Sun | Mar 24, 2019

57 poachers held with 15,000lb of conch

Published:Tuesday | March 5, 2019 | 12:19 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

More than 15,000 pounds of conch was confiscated from a fishing boat flying the Dominican Republic flag, which was intercepted and detained by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard on Saturday. They were caught fishing illegally in Jamaican waters.

A total of 57 fishermen, all from the Dominican Republic, have since been arrested and taken to the Coast Guard base at Cagway, Port Royal, for processing

Reports are that HMJS Middlesex, one of the Coast Guard’s offshore patrol vessels, was conducting a routine fisheries protection patrol along the Pedro Banks about 8:10 in the morning when two vessels were observed fishing on the Banks. Upon the approach of the Coast Guard, one speeded off, but was pursued, and the occupants detained and secured at Station Pedro Cay.

Upon boarding the boat, the Coast Guard was advised that crew members from the bigger vessels who had been operating from smaller boats known as dories were unaccounted for, having being abandoned by the ‘mother’ boats.

However, according to Civil Military Cooperation and Media Affairs Officer, Major Basil Jarrett, a search of the Banks proved futile, and so the 57 men were arrested.

The JDF Coast Guard has stepped up patrols of Jamaica’s largest offshore bank and other areas where illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is suspected to be taking place.

The parlous state of Jamaica’s queen conch population has prompted Jamaican authorities to impose a close season on the harvesting and trading in the valuable mollusc, running from March 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020.

March 7 is the first of two deadlines for persons in possession of conch meat to make a declaration to the Fisheries Division of the type (fillet, processed, etc) and volume they have in storage. The second declaration must be made by March 28.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com