Poachers have robbed Jamaica of more than US$130 million in lobster meat over the past five years, according to Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton who, in addition to assuring his regional counterparts that Jamaica will fully enforce its Fisheries Act, has encouraged them to find a regional solution to the problem of illegal fishing threatening all Caricom states.
"Jamaica produces approximately 400 metric tons (MT) of lobsters per year," Tufton told the fourth Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism ministerial council meeting in Antigua recently.
"Approximately one-third of the country's production is exported and the local lobster industry makes about US$8 million per year. A conservative estimate is that poachers take at least twice as much lobster as the country does, and at an average price of US$15 per pound; Jamaica has lost approximately US$132.3 million over the past five years," Tufton said in his discussion paper on 'Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Border Security Issues in Jamaican Waters'.
He said the Jamaican queen conch faced a similar situation where losses due to poaching were at one time estimated as being over 400 MT.
However, since 2009, due to the intervention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), poaching for conch has reduced significantly, albeit it still remains an issue, Tufton said.
He highlighted recent incidents of illegal fishing in Jamaican waters, saying that over the past year the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard reported 42 sightings of multiple vessels poaching on the Pedro Bank, but was only able to apprehend three boats.
Two of the vessels seized towards the end of last year contained approximately 6,680 lbs of lobster meat and 4,740 lbs of lobster head meat, he said. More....