Replaces: Arabic version (2005), Spanish version (2005), French version (2005), Chinese version (2005)
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea. It is located 898 kilometers south east of Miami, United States of America and 144.6 kilometers south of Cuba. Jamaica posses a land mass area of 10 991 km2, coastline of approximately 1 022 km and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 274 000 km2.
The aquaculture industry is divided into two subsectors, the food fish and the ornamental fish. The food fish subsector consists primarily of the red hybrid tilapia, crustaceans – Penaeus vannamei (marine shrimp) and Macrobrachium rosenbergii (freshwater shrimp), molluscs - Crassostrea rhizophorae (mangrove oyster). The ornamental fish subsector produces a variety of ornamental fish species such as Pterophyllum scalare and Crassius auratus for export.
Since the 1980’s, aquaculture production has moved from being subsistence and small scale based, where 63 farmers produced approximately 32.6 tonnes per year utilizing 58 hectares of ponds, to a commercialized industry in 2006/7 where 189 farmers utilize approximately 1 100 hectares to produce 8 019 tonnes.
However, since 2008 there has been a sharp decline in aquaculture production. Factors that contributed to this decline include high costs of energy, the absence of suitable feed inputs and limited research and development especially in the area of broodstock development. In 2013, production was estimated to be 785.5 tonnes, which is a decrease of approximately 86 percent compared to 2008.
Earliest records have revealed that Jamaica’s entry into aquaculture was first initiated through the introduction of Tilapia mossambica in the late 1940's. A breeding programme was started and the species was stocked in most major rivers and natural ponds. The tilapia, locally known as African perch, soon became part of the local inland and brackishwater fisheries.
In 1976 the Inland Fisheries Project was formed (Government of Jamaica / USAID Program), aiming at evaluating and promoting the farming of freshwater fish. Commercial production of tilapia species began in 1977 and it quickly expanded. Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus proven to be a better fish for pond culture, was introduced in 1978 together with grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idellus and mirror carp Cyprinus carpio var. specularis. In 1981, silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis were imported from Panama.
The principal fish species now cultured in Jamaica is the tilapia (red hybrid). However, between 2007 and 2010 there was a change in production practices with several of the large farms changed from intensive culture systems, in which aerators were used, to predominantly semi-intensive and extensive culture systems. Currently, all farmers practice semi and extensive culture. This change in production practices is a direct consequence of the high costs associated with energy and the absence of suitable feed inputs. These changes have led to a direct reduction in production output, as farmers stock at densities up to 75 percent lower than expected stocking densities when using intensive culture systems. In addition, rather than producing two crops per year, some farmers have resorted to producing a single crop per year based on market demand. Currently average yield from a one hectare pond is approximately 2 700–3 800 kg/ha.
Aquaculture sector in Jamaica is estimated to employ directly 800 to 1 000 people. Of this number, the vast majority of the hired workers on fish farms are male. On the other hand, women make up the majority of workers in the processing plants. Only 8–11 percent of all fish farms are owned and operated by women (Jamaica Aquaculture Development Plan 2011, Van Reil 2005).
Small to medium size farms tend to employ on a full time basis 1-2 persons and larger farms employ 12–50 persons. The majority of workers completed primary level education but only a few have completed secondary level education.
Data gathered by the Fisheries Division, Aquaculture Branch, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica regarding size, geographic location and distribution of ponds in Jamaica is presented in Tables 1 and 2. Most of the prime aquaculture ponds are located on the south cost of Jamaica, namely in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth, which account for approximately 98 percent of present of the production of tilapia.
Table 1 Distribution of aquaculture farms by parish, including active and inactive farms.
Table 2 Size distribution of aquaculture farms, including active and inactive farms.
The main species currently farmed in Jamaica is the red tilapia, which is grown primarily in earthen ponds. In 2013, production of tilapia is estimated to be approximately 785.5 tonnes. Other species and varieties of tilapia are also farmed. Carps (silver, grass, and bighead) are also farmed, as are Pangasius. Table 3 lists the commonly farmed species and the year of introduction.
Table 2. Species introduced in Jamaica for aquaculture purposes.
Tilapia farming is divided into three or more phases. The general model for Jamaica is that fish are spawned in ponds with stocking densities of around 10 000–12 000 fish/ha. Fry are captured before they are 5 days old and transferred to concrete tanks. They remain in the tanks and are fed a diet containing methyl-testosterone (to produce all-male fry) for about 28 days. They are then transferred to nursery ponds where they remain for about 60 days. Stocking densities at this point are 100 000–114 000 fish/ha. The final grow-out phase lasts 180–195 days depending on the size of fish required.
The grow-out phase is often split into two sub-phases, with the stocking density reduced in the final phase to improve growth rates. Any smaller females (unsuccessful sex reversals) may also be graded out at this point. For still-water ponds without aeration, stocking densities are in the region of 15 000 fish/ha. This density can be increase depending on the use of aeration and increase in water flow, from 60 000 fish/ha to 200 000 fish/ha. It should be noted that currently this method of production is no longer practiced in Jamaica owing to the high cost associated with energy. Many of the smaller producers buy fingerlings and only have grow-out ponds.
In the past, a contract farm production system was in place in Jamaica. This model has however, fallen by the wayside as a result of the largest private sector investor in the aquaculture sector, Aquaculture Jamaica, closing its tilapia production operations in Toll gate and Barton Isle in Jamaica. The company cited the increased cost of production, loss of export market and competition from imported fishery products that had led to its decision to exist the tilapia production industry.
Currently, farmers purchase fry (approximately 1 g) from a supplier and use a two phase production process. Fish are first stocked in nursery ponds for 60 days and are then moved to grow-out ponds for 180–195 days. At the end of this period the majority of the fish will have reached about 340 g and estimated yield of 3 272 kg/ha. All the fish that is produced by farmers is absorbed by the local markets. The Island has one feed mill that produces fish feed, Hi-Pro Feed Mill. The feed is reported to contain 28 percent protein and cost USD 0.57/kg to USD 0.68/kg, depending whether it is formulated as pellets or a mash. Ingredients for the diets are almost all imported and include fishmeal, soya, corn, wheat flour, vitamins and minerals. For intensive culture, extruded (floating) feed is imported (mainly from Ecuador, USA - Cargill and now Trinidad and Tobago) costing USD 0.98–1.15/kg. Feed conversion rates are about 2.1–2.5 in the hatchery and nursery phase, improving to 1.5–2.2 in the grow-out phase.
Tilapia accounted for approximately 98 percent total fish production in 2013. It is estimated that 785 tonnes was produced in 2013, a decrease of 86 percent when compared to 2008. (Branch, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica)
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Jamaica according to FAO statistics:
Due to the change in production practices to semi-intensive and extensive and the exit of the largest tilapia private sector investor all tilapia that is produced is absorbed by the local market. Most fish farmers rely on vendors to buy and distribute their product. The product is usually sold at the farm-gate to the vendor who will take it to markets. The farmer may also sell tilapia to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other distributors. The size preferred by local consumers is 227–340 g.
A study entitled Jamaica Tilapia Market Study commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, and Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) (Formerly Jamaica Promotions –JAMPRO) sought to outline the structure of the market. According to their findings there are four major distribution channels of aquaculture products: wholesalers/retailers (62 percent); restaurants (19 percent); supermarkets (22 percent ); and hotels (6 percent). In addition, a variety of product forms exist locally, which are: Live fish (most common product form); Fresh whole fish; Fresh scaled and gutted; Frozen scaled and gutted.
Demand for tilapia is greatest during the months of March and April, followed by August and finally December. The exact demand during these period has not being quantified to date but it is estimated that demand increases by approximately 25 percent , 12 percent and 20 percent , respectively, above baseline.
Jamaica lost its export market share in 2008. Thi loss is due to the inability of Jamaica to compete, price wise, with fishery products from Asian countries. However, prior to that the fish was exported to United States of America, the United Kingdom and Belgium. Fish products produced then included a range of fresh and frozen tilapia products including fillets, de-boned and marinated products.
Export of aquaculture products to the United States requires that the farm and processing facility from which it is produced meet HACCP certification standards. This is administered through the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. No specific labelling standards exist for aquaculture products, but instead only general labelling is required. The labelling standard is administered through the Jamaica Bureau of Standards.
The fishing industry contribution to the Jamaican economy in 2013 was 4.35 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the total Agricultural sector. The fisheries sector, by itself, contribution to Jamaica’s GDP for 2013 was 0.29 percent, with a potential to be increased. The industry is a major employer of labour and supports the local economy of many fishing communities including providing income opportunities for women. Fishing also contributes to food security and to the alleviation of poverty.
Per capita consumption of fish for 2013 was 15.73 kg/person. This consumption is one of the highest in the Caribbean and demonstrates the potential for expansion of the local aquaculture sector.
The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is the agency vested with the responsibility for the administrative control of fisheries; aquaculture is a component of fisheries. The Fisheries Division is comprised of two Branches, the Marine Branch which deals with the capture fisheries and the Aquaculture Branch which deals with the culture fisheries. The major thrust of the Aquaculture Branch is training, extension and research in aquaculture and mariculture.
The Aquaculture Branch evolved from the Inland Fisheries Unit which was established during the first phase of the USAID/GOJ project in 1977. The Fisheries Division has been charged with the expansion and development of fisheries of Jamaica. This mandate has been further expanded to include the management and sustainable development of the fisheries sector.
Role and support of the private sector organizations
Jamaica Aquaculture Association (JAA): In 1998 there were 109 registered members of the JAA. The organization provides a vehicle for political lobbying as well as being a network for technical and commercial support.
Jamaica Ornamental Fish Farmers Association: This organization has a membership of 300 persons and serves as the umbrella organization for ornamental fish farmers in Jamaica. Several interventions have been made by this organization in terms of improving the production and marketing of ornamental fish in Jamaica.
The Competitiveness Company Limited (TCC): is a not-for-profit; Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) affiliated with The Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), and is fully Jamaican owned. Its role within the ornamental fish subsector is the development of value chain and cluster management. TCC works to increase and enhance the competitiveness of ornamental farmers, to ensure that their products and services command a premium in the marketplace and to move exports farther up the value chain.
Fishing Industry Act (1975)
Although the Fisheries Division is the agency with the administrative mandate for aquaculture, there is no legislation under the current Fishing Industry Act for the management and development of aquaculture. The Fisheries Division is in the process of reviewing its legislation and a draft bill has been prepared which contains a component on aquaculture.
Environmental Regulation of Aquaculture
Several agencies are responsible for environmental regulation in Jamaica. These include the Water Resources Authority, the National Environment Protection Agency, the Forestry Department and the Fisheries Division.
The Water Resources Authority
The Water Resources Authority regulates ground water supply in Jamaica. It administers the Water Resources Act (1995). Under the Water Resources Act a license is required for the abstraction and use of water. However, if the person has the right of access to the source of water, a permit is not required. The sinking or alteration of a well requires a permit.
Natural Resources Conservation Act (1991)
This act established the entity Natural Resources Conservation Authority which is mandated to manage the physical environment of Jamaica thus ensuring the conservation, protection and proper use of the island's natural resources. Under the NRCA Act the discharge of effluents into open bodies of water requires a permit. The NRCA also has the authority to request environmental impact assessments where this may be deemed necessary.
Wildlife Protection Act
The Wildlife Protection Act prohibits the release of noxious substances into the environment. As a consequence, it is important for effluent to be monitored. The National Environment Protection Agency has developed general industrial trade standards for effluent discharge. The agency is in the process of developing standards which are more suited to aquaculture. The Wildlife Protection Act also protects endangered species and prohibits the killing of species that are endangered (e.g. crocodiles).
The Beach Control Act (1956)
This Act vests the rights in the foreshore and floor of the sea in the hands of the Crown. Any encroachment or use of the sea floor will require a license.
The Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act 2000
This act prohibits the trade in endangered species. This may only be done through appropriate permits and licenses. Scientific and Management Authorities have been established to monitor the trade in animals on the first, second and third schedules of CITES.
Permits and Licenses Regulation/Act
Under the Permits and Licenses Regulation/Act several permits and licenses are required for aquaculture facilities. These include:
The Animal (Diseases and Importation) Act
This Act is administered through the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture. It controls the importation of animals into the country. It also establishes procedures for the quarantine of imported animals, and in the case of diseased animals in quarantine, control and slaughter of animals in the event of an outbreak of a communicable disease.
Aquaculture, Inland and Marine Products and By-Products (Inspection, Licensing and Export) act 1999
This Act is also administered by the Veterinary Services Division. It provides legislation for the export of fishery products and by-products from Jamaica. All processing facilities on land and at sea require licenses. An export health certificate is required for the export of such products.
Applied research in aquaculture has been occurring since the 1950's. Research appears to be driven by the needs of the industry. However, no single body establishes what the research priorities should be. Currently very few organizations and institutions are involved in applied research, education and training in aquaculture. The main agencies are the Fisheries Division, and to a lesser extent the Scientific Research Council (SRC), the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) and private sector companies such as Algix Jamaica Limited, a new entrant into aquaculture in Jamaica.
The Fisheries Division, through the Aquaculture Branch (previouisly the Inland Fisheries Unit), has been conducting applied research and training in aquaculture since its inception. However, as a result of inadequate resources most of these activities have been halted or curtailed.
The University of the West Indies has offered a six-week course in aquaculture since 1984 for students in their final year. This course in now combined with Fisheries and is titled Fisheries and Aquaculture Technologies. In the academic year 2005/2006, the University of the West Indies has introduced a new Master’s of Science Program in Coastal, Estuarine and Marine Biology of which aquaculture/mariculture is a component, through the Department of Life Sciences.
The Department of Life Sciences also operates a marine laboratory at Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica. Research at this facility has centered mainly on mariculture e.g. mariculture of corals, sea urchins, sea horses and the culture of algae for the feeding of peneid shrimp. Applied research in the Life Sciences Department in relation to tilapia culture has largely centered on acclimatization of red hybrid tilapia in cages to sea water, stocking density variations and effects on growth rates and protein digestion (Aiken, 2002).
Algix Jamaica Limited conducts limited research into the artificially induced breeding of the Pangasius hypothalamus.
The College of Agriculture Science and Technology offers aquaculture both in their Natural Science Program and in their Agriculture Program. This operates as an elective in both its Associate of Science Degree Programs in General Agriculture and Natural Sciences and an elective in its Diploma of Agriculture Program. Today, few technical schools offer training in aquaculture. Most school programs in aquaculture were discontinued because of insufficient resources.
The Fisheries Division is now in the final stages of drafting legislation and policy that will govern the development and management of fisheries and aquaculture in Jamaica. The policy will address areas such as the establishment, maintenance and development of an appropriate legal and administrative framework that facilitates the development of responsible aquaculture, and promote responsible development and management of aquaculture, including an advanced evaluation of the effects of aquaculture development on genetic diversity and ecosystem integrity, based on the best available scientific information.
Some of the strategies to be adopted include:
1) Plan for Aquaculture Development in Jamaica 2012-2025 was developed with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This plan is divided into three phase with the following outputs:
Another initiative currently being undertaken by the Fisheries Division is the diversification of aquaculture species cultured in Jamaica. A pilot project is ongoing and its objectives are to determine the economic feasibility and technical requirements for needed for the introduction of this species.
Local producers are facing competition from foreign competitors that produce at a lower costs. There will be the need for farmers to improve their efficiency so that they can compete with fish that is imported to the island.
In terms of research and production there is the need to continue research in improving growth rates and controlling of production traits through genetic manipulation and the development of focused breeding programs. There is the need for improved feeds and feeding programs, better monitoring and control of production parameters, improved processing yields and product packaging, diversification of product presentation and lowered production costs.
Aiken, K.A. et al. 2002. Aquaculture in Jamaica, Naga, World Fish Centre Quarterly (Vol. 25, Nos. 3 and 4) .July – Dec. 2002.
Blueprint Aquaculture Action Plan For Jamaica, 2012. ACP Fish 11 Project
Carberry, J and F.C. Hanley. 1997. Commercial Intensive Tilapia Culture in Jamaica p. 64-67. In D.E. Allston, B.W. Green and H.C. Clifford (eds.). The Fourth Symposium on Aquaculture in Central America: Focusing on Shrimp and Tilapia, 22 – 24 April 1997, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Associacion Nacional de Acuicultores de Honduras and the Latin American Chapter of the World Aquaculture Society.
Ferlin, P and P. Noriega-Curtis. 1989. A Regional Survey of the Aquaculture Sector in the Caribbean. United Nations Development Program, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, 1989.
Halcrow, Sir William and Partners Ltd. 1998. Multi sector Preinvestment Program South Coast Sustainable Development Study Technical Supplement, Aquaculture September 1998.
Hanson, T. 2008, Jamaican Tilapia Market Study (unpublisded)
Van Riel, Wesley B. 2005. Economic Study of the Jamaican Fishing Industry. Draft Report. January 2005.
Wurman, G.C. 2011. Plan for Aquaculture Development in Jamaica 2012-2025, Food and Agriculture Organization, 2011