Sat | Jun 3, 2023

NFA promises heightened vigilance during lobster close season

Published:Friday | March 31, 2023 | 12:31 AM

The National Fisheries Authority (NFA) will be taking a zero tolerance approach to breaches of the Close Season for the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) which takes effect on Thursday, April 1 and will run until June 30, Chief Executive Officer Dr Gavin Bellamy has warned.

In addition to the deployment of more fisheries and compliance officers to monitor and audit the inventory of hotels, restaurants, cook shops and other business which have lobster on the menu, the NFA will be stepping up its collaboration with the Marine Police and the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard. This is in keeping with the strengthening of national and regional coordination among partners, which was highlighted at the Multi-Agency Fisheries Crime Coordinating Mechanism workshop held in Jamaica late last year.

“We are reminding all businesses which have lobsters in their possession, of the legal mandatory requirement for them to declare the amount as well as a description of the meat, be it whole lobsters, or tails only, within seven days of the close season, which is on or before April 7.

“The law provides for all spiny lobsters in their possession which have been declared to us (NFA) to be legally sold, exported or harvested. In addition, any person may seek special permission for storage for the period April 22 to June 30 of spiny lobster or spiny lobster products which was legally fished and declared before the start of the Close Season, and which they plan to make available for storage, sale overseas or export. However, this request must be sent to the National Fisheries Authority by the latest April 15,” Dr Bellamy stressed.

Between April 22 and June 30, it will be illegal for anyone to have spiny lobster, spiny lobster parts or products in their possession without the permission of the NFA. It does not matter whether the lobster is fresh or frozen, whole or in parts, it will be seized and the persons or entities found to be in breach of the Fisheries Act, 2018 will be subject to fines of up to $3 million, upon conviction in a parish court or up to two years imprisonment.

Dr Bellamy is warning fisher folk that fishing for lobsters during the Close Season is illegal and any lobsters caught unintentionally must be returned to the water immediately, free, alive and unharmed.

It is illegal to catch ‘berried’, that is egg-carrying lobsters right throughout the year as well as the young crustaceans – those which have not reached the minimum size 7.62 centimetres (three inches) measured from the eyes to the end of the carapace (back only, not including the tail). The possession of tails from the undersized or berried lobsters is prohibited and in both cases an accurate determination can be made as whether the tails are from either undersized or berried lobsters.