Fishy business - More concerns that hefty fines in proposed legislation could hurt fisherfolk
With the Lower House of Parliament approving the 25 amendments to the proposed Fisheries Act by the Upper House, there are increasing fears by members of the local fishing industry that the new legislation could ruin their livelihood.
The legislation is aimed at safeguarding the local fisheries sector, but the men and women who make numerous treks to sea daily are adamant that it smells rotten.
One major concern of the fisherfolk is the $10,000 fine for persons fishing in Jamaican waters without a licence.
While they say they understand and agree that all persons fishing in Jamaican waters should have a valid licence, they argue that persons sometimes forget the document.
At the Portmore fishing village in St Catherine, a boat captain who gave his name as 'Bappen' said he forgot his licence while going to sea, seven years ago, but at that time the fine was only $100.
"More time we jump from boat to boat so it will happen that you will all leave your thing in a one boat. So them stop me out a sea, me never have the licence to show at the time, and me explain to him (police) say me have it, but him never believe me.
"Me call somebody and tell them to bring it for me, and even when the ID and the licence come a the station, them sign me up and charge me even when me show him, him still go ahead with it," Bappen told The Sunday Gleaner.
His colleague, Michael Latchman, argued that the fine should only apply to someone who has not applied for a licence and is still trying to make a living as a fisherman.
"You have man weh fishing out a sea without any licence, a them supposed to a pay the fine when you catch them. If you see us fishing without it, just give we a time fi produce it, just like how you give the man weh a drive a car on the road a certain time to produce fi him licence," argued Latchman.
But a colleague fisherman, who did not give his name, argued that even if the legislation is revised to allow them to produce their licence over a specified period, that would not be enough as all the proposed fines are too exorbitant.
"$10,000 fine fi fisherman? That drastic bredrin. Fisherman nah get no recognition from the Government, what we get from the Government? Nothing at all," he declared.
Over at the Greenwich Farm fishing village in St Andrew, there are similar concerns.
"As a fisherman, that sound rough and hoggish, and if a really so them a go deal with it, a run them a run we out a fishing. Them fi come and have a meeting first before them even think about passing any law.
"We never even know seh a so the fee high, and you a go look fi lock up a fisherman weh never go a jail yet among criminals," declared Nicholas Douglas, who has been fishing for 10 years.
Jaleen Jevaughn Lawrence, who said he was born on the beach and has been going to sea from he was six years old, argued that the authorities need to find a time to meet with them so they can express these and other concerns about the soon-to-be introduced legislation.
ISLANDWIDE MEETING WITH FISHERFOLK
"You can't pass a law about a work that you never do from the day you born. Who a pass law never go to sea yet. Dem need to have a big meeting islandwide weh all fisher people can come together and we can talk," charged Lawrence.
During the debate in the Senate weeks ago, opposition Senator K.D. Knight had argued that some fisherfolk would end up in prison because they were unable to afford what he described as the "unreasonable" fines included in the revised Fisheries Act.
"There are some who are going to break the law, sometimes unwittingly. And when they break the law, they are going to end up in prison. They are going to end up in prison because some of these fines that have been imposed are unreasonable, and some of the sentences that have been suggested are unreasonable," Knight said.
He argued that the little fisherman will be affected. "Ten thousand dollars might represent, for him, four trips at sea. Four trips," argued Knight in reference to the fine for fishing without a valid licence.
The amended Fisheries Act will repeal the Fishing Industry Act and creates an institutional framework aimed at modernising and better regulating Jamaica's fishing industry.