A World Bank consultant to the Climate Resilience in the Fisheries Sector Project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has expressed concern that most Jamaican judges presiding over cases of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are out of touch with the laws governing these crimes, as well as the devastating impact they have on the marine ecosystem and economy of countries like Jamaica.
Project Manager Selena Ledgister used Thursday’s presentation of a twin-engine, seven-person capacity patrol boat valued at US$165,000 to the National Fisheries Authority which took place at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club, Palisadoes, to voice her discontent with what she described as the many “slaps on the wrist” given to repeat offenders.
She charged that through their ignorance of the relevant laws governing the fishing industry, members of the judiciary are unwittingly aiding and abetting in the continued irreparable devastation and long-term negative impact of the marine ecosystem.
“The issue is that the judiciary is not familiar with the Fishing Act and the legislation; that you can be fined up to $3 million. So they (judges) fine them (fishermen) like a little $20,000 because they feel sorry for them – that they are poor people trying to eke out a living,” Ledgister claims. “But they (judges) don’t understand the damage caused when they (fishers) go into these marine environments, the No Fishing zone and use dynamite and other methods to stun the fish en masse, often killing other marine species which then go to waste.”