A new Fisheries Act, aimed at further safeguarding the local sector, was passed in the Senate on October 12.
The Bill, which will replace the Fishing Industry Act of 1975, will establish the legal and regulatory framework that creates the enabling environment for the sector’s sustainable growth.
This includes ramping up measures to tackle poaching and unregulated fishing in Jamaican waters.
The new legislation will facilitate the establishment of a proper licensing authority equipped with the requisite provisions and safeguards that ensure transparency.
Additionally, a new category of licences will also be instituted. These include a local fishing vessel licence; foreign fishing vessel licence; commercial fishing licence; recreational fishing licence; high seas fishing vessel licence; commercial aquaculture licence; and a licence to operate a commercial aquaculture facility.
Piloting the Bill, Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the Bill seeks to ensure that the industry is modernised and is consistent with international best practices and norms.
It also seeks to provide for and promote the effective management and sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture.
Senator Johnson smith noted that one of the main features is the formation of the various administrative bodies which will include: a new national fisheries authority, the national fisheries advisory council, and the appeals tribunal.
“The fisheries authority will have the responsibility to manage, develop, regulate the fisheries and aquaculture industries. Its functions will include the granting, variation, suspension and cancellation of licences and authorisations, so it will be creating a much more transparent and effective institutional mechanism for licensing,” she said.
Conservative estimates indicate that Jamaica loses in excess of US$10 million annually from poaching, particularly of spiny lobsters on the Pedro Banks and US$1.3 million on conch.
In 2017, there were approximately 25,000 registered fishers in the country.
The revised legislation makes it mandatory for all persons fishing in Jamaican waters to have a valid licence issued by the relevant authority.
Persons fishing in a pond situated on a single private property and persons fishing with a line from the seashore have been exempted from obtaining a licence.
Under the legislation, fisherfolks who fail to carry upon his person the prescribed fishing licence while he is fishing can be fined a maximum of $10,000. It also provides a maximum fine of $50,000 for failure to report a fishing vessel that is lost, becomes permanently unserviceable and is no longer seaworthy.
It also imposes a fine for failure to stow fishing gear in a prescribed manner; failure to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of a fishery inspector; or for leaving decayed or dying fish in any net or other fishing equipment.
The Bill was passed with 25 amendments.