October 2005


Four marine fishing areas were chosen for a policy document:

  • Area 1: The continental shelf around the main island of Jamaica, often divided into the north coast, where the shelf is very narrow and the south coast, where the shelf is much wider;
  • Area 2: The various banks inside Jamaica’s EEZ, in particular the large Pedro Bank and Morant Bank;
  • Area 3: The waters over 200 m deep of the EEZ, and
  • Area 4: The Alice Shoal, a fishing area that lies far away and that is managed under an agreement with Colombia (see figure).

The four areas have different resources and fisheries and hence different management requirements. The distribution of important species is linked to these areas as follows:

  • Conch (Strombus gigas) (Areas 1 and 2, and probably 4)
  • Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) (Areas 1,2 and probably 4)
  • Demersal fish living on coral reefs (Areas 1, 2 and 4)
  • Demersal fish living at the drop-off of the main shelf and banks (Areas 1, 2 and 4)
  • Small pelagic fish living on the shelf around the main island (Area 1)
  • Shrimp living in muddy waters near shore (Area 1, south and west coast of main island)
  • Large pelagic fish (tunas, marlins, wahoo) living in the deep waters (Area 3)


Open boats land at beaches or river mouths. The number of fishing beaches has gradually decreased, at the moment it stands at about 133 on the main island, which corresponds roughly to one for every eight km of coastline. The principal beach landings are located on the south coast at Port Royal, Old Harbour Bay, Rocky Point and Whitehouse.

There are very few landing facilities for larger fishing vessels. Quays are available in Kingston Harbour, at Black River and in the harbour of Port Antonio (north coast), while Montego Bay provides more shelter than the usual beaches.

Carrier (packer) boats land at the fishing port in Kingston and some other places on the South coast, where the artisanal catch from the Morant and Pedro Banks is landed and ice, water, fuel, and provisions are loaded for the offshore fishing stations.


The following section is based on the fifth draft of a Policy Document that was discussed in 2004 with the entire fisheries sector and all organisations involved in capture fisheries, aquaculture and the marine environment. This document in its final form will be the basis for the new fisheries Act and Fisheries Regulations. The document will include strategies to reach the desired goals.

  • To conserve and manage the marine capture fisheries resources of Jamaica;
  • To produce the optimal sustainable yield of each major resource, which means reversal of overfishing in overexploited fisheries and increased fishing effort in under-exploited fisheries;
  • To produce a vibrant and healthy capture fisheries sector; and in the process to recover resource rents to finance the fishery management process;
  • To enhance suitable areas of habitat;
  • To achieve sustainable development and utilization of fisheries resources in deep waters and distant shoals with due consideration to international obligations, and
  • To achieve sustainable development and utilization of fisheries resources in inland waters.


  • Controlled and limited access to all capture fisheries in Jamaican waters and an extracted resource rent that will cover the costs of fisheries conservation and management;
  • Restoration of resources in overfished areas;
  • Making full use of the resources in waters over 200 m deep and on distant shoals and to extract rent from their exploitation, both through developing fisheries that will allow the employment of licence holders now operating in areas that are considered to be overfished, and by licensing new entrants;
  • Optimal protection of all fishing areas, by carrying out MCS and enforcement by air and sea, and
  • Assessment and regulation of the inland fisheries of Jamaica.


  • To encourage and support the organization and sustainable development and management of the aquaculture sub-sector.


  • Developed and expanded culture of aquatic flora and fauna to limits dictated by marketing possibilities, including export, without damaging precious wetlands, lagoons, mangroves or other sensitive areas;
  • To recover costs of direct assistance, research and development from the industry;
  • Research on and development of the culture of indigenous species;
  • Better control of aquaculture activities including preventing the release of exotic species into the wild, and
  • Improved collaboration with other agencies for the development of standards for both food fish and ornamental fish species.


  • To improve the general economic situation of the fisheries sector;
  • To improve the social and economic status of fisherfolk. (Where opportunities will be created for fishermen to participate in new or expanded fisheries, licences will preferably be issued to those who were previously operating in overfished areas.);
  • To ensure that all regulations regarding safety-at-sea, including safety equipment to be carried, are enforced, and
  • To establish rules for the tenure of Fishing Beaches and improve the living conditions of fisherfolk living on or near such beaches, in co-operation with various Ministries and Agencies involved in managing the coastal areas.


  • Improved earnings from the fisheries;
  • Improved safety at sea, and
  • Improved livelihood of fishermen and all those associated with capture fisheries and aquaculture.


  • To adopt appropriate measures to ensure the rights of consumers to safe, wholesome and unadulterated fish and fishery products, and
  • To encourage the addition of value to fish, shellfish and other aquatic products.


  • Established and maintained effective national safety and quality assurance systems to protect consumer health and prevent commercial fraud, and
  • Enhanced distribution and access to wholesome fish protein for the Jamaican population especially those remote from fish production areas.


  • To enhance the institutional capacity for the management and development of the fisheries sector.


  • Enhanced capacity of the Fisheries Division enabling it to effectively fulfil its mandate;
  • Enhanced institutional arrangements necessary for fisheries management and development, e.g. enforcement, collaboration and cooperation between institutions and stakeholders, and
  • Applied research and development, public awareness, and education to proper development and management of the capture and culture fisheries.


The overall strategy is to reduce fishing pressure on the inshore resources, by taking a large number of small boats out of the fishery, and to partly replace them with larger vessels with inboard engines that can safely exploit the deeper zones for large pelagic fish and demersal species at the drop-off. As a first step no new entrants in the inshore and banks fisheries should be allowed for a considerable period of time. Processing facilities and markets will have to be found for tuna and other large pelagics.

The maritime legal regime

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was ratified by Jamaica on 21 March, 1983. Subsequently, Jamaica has pursued a consistent policy of updating its laws to ensure full compliance with the provisions of UNCLOS. The pieces of legislation relevant to the maritime zones and areas of Jamaica are the Maritime Areas Act 1996 and the Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1991.

The Maritime Areas Act 1996

This Act confirms Jamaica's status as an archipelagic state by establishing archipelagic baselines as straight baselines joining the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago of Jamaica. The Act also establishes a contiguous zone within which Jamaica has jurisdiction to take the necessary measures to prevent in Jamaica, the archipelagic waters or territorial sea, any contravention of any legislation relating to customs, excise, immigration or sanitation.

Under this Act, Jamaica's continental shelf comprises those areas of the seabed and subsoil of the marine areas that are beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of the land territory of Jamaica to the outer edge of the continental margin. No part of Jamaica's continental shelf extends beyond two hundred nautical miles from the baselines.

The Maritime Areas Act has significantly increased Jamaica's jurisdiction over maritime space. The Act has effectively reduced the potential area of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and increased considerably the area covered by the archipelagic waters (12 000 km2) and the territorial sea.

The Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1991

The Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1991 established Jamaica's 200 nautical miles EEZ. The enactment of this piece of legislation establishes a maritime regime (about 274 000 km2) that is approximately 25 times the size of the landmass of mainland Jamaica. The Act confers on the Minister responsible (i.e. the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade) very broad powers to make regulations to give effect to the Act and regulate activities within the EEZ.


has concluded EEZ delimitation agreements with Cuba in the north and Colombia in the south. Under the terms of the delimitation treaty with Colombia a Joint Regime Area has been established. It is located to the southwest of Jamaica around the offshore banks of Bajo Nuevo, Seranilla and Alice Shoal (about 250 nautical miles from Kingston, Jamaica). A Jamaica/Colombia Joint Commission has been established to formulate the modalities for joint exploration, exploitation and management of living and nonliving resources in this area.


A total of fourteen Acts currently constitute scheduled enactments under the EEZ Act. Those relevant to fisheries are the Fishing Industry Act, the Wildlife Protection Act and the Beach Control Act. The main pieces of legislation presently governing fisheries activities in Jamaica are the Fishing Industry Act 1975, the Fishing Industry Regulations 1976 and the Morant and Pedro Cays Act 1907, all administered by the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Aquaculture, Inland, Marine Products and By Products (inspection, licensing and export) Act 1999, administered by the Veterinary Division of the same Ministry. Other statutes contain provisions relevant to fisheries conservation and management, of which the Wildlife Protection Act 1945 and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act 1991 are the most important examples.

Jamaica is in the process of replacing the existing fisheries acts by a new Fisheries Act and corresponding regulations, following a set of policy guidelines, based on results of consultations with the entire fisheries industry and environmental organisations. The new Act will also establish better coordination with acts and regulations touching on fisheries matters that are administered by other Ministries and Authorities.

The Fishing Industry Act 1975

The Fishing Industry Act 1975 is at this moment still the main piece of legislation that provides for the regulation of the fishing industry in Jamaica. A Licensing Authority, in practice the Director of Fisheries, is empowered by the Act to issue licences, and is required to keep a register of all licences issued.

In addition to the licence to fish, every boat used for fishing whether for business, recreation or sport, must be registered under the Act and the owner of the boat must possess a licence authorizing the boat to be used for fishing. The registration number must be painted on the boat in accordance with detailed requirements in the regulations. At this moment there are no limitations to enter the artisanal fisheries.

The Minister may impose closed seasons in respect of specified species. Currently there are closed seasons for spiny lobster, Panulirus argus (1 April to 30 June) and queen conch, Strombus gigas (usually 1 July to 31 October).

The Fishing Industry Regulations 1976 contain further prohibitions aimed at conservation, e.g. the use of any fry net or shove net of a length exceeding 12 feet (4 m).

The Aquaculture, Inland, Marine Products and By Products (Inspection, Licensing and Export) Act 1999

This Act and its Regulations, administered by the Veterinary Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, govern the production, storage and transport of fishery products and marine gastropods. They have become very important instruments in the regulation of conch and lobster fisheries for export to the European Union and other areas.

Beach Control Act 1956

The Beach Control Act 1956 is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and regulates the use of the foreshore for specified purposes. All rights in and over the foreshore are vested in the Crown. However, NRCA is empowered to grant licences for the use of the foreshore for any public purpose including fishing.

Wildlife Protection Act 1945

The Act affords protection to prescribed species of animals including crocodiles, manatees, the Pedro seals and five species of turtles. It also prohibits the use of poisons or other noxious materials, dynamite and explosives to harvest fish. (Such provisions do not exist in the Fisheries Industry Act 1975.) Under this Act it is an offence to take, kill or attempt to kill or knowingly buy, sell, expose for sale or have in one's possession any immature fish. This provision effectively functions to define legal minimum size limits of exploited species. To date no such regulations have been made.

The Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act 1991, marine parks and protected areas

The Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act 1991 establishes the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and mandates the Authority to inter alia:

  • Take such steps as are necessary for the effective management of the physical environment of Jamaica to ensure the protection, conservation and proper use of the natural resources;
  • Manage protected areas, national parks and marine parks, and
  • Advise the Minister on matters on general policy relating to the management, development and conservation of the environment.

In addition, the Wildlife Protection Act, as amended by the NRCA Act, empowers the NRCA, to make regulations to control the taking of fish or any specified species of fish, control the methods or traps which may be employed in taking any fish and make provision for the stocking of any water with fish and for the establishment and control of fish sanctuaries and hatcheries.

The Fishing Industry Act 1975 contains several provisions under the general heading of "Fishery Protection." The Act empowers the Minister to declare any area to be a fish sanctuary. Under the Act fishing is prohibited within a fish sanctuary.

Despite legislation that states the contrary, fishing has always been allowed in the marine parks. However, steps are being taken to limit entry and to at least get fishermen away from fishing near the reefs. Better cooperation is required between the Fisheries Division and environmental organizations to come to realistic protection and enforcement in selected areas.

There are three marine parks in Jamaica: Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios, as well as three protected areas: Portland Bight, Port Royal, and Bowden Bay. The latter is used by the Fisheries Division for experiments on oyster culture.


The enforcement of Jamaican fisheries and related laws and regulations is effected by four principal agencies and one NGO:

  • Jamaica’s Coast Guard, part of Jamaica’s Defence Force (JDF);
  • Marine Police, part of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF);
  • Fisheries Division (fisheries inspectors, statistical data collectors);
  • Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) (game wardens);
  • Portland Bight Protected Area (an NGO) (game wardens).

The Coast Guard has primary responsibility for monitoring, control and surveillance activities in the offshore areas and EEZ. The Coastguard has a station on Pedro Bank (Middle Cay), which facilitates sustained enforcement patrol of the Bank.

The Marine Police has responsibility for the enforcement of laws relating to fisheries, harbours, shipping and drugs. With respect to the enforcement of fisheries laws, the Marine Police largely operates within the inshore areas (immediate environs of the ports and harbours).

The Fisheries Division’s fishery inspectors and NRCA’s game wardens usually do not operate without the assistance of either Marine Police and/or Coast Guard personnel. Such cooperative enforcement activities are arranged on an ad hoc basis for specific purposes (e.g., during closed seasons for lobster or conch).

Fisheries inspectors have a dual role of fisheries extension and enforcement. This duality of responsibilities is viewed as contradictory and consequently enforcement activities tend to be downplayed to facilitate cooperation in extension and training.

In general the level of financial penalties is still very low especially in relation to the relatively high-value conch and lobster fisheries. The legislation also makes provisions for the discretionary forfeiture of gear, equipment, implements or appliances and vessels used in the commission of an offence. There are currently no legal provisions for the forfeiture of the catch on board the vessel or in the possession of the illegal fisher.

The above not only clearly illustrates the need for a new Fisheries Act and new Fisheries Regulations, as being drafted at present, but also for steps to avoid the considerable overlap of mandates regarding fisheries in the various laws administered by other organisations and Ministries. There is not much of a conflict at present, simply because neither the Fisheries Division nor any of the other entities are strictly enforcing the current laws and regulations. For example, marine parks and protected areas are not really effective, because fishing is going on albeit with some sub-area restrictions. The Fisheries Division lacks the funding to make sure that all fishermen and vessels are licensed, let alone to undertake any enforcement activity. The Coast Guard is severely hampered by the lack of suitable vessels. The Aquaculture, Inland, Marine Products and By Products (inspection, licensing and export) Act 1999 is consistently enforced,  however, it appears that too many inspections and samples are requested for export, even from HCCAP controlled exporters.


History of quota management system

The essentials of a conch management programme based on the earlier suggestions formulated by the Fisheries Division in conjunction with CFRAMP from a series of industry meetings between 1992 through 1994, are integrated into a comprehensive plan. The major features are the control of new licences to fish for conch, introduction of a quota system, minimum landed sizes for meats, the “flared lip present divers rule”, and the introduction of larger US dollar-related fines for offences.


Preliminary estimate (Mahon, Kong and Aiken, 1992)


August and October meetings with Industry to develop management plan


Reduction of harvest levels by 50% (3 000 t for 1993-1994 season)


Further 50% reduction to 1 500 t based on Tewfik (1996). Reduction of licenses to two per company


Development of conversion factors (live weight to various grades of processing. Quota and statistics are given in processed weight)


Conch abundance survey (Appeldoorn, 1995).


NTAC set at 2 000 t. Quota to be reduced by 100 t per year over 5 years. Another survey in 1997 or 1999


Three-months closed season each year (originally from July to September)


Refined conversion factors established


NTAC set at 1 900 t


NTAC set at 1 800 t


Morant Bank closed to industrial fishing


NTAC set at 1 700 t


Conch abundance survey (Tewfik & Appeldoorn, 1998)


NTAC set at 1 366 t (based on 1997 survey)


NTAC set at 1 216 t (based on estimates of poaching)


August 1999 - June 2001 no fishing, because of a lawsuit against the Minister


NTAC set at 946 t (taking poaching into account)


Fourth survey (Smikle and Appeldoorn, 2002). Since the last survey the average harvest rate of approximately 900 t was sufficient to result in an apparent increase in stock size. Recommended an annual harvest level of 800 to 900 tonnes of processed meat.


NTAC set at 550 t (taking into account a loss of about 40% due to poaching)


CITES allows Jamaica to continue to export conch, based on good management.

Current management measures for conch

  • Fisheries management areas, the shallowest area is reserved for artisanal fishers;
  • Establishment of catch quota;
  • Restricted access e.g. limited number of vessels and no industrial fishing on Morant Bank;
  • Vessels need to be certified by the Veterinary Division prior to licensing;
  • Establishment of a closed season (usually 1 August – 30 October);
  • Prohibition of trade in conch (including importation) during closed season and
  • Regulations protecting juveniles.
The Jamaica queen conch management plan: A review and critical analysis

A primary survey of the Jamaican artisanal conch fishery was conducted from June to August 1997. It was verified that the artisanal fishery had undergone significant development and expansion since the early 1980s. Based on field observations, data analysis as well as anecdotal information it was determined that the major artisanal conch fishery operations took place in eight coastal communities on the south coast. A first estimate of the number of artisanal conch divers and the potential productive capacity of these fishers was generated. These data indicate that the artisanal fishery is able to produce a significant quantity of conch.


Management measures for lobster

The spiny lobster fishery is now under pressure and is managed using the following strategies:


  • An annual closed season (1 April 1 to 30 June);
  • Minimum size limit (defined as 76 mm carapace length, average for the Caribbean);
  • Gear restrictions (no spear guns), and
  • Prohibition to take berried and moulting lobsters.
Industrial fleet

  • Limited entry of industrial vessels;
  • Industrial vessels can only use wooden, so-called Florida traps.
  • All licensed lobster fishing vessels shall fish only in the areas specified by the licence;
  • No fishing shall take place on the main island shelf of Jamaica or on any proximal bank;
  • All licensed lobster motor fishing vessels shall only fish, catch or land spiny lobster and no other species, and
  • All lobsters caught (except undersized and/or berried, which should be returned to the sea) shall be landed on mainland Jamaica no later than eight weeks after the commencement of each fishing trip.

Artisanal fleet

  • Artisanal fishers still have open access to the lobster fishery, but all other measures apply.

There is clearly not enough overall data on the fishery and this needs to be addressed urgently. However, due to scarce resources there need to be recommendations on what minimum data is required to facilitate management plans. The present management strategies will have to be improved and periodically assessed to evaluate their efficacy in curbing decline of the lobster stocks. Other recommendations for increased management of the fishery could include:

  • Use of casitas to promote resource enhancement;
  • Reduction of artisanal fishing effort (limited entry);
  • Increase in the minimum carapace length limit from 76.2 mm to at least 83 mm with increased enforcement;
  • Possible ban on free lung or SCUBA diving as a fishing gear for lobsters;
  • Establishment of more Marine Reserves with adequate monitoring;
  • Implementation of a tax on lobster exports to discourage excessive harvesting of lobsters in the industrial fishery and also to provide funding for data collection and management activities;
  • Ongoing public education to sensitise fishers, other stakeholders and the general public on spiny lobster management and
  • Collection of biological, catch and effort and socio-economic data (including export data) from fish processing plants.


The fishery for marine fish and shrimp

There are basically no management measures in place for fisheries on fish and shrimp, but this will be changed at the introduction of the new Fisheries Act. Artisanal fisheries, in particular on the north coast, suffer from overfishing, and from the import of cheaper demersal fish from other CARICOM countries. Shrimp fisheries are concentrated in and near Kingston harbour, and are executed with extremely primitive gear. It might be possible to introduce some improvements in this fishery. Management of the artisanal fisheries is also an important social problem. A recent study by an economist revealed the catch rates given in the table below. Less than 5% reported catching shrimp and conch and 4.0% sprats or other types of small pelagic fish. Lobster was also reported by approximately 54.6% of the fishers.

Portland Bight Protected Area

This is a large area, including land. It is managed by the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation C-CAM. Fishermen, boat owners and all those dealing with haggling and fish processing are united in the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council. Also several fisheries cooperatives are active in this area. It includes many important landing places, where also landings take place from Pedro Bank. Several management plans were produced and honorary personnel was appointed as game wardens etc. However, partly because of the unclear legal situation with regard to licensing and limitation of access, not many practical results have emerged. This is likely to change in the near future when new legislation and agreements with the Fisheries Division take effect. C-CAM has managed to attract GEF project funding and is likely to obtain a large share of the IDB loan for development of the South Coast, if this is implemented.

Sanders (1996) suggested that a whole mosaic of protected areas or no-fishing zones should be established in order to re-populate the reefs with fish, conch and lobster. In fact strict no-fishing zones hardly exist and therefore the effect of marine parks and protected areas is still limited.

Frequency of sizes of daily catch by artisanal fishermen, by area

Mean catch size*

North shelf

South shelf

Pedro Bank





































*Means related to exclusive users of these fishing grounds. Users of more than one fishing ground have been excluded to facilitate comparability.

When annual operating costs are added to annualized living expenses and compared with estimated gross revenues from average annual catch, earnings are closely related to fishing grounds, with Pedro Banks fishers earning gross profits of J$646,000, while South shelf fishers are making losses of J$38,892 (see Table). The value of annual catches is based on the average market price of the three types of fish caught, i.e. quality, common and trash fish. These figures are based on very hypothetical daily catches of 50 lbs, which are very rare on the North coast and that means that the calculated surplus for that area is not realistic.

Estimated operating surplus of artisanal fishers (‘000J$, rounded)


Annual operating expenses

Annual living expenses

Total annual expenses

Income based on 50 lb/day catch

Estimated operating surplus

North shelf






South shelf






Pedro Bank



1 274

1 920








Estimated annual catch in % by group of fish and fishing ground and total landings and value by species in 1981

Source: Sahney, 1982 via Espeut and Grant (1990), re-arranged and modified.

When comparing historic data on catch rates, as given in the above table, with current catches and values it is evident that the catch composition has changed, e.g. turtles are no longer landed and conch has become an important resource. Current data will be available from statistical data collection, but have not yet been published.

Inland fisheries

Jamaica has a substantial amount of wetlands and small rivers. Subsistence and sport fishing is taking place in those waters, but there is currently no information available.


There is not yet a specific management plan for aquaculture. Fish and shrimp farmers are organized and can exert some pressure. All new large farms are subject to an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment.


  • The contribution of fisheries to the agricultural sector and GDP is substantial, while contribution to export earnings is significant and has potential for increase.
  • The fisheries industry contributes to direct and indirect employment of over 100 000 persons and contributes to the local economy of many fishing communities.
  • Capture fisheries and aquaculture still play an important part in food security, but the share of fresh marine fish is declining.
  • Artisanal fishing communities are among the poorest in the country, and artisanal fishers are highly dependent on earnings from fishing to support themselves and their dependents. Artisanal fishers have limited alternative means of livelihood, because of their low educational attainment and skills training, although most are forced to supplement fishing income with other occupations.
  • Public expenditure on the fisheries industry is inadequate to meet development needs. However, the public financing of fisheries is in a chronic state of imbalance, which is not sustainable. The expansion of revenue is imperative if fisheries policy is to be effectively implemented.


There is no accurate information on total investment in the fisheries sector in the national economy.


The total expenditure of the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture provides an indication of the level of public support provided to the fishing industry. Total expenditures between fiscal years 2002 and 2004 have been about 5.5% of the total agricultural budget (see Table below). Sources of revenue from the fisheries industry include licence fees and other fees. Current fees are still very low, except for veterinary inspections. Fines, which are also very low, are not contributing to the fisheries budget. A small profit is made from the sale of fuel at normal prices at 21 beaches.

Estimates of expenditure budget of the Fisheries Division, 2004-2005 ‘000,000 J$


Estimates 2004-05

Revised estimates 2003-04

Approved estimates 2003-04

Provisional expenditure 2002-03






% of agriculture





Total agriculture

1 584.96

1 530.92

1 623.65

1 566.88

Given the imbalance between revenues collected from the fisheries and the Government expenditures, it is evident that the industry as a whole receives a net subsidy from the Government of Jamaica of several million Jamaican dollars per year, making the issue of cost recovery and sharing extremely pertinent to future fisheries policy.

Donations from various organizations consist mainly of small open boats, of the same type as used by most artisanal fishermen, and some shore facilities, ranging from a jetty with marketing, storage and repair facilities, to small huts. The donation of small boats poses a problem once the new policy plan will be implemented. However, there is a need for larger boats with more economic inboard engines that most fishermen cannot afford. Therefore such vessels would constitute a suitable donor contribution to the Jamaican fisheries economy.



Fish and fish products are a major source of protein in the Jamaican diet. Estimates of the per capita consumption of fish range from 15 to 20 kg.

Price considerations have been dominant, as fish and seafood generally, tend to be high-priced items, especially when sourced from domestic fisheries. Imported processed fish, such as sardines, salted mackerel or herring and traditional salted cod have long been staples of the fish diet, especially of poorer Jamaicans. Cultured tilapia has provided an alternative source of fish in recent years. Frozen imported marine fish has also provided a price-competitive alternative to domestic marine fish.

Types of marine fish consumed. There is a marked preference for locally caught “quality” fish, which generally secures the best prices. Significant amounts of “common” and “trash” fish are however purchased on a regular basis, due mainly to more affordable pricing. Domestic consumers are less receptive to large pelagics such as tunas, jacks, dolphin, or barracuda, based on the size as well as darker coloration of meat, as the tendency is to purchase whole fish and to consider fish as a type of “white” meat. Some accessible species, such as shark and squid are generally shunned locally, although overseas markets are known to exist for these products. Apart from fish, consumption of other marine species, such as lobster, conch and shrimp is relatively low, reflecting the higher prices and scarcity.


Exports of fish and fish products have shown dramatic growth, increasing from 286 t in 1989 to 1 652 t in 1999, this figure falling to 1 364 t in 2001. Exports of lobster and conch have made up 60 to 72% of exports; the remainder comes from fish and fish fillets, mainly the products of aquaculture.

Exports of fisheries products and production of aquaculture 1997-2001







Quantity (t)

3 180

2 537

1 652


1 364

Value (‘000000J$)






Source: Fisheries Division

Production and exports of conch declined precipitously during 2000 as a result of the closure of the conch fisheries, while local aquaculture exports have suffered from a loss of competitiveness. In 2001, however, production and exports showed signs of returning to previous levels. The USA and Europe were the main markets for fish exports, and Jamaica continues to be a competitive producer of conch and lobster.

Jamaica is mainly an importer of fish and fish products, and imports make up more than 80% of the total supply. Imports of fish and fish products increased from 16 216 t in 1989, to 27 142 t in 2001. Dried, salted, or otherwise preserved fish, including cod, sardines, mackerel, etc. used to make up the bulk of imports, but during the 1990s there has been a trend toward lower contribution of this category and an increase in the contribution of fresh, frozen or chilled fish. The increased imports of fresh/frozen fish such as snapper, bangamary, seatrout and salmon is a significant trend related to the rising  local demand for fish and the limited supply of the domestic fisheries, as well as the competitive pricing of the imports. Imports of fresh/frozen fish and fillets increased 3 to 23 times during the 1990s.

Distribution systems

Fish products are sold through several different outlets: First, fish caught by local fishermen is sold on the beaches, and until recently, larger boats landed fish at the Fisheries Terminal in Kingston; fish vendors, in particular higglers, or informal traders, are the main conduits for fish landed at the fishing beaches, but many householders also make purchases directly from fishermen, especially in rural towns. In addition, imported fish and fish products are sold through wholesale and retail outlets, including supermarkets, which primarily source their supplies through local importers. Fish farms supply vendors, retail outlets and commercial buyers such as restaurants, hotels and food service institutions. However, a significant proportion of the fish produced by fish farmers is sold on a contract basis to large processors, who themselves operate the largest farms.


The market for locally-produced marine fish is fairly segmented and localized. Domestic production of marine fish is largely in the hands of artisanal fishers, who operate from beaches located around the island. The practice is to dispose of most of the catch on the beaches to households and vendors, who generally serve markets within the parishes and surrounding areas, while larger beaches may have buyers who travel from more distant parishes. As a result the main competition among artisanal fishermen is within their parish of operation; and given the limited supplies of fish, especially outside of season, this competition does not appear to be intense, as reflected in the prices of fish landed.

The larger suppliers, e.g. “packer” boats which transfer catches purchased on the offshore banks and cays, generally dispose of stocks on the same fishing beaches under the same conditions as the artisanal fishers, but price differentials do not suggest that these provide undue competition with the local fishers.

Local market conditions for fish have been widely impacted by trade liberalization in recent years, which, combined with the decline in local catches, has resulted in the increased imports of frozen fish products, much of this in semi-processed form. The composition of fish imports reflects increases in “quality” fish, which offer effective competition to local species. Indeed, one of the concerns of local fishermen appears to be the comparatively low price of imports, which can undermine efforts to supply the local market, given high production costs. However, the general scarcity of quality fish, in the context of a marked preference by local consumers for fresh product ensures that problems of disposal of stocks are not prevalent.


The local price of fish varies with species and variety. These range from J$ 105 per lb for quality fish to J$ 75-80 per lb for common fish and J$ 48 per lb for trash fish. Prices being highest in January-April, coinciding with the availability of required species and the Easter season. (See Table).

Average price per lb of selected fish products, 2001

Local sales

Boat price, J$ per lb



Butterfish, hinds, goatfish






Parrotfish, grunts


Doctorfish, ocean surgeon, blue tang, angelfish


Small fish (sold mixed)


Export Market






US$ 3.5-4.0


The management of fishery resources in Jamaica is the responsibility of the Fisheries Division, which is administered by its Director. This Division is within the Ministry of Agriculture, where it has a relatively low status. Quality control falls under the Veterinary Division under the same Ministry.

Minister of Agriculture

Permanent Secretary

Fishery Advisory Council (FAC)

Director of Fisheries Division

Fisheries Division Units

The main office and marine branch of the Fisheries Division are situated at a fair distance from the Ministry, while the aquaculture branch is even further away at Twickenham.





Accounts Section

Research Unit

Research Unit

Research Vessels

Extension unit

Extension Unit

Extension officers (outposted)

Data Management Unit



Licensing and Registration Unit





  • Legal aspects (drafting instructions for Fisheries Act, Rules and Regulations)
  • Personnel management and administration (incl. budgets)
  • Participation in activities of other institutions related to fisheries and environment
  • Vessels and cars, running and maintenance (no vessel is currently operational)
  • Fisheries library and archive
  • Draft project proposals
  • Servicing of old Loan Scheme


Fisheries management and MCS

  • Registration and licensing of fishing boats and fishermen
  • Drafting and implementing Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs), to be modified each year for certain fisheries
  • Establishing quota, closed seasons and protected areas
  • Secretariat of Fisheries Advisory Committee (FAC)
  • Collection of information and publication of management measures
  • Monitoring, Surveillance and Control, with Marine Police and Coast Guard, e.g.
    Observers on conch and lobster vessels
    Beach surveillance of licences, registration and safety equipment
    Inshore marine surveillance
    Control on implementation of closed seasons (incl. restaurants, hotels)


  • Extension work on beaches (including sale of fuel at 21 stations)

Fisheries statistics

  • Data collection (sampling data on beaches, collecting data on industrial fisheries and sports fisheries)
  • Data processing and reporting


  • Fish stock assessment (input for Fisheries Management Plans and regional activities)
    Biological sampling
    Resource surveys (vessels, diving, etc.)
    Advice to management body re quota
    Report writing and publishing
    Participation in meetings of regional stock assessment bodies



  • Culture of Tilapia, ornamental fish, shrimp and oyster
  • Offshore cage culture
  • Feasibility studies
  • Report writing and publishing
  • Participation in meetings of regional aquaculture bodies

Assistance and extension

  • Site selection and pond preparation
  • Extension work and training courses for fish farmers


  • Data collection (sampling data from fish, shrimp and oyster farmers)
  • Data processing and reporting


  • Production of Tilapia fry for sale
  • Production of ornamental fish fry for sale


  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Fishing gear technology
  • Fish handling and processing
  • Marketing

This document is based on reports published by the Fisheries Division of Jamaica and on extracts from several reports prepared for the FAO Project TCP/JAM 2901, including a Sector Review, the fifth draft of a Policy Document and a Report by an economist. Figures were copied from the Jamaica National Marine Fisheries Atlas, published as CARICOM Fisheries Report no 4 in 2000.

Depending on the introduction of a new Fisheries Act, several management measures may be changed. An immediate update of this document will then be required. The Project has also produced a database of some 700 documents related to fisheries and the marine environment of Jamaica, however, documents reflecting economic aspects of Jamaican fisheries are very rare and often incomplete.




Ministry of Agriculture (includes Fisheries Division and Veterinary Division)

National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA)

Ministry of Local Government

Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard

Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Marine Police

University of the West Indies (UWI)-(includes Faculty of Life Sciences and Centre for Marine Sciences)

Jamaica Fishermen’s Cooperative Union (JFCU)

Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC)

Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ)

Representatives from the Fishing Industry

Environmental NGOs represented by NEST

Hillrun Fish Farmers Association

Jamaica Ornamental Fish Farmers Association (JOFFA)

Jamaica Freshwater Fish Farmers Association

Jamaica Broilers

Yamaha Engines

Co-opted members:

Port Authority of Jamaica

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Transport and Works

Ministry of National Security and Justice

Ministry of Finance and Planning

Ministry of Land and Environment

Ministry of Health

Office of the Prime Minister

Forestry Department

Social Development Commission (SDC)


Shipping Association of Jamaica

Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB)

Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo)

Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)

Customs Department

Urban Development Commission

Hardware & Lumber Agri


Eagle Craft

Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA)

Cooperative Department

Jamaica Public Service

National Irrigation Commission

Caribbean Maritime Training Institute

Jamaica Promotions Limited (JAMPRO)

This list reflects the large number of institutions, companies and NGOs that have an interest in fisheries matters. Environmental organizations and NGOs are very active and interested. Although the Fisheries Division is always the lead agency in matters of capture fisheries and aquaculture, it is often struggling to keep informed and involved in what other organizations, including donors, are planning and doing.