BRAVING the high seas to fish has been a way of life for many Jamaicans over the years, particularly those living along the coast.
This activity has provided the population with a reliable source of well-needed protein, and a livelihood for the many fisherfolk.
However, concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the sector, based on the size and quantity of fish caught, and the fishing methods used by some.
The concerns are further compounded by the effects of climate change; the destruction or loss of fish habitats; overfishing; pollution; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and natural events, such as hurricanes.
The Government, with assistance from local and international organisations, is on a continuous drive to make the fishing sector a sustainable one.
During an address at the recent launch of the Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative (C-FISH) in Bluefields, Westmoreland, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke, noted that the ministry, through its Fisheries division, has put a number of programmes in place to support and safeguard the fishing sector.
“We have been working towards the completion of a modern fisheries legislation that provides a contemporary framework for the regulation of the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors. Integral to this is the development and refinement of a National Fisheries Policy for Cabinet submission, which embraces the principles and tenets of the Common Fisheries Policy, including the ecosystems approach to fisheries and aquaculture development and management,” he pointed out.
Clarke informed that the policy and supporting legislation are in their final phases of preparation.
Additional work is being done through the establishment of a number of fish sanctuaries, 14 of which have already been set up across the island.
The C-FISH initiative is one of the collaborative projects that are aimed at making the fishing sector a sustainable one.
Through this project, four grants totalling approximately US$400,000 ($36 million) — from which six of Jamaica's established fish sanctuaries will benefit — were signed at the CFISH launch. The money has been provided under the United Kingdom based Department for International Development (DFID)-funded CFISH initiative.
With a budget of $302 million, the four-year initiative will support the operations of fish sanctuaries in Jamaica and four other Caribbean countries. The Caribbean Climate Change Centre (CCCC) will spearhead the implementation of the project across the region, while the funds will be channelled through CARIBSAVE Partnership.
In his address at the launch, Project Director for CARIBSAVE Partnership Dr Owen Day explained that one of the main reasons why Jamaica was able to benefit from the grant from DFID was because of the commitment the Government of Jamaica, through its Fisheries Division, has shown towards the development of a sustainable fisheries sector.
“The Government of Jamaica and the Fisheries Division have established a network of 14 fish sanctuaries around the island and have put in place laws and policies, and mobilised resources that give the community based organisations the legal mandate and the means to manage these sanctuaries,” he noted.
Dr Day said the Government should be commended for what he described as an “enlightened participatory approach to natural resource management”.
The fisheries sector was not spared during the passage of Hurricane Sandy on October 24, suffering damage estimated to be in excess of $90 million.
“I have given instructions to the Fisheries Management and Development Fund Board to provide an allocation of $20 million as immediate relief to those in the sector who suffered significantly and for infrastructure clean-up and repairs, where appropriate,” the minister told the fisherfolk in attendance.
Clarke also noted that over the next three years, the ministry will be investing some US$8 million in the development of eight agroparks in six parishes, some of which will be fitted with the requisite infrastructure to ensure sustainable fish production through aquaculture development.