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Rainforest moves to secure Ja's waters with drones

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
Derrick Kellier (left), minister of agriculture, labour and social security, accepts the donation cheque from Roger Lyn (centre), marketing manager; and Brian Jardim, chief executive officer at Rainforest Seafoods Limited, following the closing ceremony for the Drone Pilot Project held at the minstry’s office yesterday.

Rainforest Seafoods Limited, Jamaica's leading wholesale and retail distributors of seafood, has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to protect Jamaica's territorial waters from foreign poachers and other forms of environmental degradation.

With funding and sponsorship from the company, the Fisheries Management and Development Fund and the Jamaica Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a drone pilot project was conducted by a task force under the leadership of the Fisheries Division of the Ministry.

The drone pilot project was conceptualised to test drones as well as their live video feed capabilities within the marine environment with a view to increasing law enforcement within the island's maritime jurisdiction.

According to Brian Jardim, CEO of Rainforest Seafoods Limited, they are pleased to have finally reached this stage in the project.

"Illegal poaching costs the country millions each year and destroys the base of the resources that everyone has a right to. The drone will be the eye in the sky that will have everyone's best interest at heart," Jardim said.

The country is currently a net importer of fish and fish products, and as result, is experiencing severe gaps in its fishery trade. The figures were placed at US$135 million and US$35 million respectively for the value of the import and export fishery trade for 2013.

Implementation of the project was made possible through the donation of one drone by the Jamaica Robotics and Avionics Design Group to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to patrol the island's maritime jurisdiction. An X8 Skywalker drone was also donated by the Jamaica Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, specifically for testing purposes, while Rainforest Seafood Limited donated US$5,000.

Having tested the protocols for the safe and efficient deployment of the drones from the Pedro Cays, the next step is to work closely with the Ministry of National Security with a view of identifying and sourcing drones with longer endurance so as to increase its reach as well as law enforcement presence.