Fisheries legislation in many Caribbean islands is extremely outdated. Several islands, including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, are presently in the process of passing new fisheries laws. However the process is moving far too slowly, and Caribbean fisheries continue to be depleted in an open access and largely unregulated system.
The Jamaican Observer reports:
Impatient with the process to have the new fisheries legislation passed, Jamaican environmentalists have come out against the authorities who they insist must ramp up their efforts to dispense with the existing law.
It is going on two decades since the move to have the new legislation in place was announced and more than three years since the bill was drafted.
Peter Espeut, former executive director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, is annoyed with the length of time it has taken to get the new legislation passed.
“Some laws are passed with Gun Court speed while others take decades. Anything to do with the Ministry of Finance, the laws are passed swiftly, but anything to do with the environment, the environment is the Cinderella of government action,” he said.
Meanwhile, Espeut said, the fisheries sector continues to struggle with a range of challenges, including over fishing.
“Jamaica has the most overfished waters in the Caribbean as determined by the Caricom Fisheries Unit. There is no world ranking of overfishing, [but] if there was, we would be world-class in that regard. We are overfished because of a lack of fisheries management legislation,” he said.
Andre Kong, acting chief executive officer of the Fisheries Division, admits that the new legislation has been some time in coming. However, he insisted that significant progress has been made.
“We are moving towards it; it is not like it is sitting there gathering dust or cobwebs. It is being looked at now. It is a very complicated act; it is a couple hundred pages and we have been going through a whole series of consultations and discussions,” Kong told Environment Watch. “The process is that you have the drafters and the technical people [who] have to go through it and explain to the drafters [so] that in many instances there has to be changes because it is not saying what we want it to say.”
Read more at the Jamaican Observer.