The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with several partnering entities, for the management and protection of the country’s marine resources, on Thursday (December 9).
The agreement, which was signed at the Ministry, Hope Gardens, Kingston, is valid for the remainder of the fiscal year and is worth some $23 million.
It was signed among seven entities: Alloa Fishermen Cooperative Limited.; Bluefield’s Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society; Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM); Montego Bay Marine Park Trust; Oracabessa Foundation; Negril Environment Protection Trust; and Sandals Foundation.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (left), hands President, Bluefields Bay Fisher’s Friendly Society, Wolde Kristos, a signed copy of a Memorandum of Understanding for the management and protection of the country’s marine resources at the Ministry, Hope Gardens, Kingston on Thursday (December 9).
Under the MoU, some nine fish sanctuaries have been established, to relieve fishing in the following areas: Orange Bay, Hanover; Bluefields Bay in Westmoreland; Galleon in St. Elizabeth; Salt Harbour in Clarendon; Parts of Galleon Harbour and Three Bays Area in Old Harbour, St. Catherine; Montego Bay Marine Park, St. James; Discovery Bay, St. Ann; and Oracabessa Bay, St. Mary.
The sanctuaries will operate as ‘no fishing zones’, and will allow for the protection of juvenile fish in order to increase populations. The sanctuaries will be managed in partnership with the Ministry and local non-governmental organisations.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, who signed on behalf of the government, said the agreement was an important achievement for the Ministry. He said successive governments have tried to find ways to protect the marine resources, but coral reef fish stock continues to decline.
“We have not been as successful as we ought to be, in that, if one tracks the data on our marine resources, over time, we will have no choice but to conclude that we are losing our fish stock at a faster rate than the species capacity to replenish itself, and that equals instability,” he argued.
He stated that the negative implications of the practices were obvious, as it affected a number of interests and stakeholders.
“Starting with our fishers and their families, who depend on the resources of the sea to survive, over time we have seen where they are catching less in terms of weight and also in terms of quality, and that has impacted on their bottom line, their capacity to survive and to earn a living from our marine resources,” he said.
The Minister said he hoped that with the establishment of the nine sanctuaries, over time, with proper enforcement and compliance, there will be a more sustainable fishery stock within the island’s coastal zones.
“These nine sanctuaries represent over 5,000 hectares of protected space that will allow our fish stock to expand freely without the threat of any one,” he said.
“With proper surveillance and compliance we believe it represents a tremendous opportunity for our marine resources to replenish itself, unencumbered and without the (risk) of the threat that they are accustomed to,” he added.
Dr. Tufton also noted that the Ministry has indentified some 3,000 fishers who reside in communities, in and around the sanctuaries, who have been asked to comply with the new rules of the MoU.
“We have engaged those communities and we are working with the NGOs so that the relationship of securing those sanctuaries is not an adversarial one, but is one that recognises the need to preserve those areas in the interest of the very fishers who depend on those marine resources to survive,” he said.