The fishing industry, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, received significant attention during 2010, with protection and conservation of the country’s fish stock being the priority.
As part of this thrust, the Ministry trained a number of the island’s fisheries officers in a five-week extension training course at its Fisheries Division, Marcus Garvey Drive, in Kingston.
The course formed part of capacity building activities being implemented under the sustainable marine fisheries management component of the Improving Jamaica Agriculture Productivity Project (IJAPP). Just over 30 fisheries officers and instructors participated in the course.
They are currently providing extension services to the over 40,000 fisherfolk, particularly educating them on how to ensure their safety at sea; what measures to take so that only mature fish are caught; and how to protect the fish sanctuaries for sustainability of the sector .
The IJAPP is a three-year project, funded at a cost of just over C$5 million by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The course was the second in a series of technical training programmes being executed for fisheries officers and fisherfolk, under the initiative, focusing on safety at sea. Participants included personnel working with stakeholders at the six beaches earmarked for rehabilitation - Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine; Rocky Point, Clarendon; Black River and Calabash Bay, St. Elizabeth; and Negril and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
Under IJAPP ground was also broken on November 10 for a $36 million rehabilitation of the Rocky Point Fishing Beach, Clarendon.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, said the work at the facility was in response to what the Government has seen, as well as representations made by political representatives for improved areas to do business.
The Ministry also worked on completing the new design work to curb the erosion of the Alligator Pond Fishing Beach, in Manchester.
Much of the original updating plans were shelved because of the erosion of the shoreline, in order for the Ministry to reassess how the problem could be better solved.
Dr. Tufton said that corrective work would be done, so that the over 100 persons involved in fishing there, would not have any major disruption of their livelihood.
In July, the Minister launched the anticipated fish wire project, which imposes a new minimum size for the mesh wire used in fish pots.
The new minimum size of one and a half inch mesh wire, replaces the one and a quarter inch mesh wire being used in the construction of fish pots. The move increases the minimum size of the fish which can be caught and keeps out immature fish, contributing to the sustainability of the island’s fish resources.
Addressing the launch at the Calabash Bay Fishing Beach, in St. Elizabeth, which was refurbished at a cost of $4 million, Dr. Tufton explained that the smaller mesh wire is the standard global practice, and a much more sustainable method of catching fish.
“It will only take from the sea, fish of a certain size, and that will exclude the fish that we want to stay in the sea and get a little bigger,” the Minister said.
He added that while the move might not be popular with fishers, it would bring rewards to all persons who earn their living from the industry.
The pilot project targeted fishers from three parishes - St. Elizabeth, St. James and St. Thomas. Four hundred and fifty fishers were selected for the programme, each of whom was given a roll of 1.5 inch mesh wire.
The Ministry also embarked on a new phase of the drive against praedial larceny, aimed at safeguarding Jamaica’s lobster population, to ensure its long term sustainability.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dr. Marc Panton, explained that the thrust was underpinned by revisions to the Fisheries Act, in regard to fishing for lobster, particularly where this occurs outside the season, between July and March.
Dr. Panton pointed out that the new thrust entailed, among other things, the hiring of a Praedial Larceny Prevention Co-ordinator, to ensure that no harvesting of lobster occurs outside of the season.