Fish sanctuary partnership to boost marine reserves

THE Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative signed four contracts valued at US$400,000 at the launch of the Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative (C-Fish) in Bluefields, Westmoreland last Friday.

The project is aimed at strengthening the management of fish sanctuaries, also known as marine reserves or ‘no-take’ zones.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke also announced plans for the creation of agro parks across Jamaica that should also help boost the fishing sector.

“Over the next three years, the Ministry will be investing

US$8 million in the development of eight agro parks in six parishes across the island. Some of these will be fitted with the requisite sustainable fish production through aquaculture development. I want to urge young entrepreneurs to make use of this when we launch the programme shortly,” he said.

Clarke noted that although the fisheries sector contributes a great deal to the economy, there are still many issues that seriously affect the sector’s productivity.

“The fisheries sector and fishers, in particular, face many challenges today, the primary problem being the continued decline in the reef fisheries since the 1970s, with the fish being caught today being of smaller size and of less quality.

“The greatest causes are the destruction and loss of fish habitats, especially nursery areas for juvenile fish, over-fishing caused by bad fishing practices such as the use of mesh sizes that are too small, and the problem of pollution and natural events like hurricanes that destroy our reefs,” he explained.

Clarke highlighted other challenges that the fisheries sector

is experiencing.

“These problems are compounded by the increase in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the degradation of the marine ecosystems, the effects of pollution and global warming. However, the most noteworthy is the lack of sustainable financing initiatives for the conservation and protection of our marine fisheries resources,” he said.

The Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative (C-FISH) is a £2.1-million project funded from from the Department for International Development (DFID) through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). The Caribsave Partnership is implementing the project on behalf of DFID and the CCCCC. The four-year project will operate in five countries across the Caribbean; Jamaica, Grenada, St Lucia, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Jamaica was selected to receive support from the C-FISH initiative because of the commitment the government has made towards establishing a network of 14 fish sanctuaries and the active participation and support of local stakeholders, in particular non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, fishermen’s cooperatives as well as private foundations.

BY KARLA JOSEPHS Observer staff reporter