Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
OLD HARBOUR BAY, St Catherine:CHESLEY PERRY is very impressed with the quality of life jackets to be provided to fishers under an $18-million project being implemented across six parishes by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) under a World Bank loan.
For this reason, he is promising that fishermen will be more likely to use the latest equipment, noting that it far supercedes the inferior ones distributed to them previously, which, he claims, was more likely to contribute to their demise than help in times of trouble.
Perry, who was the first person to receive one of the new life jackets at a recent handover ceremony at the Old Harbour Bay fishing village in St Catherine, admitted that their reluctance to use the safety gear in the past was linked to the poor quality.
He told The Gleaner: "That is the main reason because as water catch it, it full of water, and you have to take it off and squeeze the water out. Life jacket is not supposed to be like that. When you strap on life jacket, you wear it go to sea and work into it, but the first ones them give us, you cannot work in it. So we don't put them on none at all."
However, Perry, who said he has been fishing for close to 40 years, was definitely sold on the new life jackets after trying on one.
He said: "Today is very good, and the life jacket them is very good, better than the first ones. For if you go to sea and get into any difficulty, you can take up those and strap them on easily."
Stephannie Hutchinson French, JSIF project officer, admitted that the life vests were among the best available on the market, being US Coast Guard Type 1, with the hand-held marine flares also approved for day and night use by the United States Coast Guard.
Under the 'Enhancement of the Fish Cold Chain Supply and Safety Equipping' project, 2,000 fishers in eight fishing communities across six parishes will receive a safety kit, which will include one life vest with reflective material and a hand-held marine flare. In addition, they will benefit from training in safety at sea, basic seamanship, navigation skills, safe and proper use of life jackets, and other safety equipment.
Four hundred fish vendors will also receive a 120-quart chest with a minimum five-day cooling capacity. They will also receive training in food safety and sanitation and will have earned a food handler's permit upon completion of their training.
Other fishing villages set to benefit are Annotto Bay and Pagee in St Mary; Manchioneal in Portland; Discovery Bay in St Ann; Rocky Point in Clarendon; as well as Savanna-la-Mar, Whitehouse, and Belmont in Westmoreland.