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Senior Manager for Projects at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Gregory Thomas, has called on fisherfolk in Negril, Westmoreland, to become better stewards of the aquatic ecosystem, in order to maintain a healthy marine environment and sustainable fisheries.

In an interview following a recent coral outplanting exercise, at the Orange Bay Fish Sanctuary, in Hanover, Mr. Thomas said while NEPA is working overtime to preserve the island’s marine environment through various initiatives, public support will reap greater success.

He pointed out that one way in which fisherfolk can support NEPA’s efforts is to help enforce the fishing laws by reporting breaches of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Mr. Thomas also reminded fisherfolk that preserving the marine environment is an essential measure for the sustainability of their livelihood.

“There are also several other things fisherfolk can do to protect marine life. These include not operating motorboats within areas that are prohibited from such operations, not conducting spearfishing, ensuring they do not fish in the sanctuaries and protected areas, so that spawns can grow into big fish and they can replenish themselves. They can also ensure that when they go out they don’t dispose of whatever waste they have into the sea,” he advised.

Meanwhile, Manager for the Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWEco) Project, Jamaica, Loureene Jones, said under the IWEco initiative, NEPA will be engaging residents, including local fisherfolk in Negril and its environs, to increase their awareness about the value of safeguarding the environment, including wetlands and the marine ecosystem.

“The wider community is still not aware of the project and the expected outcome of the project, so we have designed activities geared towards the wider communities to try and boost our presence and their buy-in and uptake of the activities, so we will have some sustainability,” she pointed out.

Objectives of the IWEco Project are to restore historical hydrological and other physical processes in the Negril Great Morass, enhance and re-establish native vegetation communities to provide habitat to wetland biological resources, and implement institutional arrangements to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area.

The project is being funded by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Environment Programme.

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