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New Fisheries Bill To Be Tabled In Parliament

New Fisheries Bill To Be Tabled In Parliament
Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, addressing the Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union Limited’s Annual General Meeting at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday, April 25.
(Media Credit: Melroy Sterling)

KINGSTON (JIS) -- A new Fisheries Bill, aimed at further safeguarding the local sector, is to be tabled in Parliament shortly. The Bill, which will replace the Fisheries Act of 1976, 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, Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, has said. He was speaking at the Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union Limited’s Annual General Meeting at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday, April 25.

Mr. Samuda said the new legislation will facilitate the establishment of a proper licensing authority equipped with the requisite provisions and safeguards that ensure transparency.

He further indicated that new categories 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.

Consequent on these provisions and the attendant engagements, the Minister said the authority’s establishment “will ensure that we monitor carefully how our industry is managed”.

Mr. Samuda said a regime for ticketing offences would also be incorporated in the new legislation. This, he explained, would be similar to what obtains with traffic violations where an offender, when ticketed, pays the applicable fine at the tax office.

Highlighting the challenges associated with illegal fishing, he stressed that “there should be no sympathy for anyone who poaches in our territory, because doing that is a wilful act of depriving our people of an opportunity to maximise their wealth”.

In this regard, Mr. Samuda advised that his Ministry is collaborating with the National Security Ministry to strengthen surveillance of Jamaica’s territorial waters, adding that drones and patrol vessels have been acquired for this undertaking.

Conservative estimates indicate that Jamaica loses in excess of US$10 million annually from poaching, particularly of spiny lobsters and conch.

Mr. Samuda urged fisherfolk to support the proposed measures under the new Bill and report illicit activities.

“We are going to rely on you, as stakeholders, to play by the rules. The rules will be outlined in the Fisheries Bill, and we are expecting you to (abide) by (them),” he emphasised.

Mr. Samuda contended that this was imperative in light of the fishing sector’s pivotal importance to Jamaica’s economy.

This, he said, was evident in the fact that more than 20,000 fisherfolk have been registered since the 1970s, with approximately 200,000 Jamaicans benefiting indirectly from industry activities.