Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke last Thursday served notice of Government's intention to impose a levy on lobster exports, similar to the US$1 cess charged for every pound of Queen Conch legally harvested and exported from Jamaica. He said arrangements are being finalised for this revenue income stream which will go towards funding development and management projects in fisheries and aquaculture.
Minister Clarke told a regional gathering of stakeholders in fisheries and aquaculture that it was only fair that such industrial fishermen who enjoy access to the European Union market as a direct result of significant government expenditure give back something in order to balance the scale.
He noted: "In this case, we're ensuring the sustainable management of these (marine) resources which are a public good, so that they can contribute to a generation of sustainable revenues. Therefore, the Government has ensured that those who enjoy the benefits accruing from the management methods invested in the development and management of our high value fisheries contribute meaningfully to ensure that other fisheries will also become profitable and sustainable."
Minister Clarke cited as another crucial step in meeting current and emerging challenges the establishment of appropriate institutional and governance structures, and advised that arrangements to transform the fisheries division into an executive agency will begin in the 2013-2014 financial year.
It is estimated that the fisheries and aqua-culture subsectors contribute directly to employment of over 40,000 persons and affect the livelihoods of over 200,000 Jamaicans. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, last year total exports of fishery products amounted 816,000 tonnes at a value of US$8 million, which translated into a 0.5 per cent contribution to gross domestic product.
This was achieved against the challenges of threats to aquatic ecosystems, poor fishing practices, overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Add to that the impact of global warming, climate change and climate variability, globalisation which directly influences the production and marketing of fish and fishery products. Then there are the challenges of a worldwide recession and increases in fuel and commodity prices, which have served to increase the cost of production for fish and fishery products.
However, the country is positioning itself to address these challenges, Minister Clarke advised: "The Government of Jamaica remains committed to the sustainable development and management of the fisheries and aquaculture subsector, as well as the mission of achieving a viable and sustainable fisheries subsector which contributes to the national and regional economy. As a result of this, several initiatives are being instituted in order to surmount these challenges."
These include completion of a modern fisheries legislation to provide a contemporary framework for the regulation of our fisheries and aquaculture subsectors, as well as developing and refining a national fisheries policy which embraces the principles and tenets of a common regional fisheries policy, including the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture development and management.
The agriculture minister reported that some of the country's marine conservation efforts are beginning to pay off, in large measure due to the buy-in from fishers and other residents of coastal communities. He pointed to an increase in coral cover, a 24 per cent decrease in algae cover, a 42 per cent increase in fish density, a 282 per cent increase in fish biomass, and a 16 per cent increase in the average size of fish in the protected areas.
Minister Clarke went on to promise a complete revolution of the aquaculture sub-sector, which will include the development and implementation of effective marketing and promotion strategies, reshaping fish farms through continued training of fish farmers, and introduction of appropriate technology and varieties of fish to be produced.
- C. S.