PNP councillor calls for help to find location for displaced fisherfolk

Western News

PNP councillor calls for help to find location for displaced fisherfolk

Observer West reporter

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny - People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Falmouth Division Garth Wilkinson has moved a resolution in the Trelawny Municipal Corporation (TMC) calling for the intervention of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) to assist in finding a suitable location for fisherfolk who operate along the Rock to Duncans coastline in the parish.

“All we are asking is that the authorities, NRCA, NEPA, help in finding a location along the coastline, especially from Rock all the way back to the Duncans area, where we can relocate some of the fisherfolk, so that they can continue their trade,” Wilkinson argued, in moving the motion at the recent regular monthly meeting of the TMC.

“If you check the coastline from Rio Bueno to Wiltshire, all of it has been privatised,” he stressed.

In recent years there have been several tourism developments along sections of the Falmouth to Rio Bueno coastline in Trelawny.

Wilkinson, however, was swift to make it abundantly clear that he is not averse to the hotel developments.

“The resolution is not in conflict with any developer as we want the hotel industry to be a part of the parish because tourism is where the parish is headed. We have no conflict with that, but what the council [corporation] really asked, in the resolution that I tabled, is actually to have an area identified or places left for the fisherfolk to dock their boats or for them to continue their trade of fishing to that extent that is necessary,” Wilkinson explained.

He told reporters that he has written to Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change Pearnel Charles Jr to consider fisherfolk among citizens he wants to have access to beaches.

“I must add that I have written to the minister in charge of housing and environment... because I saw where Pearnel Charles Jr did a nice article on October 28, where he stated that he wants to have citizens of Jamaica to have access to the beaches. I have written to him asking him to include the fisherfolk...” Wilkinson disclosed.

“I think we are one of few countries in the world that neither the fisherfolks nor the ordinary citizens of the country have access to the beachfront area, and it should not be.”

Speaking on Tuesday at a section of a beach in Coopers Pen, Councillor Wilkinson, who is a former mayor of Falmouth, bemoaned that the number of bathing and fishing beaches in the parish has now dwindled from 11 to four.

“We had 11 fishing beaches and bathing beaches in the parish... we are now down to about four, and out of the four, two are in Falmouth. But there were actually four in Falmouth…there is actually none left in Coopers Pen, Rio Bueno, Duncans…all of them are gone,” he claimed.

“Most of the fisherfolk are not young men anymore, they are old men. Most of the young men do spearfishing, but the older folks still go out in their boats, and we want the protection for the fisherfolk, so they can continue to provide for their families.”

Fisherfolk in Coopers Pen are fearful that they will soon have nowhere to dock their boats along the beach if developments continue to rob them of access.

Aaron Stoney, who has been using the section of the beach to dock his boat for over six decades, was among other individuals who expressed fear that a move is afoot to deny them access to the road leading from their community to the beach.

“My concern really is a road or pass to come to the beach to go to our boats, that's my main concern. I have been using the area since come see ancestors here,” Stoney said, adding that he takes his fish pot from his home to the beach via that road.

His nephew, John Stoney, articulated similar fears.

“We got the road but it seems like the new owners who come were not informed about the arrangement,” he said.

Delroy Cooper, another fisherman, concurred, adding that they now have access to the beach by way of an entrance through a fenced property, but noted that word on the street is that come January they will be locked out by the developers.

The Observer West was unable to contact the owners of the premises that the fisherfolk now use to get to the beach.

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