Mon | Jul 26, 2021

Friday deadline for industrial fishers to access gov’t grant

Published:Tuesday | February 16, 2021 | 12:14 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Industrial finfish, conch and lobster fishers have until Friday, February 19, to apply to the National Fisheries Authority for a grant to support the recovery of their operations hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To qualify for the grant, fishers must have had a valid industrial conch licence in 2018, an industrial lobster fishing licence for the 2020-2021 fishing season or an industrial finfish licence for the consecutive years 2017-2020.

Qualified fishers will be eligible for a single grant under one fishing category only.

The initiative is a key component of a fisheries sector production improvement programme, which is designed to stimulate and improve production in the fisheries sector and to assist and support fisherfolk and fish farmers to recover from the negative impact of the pandemic.

Last month, Fisheries Minister Floyd Green announced that the ban on the harvesting of queen conch, which was in imposed on March 1, 2019, would be lifted on Thursday, April 1, 2021 and that there would be a reduction in quotas.

“We will be opening conch fisheries with a total allowable catch of 250-300 metric tonnes for industrial and artisanal fishers.”

This precautionary measure is intended to maintain the sustainability of the conch fisheries, which had been depleted as a result of overfishing.

B&D Trawling, one of the 31 industrial fishing companies that will get a share of the $83 million in government support to help them prepare for the reopening of the industry, has welcomed the assistance, though describing it as drop in the bucket when viewed against the accumulated losses suffered since the ban was imposed.

B&D Trawling CEO Roderick Francis is nonetheless excited about the prospects for the new season, but said it would take some time for the sector to turn the corner.

“It may take many years to recover from the shock of the closure and the pandemic, but we remain positive that the industry will continue to expand and contribute significantly to the Jamaican economy,” Francis told The Gleaner.

Francis said that his company has resumed exports of live lobsters to China under a deal negotiated in early last year but which was put on hold by the pandemic shortly afterwards.

“This, along with the opening of the conch season, are positive signs of recovery for the industry,” he said.