Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:THE FISHERIES division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is reminding fishermen, in particular, and the general public that the annual lobster closed season starts on April 1 and runs until June 30, during which time no lobsters should be harvested from the sea. Any lobsters accidentally caught should be released into the open sea, in a manner to ensure that little or no harm is done to them.
Members of the police force, fishery inspectors, game wardens and other law-enforcement officers will be on the lookout for persons breaching the closed season.
The Fishing Industry Act, 1975 and The Fishing Industry Regulations, 1976 are the two main pieces of legislation governing fisheries within the territorial sea and archipelagic waters of Jamaica.
However, in an effort to effectively manage and address growing concerns of declining lobster stocks in Jamaican waters, the ministry established new regulations in 2009, of which hoteliers, restaurateurs and other business people who offer lobster on their menus need to be particularly mindful.
These persons must send to the licensing authority (Fisheries Division) by Sunday, March 31, a signed declaration showing the quantity, description and address where spiny lobsters are stored. In this case, description speaks to whether it is whole lobsters, or tails only, etc. A fishery officer will visit to verify the spiny lobsters/spiny lobster parts or products declared and, upon being satisfied, issue a certificate of inspection.
Thereafter, the Fisheries Division will also issue a certificate of storage and the lobsters/lobster products in storage may be sold, exported or processed for the three-week period from April 1-21.
However, after April 21, it will be illegal for anyone to have any species of spiny lobsters/spiny lobster parts or products in their possession. It does not matter whether the lobster is fresh, frozen or otherwise, as it will be seized and the person(s) liable to face prosecution. The fine can run as high as $100,000 with the offender also jailed.