Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Months-long cleanup for Pedro Cays

Published:Saturday | May 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries just managed to meet the deadline set by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for submitting a work plan for cleaning up the filth and garbage on the Pedro Cays, Jamaica's premier offshore fishing grounds.

Chief Executive Officer of NEPA Peter Knight disclosed that the requisite documents were received from the agriculture ministry only on the final day, Friday, April 24 and a review of that information was now taking place.

Under the Enforcement Notices served on Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Commissioner of Lands Elizabeth Stair, on March 25, NEPA had given them 30 days to come up with a plan to address the deplorable unsanitary conditions at the facilities, where most of Jamaica's conch for export, as well as some of the lobster for the overseas market, are harvested. Failure to do so, it warned, would have resulted in closure of the fishing trade and removal of all fisher folk.

Failure to comply could also have seen Stair and Stanberry facing the courts, in keeping with the Enforcement Notices, which state in part: "If you fail to comply with this Notice, you may be prosecuted, and the minister may take such steps as he considers appropriate to ensure the cessation of the activity to which this notice relates."

The notices, signed by Knight, painted a damning picture of the "release of human excreta" on the Pedro Cays, noting that the "absence of appropriate management (facilities for the containment, treatment or disposal) of human excreta" posed a serious threat to the natural resources and public health of the area. If left unchecked, NEPA insisted these activities would be likely to affect the marine environment by reducing the water quality, subsequently having a negative impact on the marine flora and fauna (inclusive of coral reefs, conch and lobster fisheries) and also affecting the health of persons using the area.

transporting garbage

In confirming that the requisite major clean-up was in its preliminary stage, Stanberry said the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) would be left out of the onsite clean-up operations at Pedro Cays.

"We (are) going to use the contracting process to get the garbage to shore to a particular site, and then NSMWA will collect it from there because they have had a challenge getting it from Pedro Cays and transporting it by sea here," he told The Gleaner.

Stanberry explained that intense clean-up operations would be ongoing for at least three months to address the removal of solid waste, using entities other than the NSWMA. With respect to the need for proper sanitary facilities, he said this was also being addressed, a process that had started long before the Enforcement Notices were served.