A loophole in Jamaica’s Fisheries Act is being exploited by large Jamaican companies, permitting foreign fishers, primarily Hondurans, to fish in Jamaican waters without legal consequences, harming local fishers.
Opposition spokesman on Water and Agriculture, Lothan Cousins, made this claim yesterday in the House of Representatives. He was responding to a statement by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green.
Cousins asserts that the loophole originates from Section 54 (1) of the Fisheries Act, and it most severely impacts Jamaicans who fish for lobster.
Cousins explained that local lobster fishers struggle to find a market due to the loophole. He stated that although the ministry of agriculture claims there are no imports, this refers only to the standard procedure of imports. The real issue is Section 54 (1), which allows a local representative to be designated on behalf of foreign companies.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green dismissed Cousins’ assertions as “mere propaganda,” maintaining that only registered and licensed Jamaican companies operate in the lobster sector. He also highlighted significant increases in lobster catches due to effective management and increased coastal guard resources provided by the government.
Cousins further contended that Hondurans take advantage of loophole 54(1) with assistance from big companies who overfish Jamaican waters, leaving local fisherfolk behind. He threatened to reveal the names of the involved local companies under parliamentary privilege but ultimately did not disclose them.
Section 54 (1) of the Fisheries Act requires foreign fishing vessels to appoint an agent residing in Jamaica to handle official communications under this Act on behalf of the vessel’s owner before applying for a license.
Green countered Cousins’ accusations by stating that most large companies involved in lobster trading export their products and do not trade locally. He clarified that recent delays in lobster exportation were due to new European Union requirements creating challenges in the market space but reiterated there is no importation of lobster into Jamaica.