The Government is moving swiftly to implement stricter penalties for persons who fish illegally in Jamaica’s waters.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, speaking at his Hope Gardens headquarters earlier this week, said that the new Fisheries Act, which is currently being drafted, will address a range of issues governing interaction with marine resources. He said that there will be increased fines for illegal fisheries.
“You’re going to see fines under the new Fisheries Act that will move up to $5 million and more explicit prescription as it relates to forfeiture of assets that are involved in illegal poaching of our marine resources. Our position is that we have to send a very strong signal to those attempting so to do,” he said.
Dr. Tufton said that the Government is concerned, and has been for some time “about illegal poaching taking place in our territorial waters where our marine resources have been and are being on a continual basis, exploited by foreign vessels”.
According to the Agriculture Minister, illegal poaching of conch and lobster, over the past five years, has deprived the sector of more than US$130 million.
“We take from our waters, approximately 400 metric tonnes of lobster per year, about 1/3 of which is exported and the rest is consumed locally. It is estimated that through illegal poaching, we lose as much as twice of what we benefit from our waters. So, we lose up to 800 metric tonnes per year because of illegal poaching,” he lamented.
Dr. Tufton said that the activity has several implications namely, the loss of revenue and livelihood “because the illegal activity competes with our own local fishers, who earn a living from reaping those resources that are rightfully ours, according to international laws governing the sea”.
The Agriculture Minister informed that within the last year alone, there have been 42 sightings of vessels fishing illegally in Jamaica’s waters.
The most recent incident involved the Jamaican coast guard seizing a Honduras vessel and its occupants, who were caught fishing illegally in Jamaican waters.