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Agriculture ministry to roll out drone programme

Published:Friday | May 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica has moved closer to monitoring its territorial waters and fishing jurisdiction with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly called drones.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries says it is now working with the Ministry of National Security to identify and deploy drones with longer endurance in order to increase the reach of law enforcement agencies within the country’s maritime jurisdiction.

Agriculture Minister, Derrick Kellier, made the announcement yesterday during the closing ceremony for the drone pilot project.

Minister Kellier explained that with the completion of the last test flight at Pedro Cays on  April 23, the way is now clear for the deployment of the drones to better monitor Jamaica's marine space and detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the island's fishing territory.

He says the drone project was launched in an effort to cauterise the long-standing problem of poachers in Jamaican waters.

The agriculture minister also urged fisherfolk to be vigilant in protecting the country's territorial waters and not to engage in any transactions with foreign poachers.

He noted that in addition to the drone project, the agriculture ministry plans to introduce stiffer fines for illegal fishing, as well as a new Fisheries bill as part of efforts to increase monitoring and management of the fishing industry.