Gleaner Editors' Forum | Fishing stakeholders finally get legislation they've wanted for 20 years
Fisheries specialist Dr Karl Aiken is maintaining that once the new Fisheries Bill becomes law, the introduction of significantly increased fines, penalties, and prison terms will act as a disincentive to illicit activities in the fishing industry.
The bill, which will replace the Fisheries Act of 1976, was passed in the House of Representatives in mid-July and has gone on to the Senate for approval.
Aiken, a director of the Caribbean Coastal Management (C-CAM) Foundation, was addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday to mark the organisation's 20th year of operation.
"It's not just poachers, but people who fish in closed season, people who land undersized lobsters, people who breach the control factors within fish sanctuaries, international poachers who, thus far, used to get back their boats after just a month or two. The fines will significantly increase. Seizure will take the place of international poachers," said Aiken.
"We're hoping that when it's introduced fully, the first benefit will be the disincentive because if a fisherman knows that he can pay a fine of J$1,000 for taking hundreds of undersized lobster and conch, he's going to do it. Now, there is real prison time, money, and also gear seizure built into this bill," he added.
He continued: "So rather than say, 'Mr Brown, give me J$1,000 in court', it says, 'Mr Brown, I'm going to fine you J$100,000, plus we're seizing all your equipment - your boat, your engine, all your nets, and your fish traps. In addition to that, and if you forfeit those, you go to jail for seven-eight months.' Those are the sort of things we've be asking for, for the last 20 years, and finally, it is coming into being," he reasoned.
Aiken also implored the Government to put in place both the financial and human resources to properly enforce the act once it becomes law.
"The law without enforcement is a dog without teeth," he asserted.
"There are over 250 fishing beaches in Jamaica and just about six that produce 30-40 per cent of all the island's fish catches, so we want to target those big ones, but there are hundreds around the island, and we need to look at some of those in each of the parishes," he concluded.