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$120m lifeline - Relief package for fisheries industry

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2020 | 12:19 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green checks out the size of the fish harvested by Leon South from the pond of Damion Walters in Hartland, St Catherine, during last week's tour of farms affected by recent flood rains.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green checks out the size of the fish harvested by Leon South from the pond of Damion Walters in Hartland, St Catherine, during last week's tour of farms affected by recent flood rains.

The Government has thrown a $120-million lifeline to the fisheries industry which has been tanking under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portfolio Minister Floyd Green told Parliament on Tuesday that productivity in the sector has fallen as input costs have soared for fisherfolk.

He said the relief package will help fishers recover even as the industry is bracing for a US$23-million loss.

Some 4,740 persons from 137 fishing communities will be issued with grants totalling $67 million.

“Each fisher will be provided with a voucher valued at $15,000 to be used to purchase fish mesh wires or equivalent fish gear,” Green explained.

Approximately $30 million will be distributed through members of parliament who have fishing communities within their constituencies.

Each MP will be allocated between $510,000 and $1.5 million to provide the assistance.

Green explained that the share ratio will be dependent on fisherfolk density.

The vouchers will only be redeemable from participating entities and not redeemable for cash.

The other $37 million will be distributed through the National Fisheries Authority under a new incentive programme.

The minister said that 72 fish farmers aquaculture production areas will also receive grants in the form of vouchers totalling $20 million.

Ornamental fish farmers will be given a grant of $1 million to facilitate the provision of grind shrimp, which is used as feed, as well as to support infrastructure development.

The minister said that approximately 260 fishers from St Catherine and St Mary who are unable to venture out to sea because of COVID-19 restrictions will receive grants totalling $8 million.

“This is to allow them to recoup the loss that they suffered [because] of damage to their fishing equipment left at sea during the period and that they were unable to attend to. This includes trap fishermen and net and line fishers,” Green said.

Meanwhile, the a new vessel which is to be placed in the possession of the National Fisheries Authority is expected to boost its enforcement capacity and help safeguard Jamaica’s no-fishing zones.

The seven-person capacity patrol unit valued at US$165,000 and was funded by the World Bank.

The NFA regulates 17 sanctuaries and provides subvention support to seven.

According to the authority, for the 2019-20 closed season enforcement period, 85.6 kilograms of conch and 194 kilograms of lobsters were confiscated, resulting in 33 arrests.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com