Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, on Thursday (August 13), officially launched the new headquarters of the White River Fish Sanctuary, located on the Old White River Road in St. Ann.
The facility forms part of a $16-million investment from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and other stakeholders to ensure sustainability of the fish sanctuary, which is being managed by the White River Marine Association.
The structure features an office, a tank refill station, equipment storage area, bathroom facilities and more.
It will also act as a focal point for training, education and other marine activities, including coastal cleanups. The Association’s patrol unit is also docked nearby and is used by the entity’s wardens, who are also fishermen, to enforce and protect the special fisheries conservation area.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Bartlett indicated that the Association has been instrumental in increasing the fish population and restoring coral reefs since operations began several years ago.
“To the fisherfolk, the wardens and the leaders of this sanctuary, I want to say congratulations for the wonderful work you have done, and I assure you that my Ministry will be there again to give you all the support you need to bring back fishing in this area to the high levels as in the past,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett indicated that preserving local marine life is essential to the environment and tourism, and it is the duty of every Jamaican to maintain a balance of the ecosystem and the nation’s assets.
“What today’s launch of the White River Fish Sanctuary represents is sustainable tourism, where we take a holistic approach to the sector’s current and future economic, social and environmental impact. We are also addressing the needs of the visitors, industries, environment and communities and we are building meaningful public-private partnerships,” Mr. Bartlett outlined.
For his part, Director of the White River Marine Association, Kyle Mais, noted that the new facility will enhance conservation efforts as well as lift the “standard of the entire White River fishing village area”.
“The sanctuary doors opened in January 2018 with a goal to increase fish by a mass of 500 per cent in five years and to further plant 5,000 pieces of coral in the period. We are well on the way to surpass these goals,” said Mr. Mais.