Fisheries Division gears up for new role
Executives of the fisheries division in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries are anticipating passage of the long overdue Fishing Industry Act, which will pave the way for its transition to a statutory organisation and enable it to better carry out its many and varied functions.
"What we are looking at is the Fisheries Division now being named the National Fisheries Authority. It's been on the books for some time and we've been trying to fast-track that process now. So when that new Fisheries Bill is passed, that is what will create the National Fisheries Authority and then the CEO of that authority will report to a board of directors. What it means is that we'll have an increased number of personnel assigned to focus on enforcement, because, right now, we really only have one person who, when they leave their home, does so with the understanding that they are going to deal with enforcement," Commander Paul Wright, chief executive officer, told The Gleaner.
Review of the Fishing Industry Act of 1976 began in 1995 and has stalled for more than 20 years, but Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda is promising early resolution.
In addition to increased staff to carry out various specialised duties, the new act is also projected to significantly empower the agency to ramp up its surveillance and monitoring of Jamaica's territorial waters, as well as crack down on the growing scourge of illegal, unregulated and unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Wright's optimism is bolstered by the fact that the agency recently moved into new offices at Newport East, the building which housed the now-defunct Jamaica Livestock Association. The relocation also brings the division closer to the offices of the Marine Police, one of its main partners in the fight against poaching.
Staff of the National Fisheries Authority will be much more visible and effective, according to Wright.
"It means that when you are out on a beach, there is a high probability that you will see the inspectors there on the beat, checking to make sure that you have your licence and so on and, more importantly, to ensure the vessel is safe. So it's not just about the enforcement, but also to ensure that our fishers, when they go to sea, ensure that the vessel is safe for them because we are also interested in saving the lives of our fishers."
Use of manpower, equipment key to new Fisheries Authority
Cost effectiveness in the deployment of human resources as well as equipment will be a major hallmark of the new National Fisheries Authority, through its ongoing relationship with partners such as the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard and Marine Police division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, as well some new strategies.
"What we have been looking at is trying to merge technology, such as the use of drones, and we want to do this thing properly. We did a test with a smaller version of the drone just to see how it would operate on the Pedro Banks. What we want to do now is go to the next level where we get the appropriate drone that can spend 12-15 hours in the area. So when the drone sees something, then you can have the patrol boat respond so you can save money and you can work smarter," Wright disclosed.