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Hefty $11m fine for Dom Rep poachers

Published:Monday | April 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
The Dominican Republic vessel and its crew members in custody of the Marine Police in downtown Kingston. They were caught illegally fishing in Jamaican waters.

The 59 fishermen from the Dominican Republic who pleaded guilty to fishing illegally in Jamaica's territorial waters were yesterday remanded, pending payment of the $11-million cumulative fine imposed during a special sitting of the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

The captain was fined $2.5 million, while his two deputies were ordered to pay $750,000 each, and the other 56 fishermen each fined $125,000.

Meanwhile, 16 of the 24 Jamaican fishermen who were also caught by the Jamaica Coast Guard on Wednesday, April 5 and charged with breaches of the Fishing Industry Act pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their case was adjourned to Monday, April 24.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Assan Thompson, who is in charge of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's border security branch, told The Gleaner that the hefty fine should prove a deterrent for would-be poachers.

"This one will send an extremely strong message to persons who might want to come to poach in our waters. I think this one will say to them, 'Don't enter the Jamaican waters,'" he said.

"The catch of 7,600 pounds of fish was forfeited to the Crown. Also, most of the fishing equipment. Save and except for conventional rules, which ask us to give them a small portion of their equipment to go back [home], most of it will be seized and sold at public auction, and the money goes into the Consolidated Fund."

Thompson made it clear that the delinquent fishermen would remain prisoners of the State until the fines are paid.

"The last occasion, the payments were swiftly made, and we are hoping that this will be the situation today, but until the monies are properly paid and signed off, they will remain in our custody. We have been taking care of them since they were arrested and will continue to exercise that duty of care, but until the payments are made, they will stay with us," the ACP said.