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Cabinet has approved the establishment of nine fishing sanctuaries in seven critical areas around the island’s coastline, to complement the existing two sanctuaries.
Making the announcement at today’s (December 23), post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, noted that this is part of Government’s efforts to take steps to begin the process of encouraging more sustainable fisheries, while legislation is being prepared for tabling in Parliament.
The two existing sanctuaries are located at Bogue Island Lagoon, in Montego Bay, St. James, and Bowden Inner Harbour, in St. Thomas, while the new sanctuaries will be established within the Portland Bight in St. Catherine and Clarendon; Black River Bay, St. Elizabeth; Bluefields Bay, Westmoreland; Orange Bay, Hanover; Montego Bay, St. James; Discovery Bay, St. Ann, and Oracabessa Bay, St. Mary.
The nine sanctuaries will directly benefit 2,736 fishers, including 1,381 in Portland Bight; 367 in Black River Bay; 329 in Bluefields Bay; 80 in Orange Bay; 257 in Montego Bay; 148 in Discovery Bay; and 174 in Oracabessa.
To enforce, manage and establish these sanctuaries, the cost will be $36.92 million in the first year, and $34.92 million annually, thereafter.
Explaining the selection criteria for the sanctuaries, Dr. Tufton informed that, “the area must have important ecological characteristics of mangrove wetlands neighbouring a shallow bay area, with some seagrass coverage. These areas are known to be important nursery grounds for many and perhaps, most juvenile reef fish species. The inclusion of reefs will allow for the protection of critical growth and feeding habitat for the species being protected by the sanctuaries.”
Other criteria include being relatively pristine, with minimal, if any, impact from all sources of pollution; there must be an agreement for the establishment of a sanctuary from the fishers and other important stakeholders; and a group of stakeholders must be established, who are willing to partner with the Fisheries Division of the Ministry, in the management of the sanctuaries.
The sanctuaries will be managed through a collaborative effort between the Government and local community organisations, formalised by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Fisheries Division and the collaborating organisations.
The seven organisations that have agreed to collaborate with the Division to manage the sanctuaries include: Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation; Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Group; St. Mary Fishermen’s Co-operative and the Oracabessa Foundation; Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society; and the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust.
Two management arrangements have been agreed on between the Ministry and its partners, including: an annual grant to assist in offsetting recurrent operation cost for the management of the sanctuaries; and in cases where the participating organisation lacks capacity, the Fisheries Division will assign two fisheries wardens per fish sanctuary and underwrite the recurrent monitoring and enforcement expenses.
Dr. Tufton said the establishment of the sanctuaries is important, as it “signals the start of an important process, based on a commitment the Government made to ensure that our fisheries stocks are not only preserved, but that we have facilities to encourage expansion of that critical stock.”
The establishment of the sanctuaries forms part of the restructuring of the fisheries sector. New legislation to replace the 1975 Fisheries Act is to be tabled in Parliament early in 2009, which will see a new framework of engagement for the sector, in keeping with the thrust for more sustainable fishing practices. The Bill will be accompanied by a Fisheries Policy.