Unlicensed fishers could face stiff fines
Individuals or organisations looking to host a fishing tournament, even a charity event, are required by law to apply to the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) for a permit. That permit will outline the terms and conditions under which the event can be held, including the fact that all the boats will need to be licensed and equipped with the necessary safety gears, and the participating fishers need to obtain the requisite fishing licences.
Overseas participants are required to apply for temporary licences to allow them to fish in Jamaican waters, and the NFA staff will inspect all the boats, in order to ensure that they meet the requisite licensing and safety standards.
The Fisheries Act 2018 states that “A person shall not organise or cause to be organised a fishing tournament in the fisheries’ waters, except under, and in accordance with, a permit issued by the Authority.”
Persons who contravene the law could be fined up to $100,000 or three months in prison if convicted. It is for this reason that the NFA has embarked on a major public awareness drive, even as it moves to step up enforcement, in collaboration with its usual partners on the high seas – the Marine Police and the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard.
All persons who fish in Jamaican waters are required to register with the NFA, which will issue them a fishing identification card, that is valid for five years and renewable for the same period thereafter. They must then apply for a licence to fish, which is issued in two categories – commercial or recreational – and is valid for a year.
The commercial licence is for persons who are engaged in fishing as a business, while the recreational licence is for people who engage in fishing as a sport, a fun activity from which they will not earn any financial profit.
The anecdotal evidence suggests that most recreational fishers in Jamaica are not licensed, with people suggesting that this is not necessary, since their impact on the country’s fish stock is negligible.
However, Chief Executive Officer of the NFA, Dr Gavin Bellamy, disagrees, pointing to the number of yachts and other pleasure boats anchored between Kingston, Portland, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.
“All the fishing licences are part of an accountability process. In order to manage the fishery stock, the resources, you need to account for the effort that goes into it, which is both commercial and recreational. A lot of recreational fishers account for substantial volumes, quite a big number. So if we only account for the commercial activities then we are only seeing half of the picture, or less than half.”