Fine now $3m for breaching closed lobster season
Come tomorrow, and for the three-month period when the annual lobster closed season is in effect (April 1 to June 30), anyone who catches this crustacean could find themselves in very serious trouble.
Unlike in previous years when the maximum fine was $1,000 for persons found fishing for lobster in the closed season, which was not a serious deterrent for delinquent fisherfolk, this year, the fine will be substantially increased.
Offenders could now be fined up to $3 million after conviction in a parish court, warned Andre Kong, director of fisheries in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
"And remember, we can take the cases to the Supreme Court, where there is no maximum fine. So we really need to make sure that everybody complies with the closed season," Kong told The Gleaner ahead of yesterday's opening ceremony of the two-day Caribbean Fisheries Forum taking place at The Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
Disaster risk management needed for fishing industry
Heads of national fisheries authorities from 17 member states of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism yesterday used the opening day of the two-day Caribbean Fisheries Forum at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston to focus on recent and emerging trends in fisheries and aquaculture and discussed strategies for strengthening both sectors at the regional level.
Today, the deliberations will centre on adaptation measures for climate change as well as disaster risk management in fisheries.
According to Andre Kong, director of fisheries in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, while the long overdue revised Fishing Industry Act is yet to come to hand, the Fisheries Division will be stepping up its efforts to clamp down on the illegal harvesting of lobsters, utilising to the full extent the administrative powers of the Fisheries Licensing Authority.
"If they are caught, I am not licensing them again. The licensing authority has the discretion to refuse a licence on the grounds that it is not in the best interest of the fishing industry, and if somebody is catching lobster in the closed season, that is something that we don't want to have happening," said Kong.
"There is something called administrative sanction. It means that the licensing authority has the power to suspend or cancel a licence, or refuse to grant a licence, without going to court."
The lobster season this year is closed from April 1 to June 30. Lawbreakers can now be fined up to $3 million.
Kong lamented that in addition to the ongoing battle to protect the island's marine resources from foreign poachers, his staff is also fighting to get local fisherfolk to appreciate the long-term, negative impact of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.
"What they are not understanding is that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Them boxing bread out of other people's mouth. So we have to be serious about this, and that is why I didn't want to wait for the new act to come in; because the fisheries can be in serious trouble if we don't try and fix it now," he stressed.