Big catch
MOAF casts wider net in IUU fishing, organised crime
From left, CEO at National Fisheries Authority Dr Gavin Bellamy; United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative — Denise Antonio; United Nations Development Programme Blue Resilience Project Lead, Dr Emma Antonio; and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr engage in a discussion during the fisheries crime mechanism launch on Wednesday. (Photo:Joseph Wellington)

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOAF) Pearnel Charles Jr announced on Wednesday that Jamaica is expected to operate as a hub to tackle the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and organised crime in the fisheries sector.

This move is being developed under the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Blue Resilience project, which is a part of the Norwegian Blue Justice Initiative (BJI).

The minister welcomed the move, noting that, from most recent estimates this year, Jamaica suffered losses of up to $200 million from IUU fishing from lucrative conch and lobster fisheries and other emerging high-value fisheries.

"The proposal for Jamaica to be a hub for the region for the Blue Justice Initiative is a welcomed one. This hub will collect information from a range of sources in order to support regional policymakers by making available timely and accurate information so that countries in the region can better respond to IUU — fisheries-specific security challenges," he said during the fisheries crime mechanism launch of the BJI at AC Hotel Kingston.

"We don't intend to reinvent or duplicate the raison d'être of our regional enforcement and administrative entities, but rather to improve and more effectively coordinate our level and means of communication with each other and collectively support the sustainable management and utilisation of our aquatic fisheries resources," he added.

He noted that the BJI hub, with the necessary human, financial, and technological resources, will create more effective deterrence mechanisms against the scourge of IUU and related crimes in the region.

So far, he said, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) has met with key partners, including the UNDP, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Defence Force (JCF) Coast Guard, Jamaica Constabulary Force Marine Police, Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, and the Ministry of National Security to garner support and establish an inter-agency mechanism to seamlessly facilitate the exchange and sharing of information to tackle the problem of IUU and its linkages with transnational organised crime.

"This will be critical to the establishment of a joint National Fisheries Operational Centre, which will dually function within the BJI Hub and under the anticipated accession by Jamaica to the Port State Measures Agreement," said Charles Jr.

At the same time, CEO at NFA Dr Gavin Bellamy told the Jamaica Observer that while the need to tackle crime in the fisheries sector was recognised a long time ago, the move will ensure heightened collaboration to lessen the issue.

"It facilitated us being able to bring this together. We have always known that we need to have a united approach towards crime in the fishery sect, but this gave us a platform to work together to fight against organised crime in the fishery sector plus IUU fishing. This is very helpful," he said.

"We will be creating a regional hub where we will be able to get information from Norway and other partners here, and so we will have the exchange and dissemination of information," said Bellamy, noting that a planning process will be done on Thursday for the implementation of the hub.

Sydney Francis, who is the industrial company director at Ton-Rick Enterprises Limited that deals with seafood preparation and packaging, said he is looking forward to the initiative, which fisher folk have been trying to accomplish for many years.

"If we could control the IUU fishing from our resources in Jamaica, we could feed every child at elementary and primary school levels with a hot meal with the amount of money we are losing. Governments on a whole have never taken this thing very seriously. I am happy that we have now made a strong forward, in terms of dealing with this situation, and the industrial fishing operation in Jamaica will assist in any way we can," he said.

Brittny Hutchinson

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