiums was started by the Fisheries Division at Bowden in 2006, with 25 to 30 concrete blocks, in two-tiered layers, placed on the ocean floor.
“The (condominiums) now indicate significant accumulation of juvenile lobsters,” he says, noting that while definitive data on increased numbers is still incomplete, fishers in the area report seeing more lobsters since the project began. He says the plan now is to move to the use of “casitas” for sheltering the more mature lobsters.
Mr. Jones, who was speaking to JIS News after a tour of the Black River Bay Fish Sanctuary in St. Elizabeth last week, says that having learnt a lot from the Bowden project, a mapping of Jamaica is to be done to identify good locations for these artificial shelters.
He tells JIS News that the fishing sanctuary in Black River Bay has the right characteristics to support lobster breeding, and partnerships with private sector entities will be explored to assist in establishing such a facility.
He notes further that the new Fisheries Act, provides a welcome supportive framework for the process.
In the meantime, Director of the Fisheries Department, Andre Kong, informs that once the “ecological factors are ascertained correct,” the use of the shelters will be more widely employed.
“Jamaican lobster stocks are in decline due to over fishing and degradation of special habitats and artificial shelters offer very good options for stock replenishment,” he points out.
He explains that the artificial shelters provide sanctuaries for juvenile lobsters to hide from predators so more of them can survive to maturity. The condominiums are replaced by casitas, which provide additional shelters as lobsters grow. Once the lobsters mature they migrate to the open waters and reefs outside of the sanctuary, where they can be lawfully caught by fishers.
The technique, he says, is well known and widely used in countries such as Cuba and the Bahamas. Cuba, he says, has the highest lobster production in the Caribbean, with an annual export market value of approximately US$100 million. Cuba uses the casitas as both fishing and shelter devices, as lobsters tend to congregate around the casitas.
Dr. Kong tells JIS News that Jamaica and Cuba have been working together to transfer the technology locally. He points out that the shelters cannot be randomly placed as other supporting factors such as the presence of sea grass beds, coral reefs and certain algae, are important considerations in getting the lobsters to not only congregate around the shelters, but also to survive.
Lobster breeding, he notes, is very complex, involving 13 different metamorphoses over a 6-13 month period, from the hatching to the small adult stage.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, in the meantime, points to the diverse business opportunities that fish sanctuaries offer including diving, snorkeling, glass bottom boat tours and others activities that will not disturb the ecology.
He says that the Black River Bay sanctuary is ideal for the development of such an attraction, as it is located between the popular hotel districts of Treasure Beach and Whitehouse.
In order to safeguard the pristine environment of the area, Dr. Tufton informs that developments in and around the sanctuary will be carefully screened for ecological impact.
Cabinet, in 2008, approved the establishment of nine fish sanctuaries in seven critical areas across the island, to complement the existing two sanctuaries at the Bowden Inner Harbour in St. Catherine and Bogue Island Lagoon in Montego Bay, St. James.
In addition to Black River Bay, the others will be established within the Portland Bight between St. Catherine and Clarendon; Bluefields Bay, Westmoreland; Orange Bay, Hanover; Montego Bay, St. James; Discovery Bay, St. Ann, and Oracabessa Bay, St. Mary.