The Gleaner: KINGSTON, JA – A World Bank consultant to the Climate Resilience in the Fisheries Sector Project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has expressed concern that most Jamaican judges presiding over cases of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are out of touch with the laws governing these crimes, as well as the devastating impact they have on the marine ecosystem and economy of countries like Jamaica.

Project Manager Selena Ledgister used Thursday’s presentation of a twin-engine, seven-person capacity patrol boat valued at US$165,000 to the National Fisheries Authority which took place at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club, Palisadoes, to voice her discontent with what she described as the many “slaps on the wrist” given to repeat offenders.

She charged that through their ignorance of the relevant laws governing the fishing industry, members of the judiciary are unwittingly aiding and abetting in the continued irreparable devastation and long-term negative impact of the marine ecosystem.

“The issue is that the judiciary is not familiar with the Fishing Act and the legislation; that you can be fined up to $3 million. So they (judges) fine them (fishermen) like a little $20,000 because they feel sorry for them – that they are poor people trying to eke out a living,” Ledgister claims. “But they (judges) don’t understand the damage caused when they (fishers) go into these marine environments, the No Fishing zone and use dynamite and other methods to stun the fish en masse, often killing other marine species which then go to waste.”

The US$165,000 boat which was presented to the National Fisheries Authority by the World Bank on Thursday is powered by two outboard four-strokes, digital electric-controlled Yamaha brand engines. These are compatible with 89/90 octane, E-10 blended petrol which are fitted to an 11.5 metre fibre reinforced Panga-type body and has a 330- gallon capacity fuel tank

The World Bank consultant is recommending training for judges, clerks of court and even members of the marine police, to make them familiar with the provisions of the Fisheries Act which was passed into law on October 12, 2018, replacing the 1976 Fishing Industry Act. This, she believes, would go a far way in helping to realise the objectives of the Climate Resilience in the Fisheries Sector Project which was approved by the World Bank in March 2018 and will be executed over a five-year period by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. A major objective of the project is to increase the adoption of climate resilient practices among targeted fishing and fish-farming communities in Jamaica.

The acquisition of the boat will better enable the National Fisheries Authority to address the challenges of IUU fishing, according to chief executive officer of the authority, Courtney Cole, who explained that for the 2019/20 close enforcement period it confiscated 856 kilogrammes of conch and 194 kilogrammes of lobsters, making 33 arrests. However, these arrests were made along the supply chain only – in restaurants, hotels and cookshops.

“The acquisition of this asset will now facilitate its tactical deployment to combat primary harvesting of fish in all our fish sanctuaries, effectively consolidating our overall enforcement efforts,” he disclosed.

  • Top Feature Photo: Jamaica Bay