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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2018)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared:June 2019.

In Jamaica, with an area of 10 990 km2, a coastline of 1 022 km and a population of 2.9 million (2017), fisheries have always played an important role for economic and development.

Jamaica has one of the highest levels of fish consumption per caput in the Americas (25.8 kg/year in 2017) and its supply has significantly depended on imports, which accounted for about 79 percent of all fishery products consumed domestically (2017). In 2017, imports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 116.6 million and exports at USD 14.7 million.Jamaican fisheries contribute to mainly small-scale food security, as well as to the employment of the coastal communities where fishing-related activities are often the only or the most important source of foods and livelihoods for about 40 000 persons. In 2017, 24469 fishers were reported of which around 6 percent were female. Only 105 people were reported as engaged in aquaculture (also with about 6% of the workforce composed by women). The total number of fishing vessels estimated in 2017 was 7 100, all motorized.

Capture production ranged between 19 000 and 25 000 tonnes in the 1992–1997 period. Since then, there has been a decline trend in catches to reach an estimate of 16 000 tonnes in 2017.

Coral reef-related fisheries are socially and economically important in Jamaica. Reef-related fisheries support between 15 000–20 000 active fishers, most of whom are artisanal, thus providing coastal communities with an important “safety net” of food and employment in times of need. Jamaica’s fisheries contribute directly and indirectly to the livelihoods of more than 100 000 people island- wide, or nearly 5 percent of the population. Increasing climate variability has also compounded local vulnerability of Jamaica’s reefs.

After recording the highest production of 8 000 tonnes in 2006, the annual aquaculture production has declined drastically and continuously up to 600 tonnes reported in 2015, then recovering in 2017 to almost 1 350 tonnes, mainly of Tilapia production. The close down of marine shrimp farms was said to be caused by unfavourable business conditions including serious thievery.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Jamaica

Shelf area 13 874 km2 http://www.seaaroundus.org
Length of continental coastline 1 022 Km http://world.bymap.org
Fisheries GDP (year)    

Key statistics

Country area10 990km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area10 830km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area160km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.2.814millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area257 777km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2018. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Jamaica

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 10.40 16.90 27.47 19.64 23.45 23.76 24.57
  Aquaculture 0.90 1.00 0.70 0.09 0.11 0.11
  Capture 10.40 16.00 26.47 18.94 23.36 23.66 24.47
    Marine 10.40 16.00 26.47 18.94 23.36 23.66 24.47
FLEET(thousands boats) 3.85 6.67 7.10 7.10 7.10
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2018Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorJamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea. It is located 898 kilometres south east of Miami, United States of America and 144.6 kilometres 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. In Jamaica, with a surface of 10 990 km2 and a population of 3 million, excluding the 3.5 million tourists, fisheries have always played an important role in the economy and development. In fact, the country has one of the highest levels of per capita fish consumption in the Americas (25.8 kg/yr in 2017) and its supply has depended significantly on imports valued at $104 million in 2016 and $116 million, representing about 80% of all the fishery products consumed in the country.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profile

Capture production ranged between 19 000 and 25 000 tonnes per year in the period 1992-1997. Since then, there has been a decrease in catches to reach an estimate of 16 600 tonnes in 2017. The decrease in capture fisheries was mainly due to a combination of coastal pollution, environmental degradation and unsustainable fishing practices.

There are five main types of fishing operations:

Industrial fisheries, for conch, lobster and fish;Artisanal fisheries at high sea, banks, and inshore Sport fishing for marlins and fishing trips with tourists Collection of sea weeds, land crabs, etc.

The industrial fisheries are mainly involved in the export of conch and lobster, but also some first quality fish is exported. Artisanal fisheries, which generally serve the domestic market, fish on the island shelf and reefs, as well as on the offshore banks, and dispose of the catch on beaches on a daily basis, or via carriers in Kingston harbour.

Landing sitesThe main beach landings are located on the south coast at Port Royal, Old Harbour Bay, Rocky Point and Whitehouse (new jetty, suitable for small vessels). There is a station of the Fisheries Division on 21 beaches, where fuel and services of an extension officer are provided. 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 boats land mainly at the fishing port in Kingston, 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. Industrial vessels fishing for conch and lobster may also be using private jetties.

Fishing practices/systemsThe fleet consists of 95% of open boats made of reinforced fibreglass plastic (FRP), ranging in size from 3.6 to 9 m, powered by one or two outboard motors (25 to 75 HP, mainly 40 HP). Only 5% of the fleet are bigger boats. The total number of fishing vessels registered by Jamaica in 2012 was 4 107. In 2014 the number went up to 6 700, of which around 21 percent has no engine, while CARICOM report indicated the participation of approximately 9 000 ships including 5 971 registered as artisanal boats and 87 as industrial vessels. In 2017, fleet registers 7 100 vessels.

Traps are used for the lobster fisheries, while diving is used for Queen conch. Some small scale fisheries exists for shrimp and other demersal species.

Main resourcesMost of the resources that constitute the traditional coastal fishing in Jamaica, primarily species associated with reefs (snappers, groupers, lobsters, etc.), are overfished. The status of pelagic resources is unknown.

Management applied to main fisheriesConch and lobster fisheries are managed through closed season, minimum sizes, fishers licenses, etc. All other fisheries are practically open access, with some no take zones established recently. Conch and lobster fishers are licensed. The conch fishers have to obtain a license since 2000, while lobster licensing started in 2017.

Management objectivesTo ensure optimum social and economic benefits to Jamaica.

Management measures and institutional arrangementsConch fisheries have a closed season for Conch of seven months (during 2017-2018 from 1 September 2017 through to 1 April 2018). During this period the fishing of Queen conch is strictly prohibited by law. Under the Fishing Industry (Conservation of Conch (Genus: Strombus)) Regulations, 2000, every licensed fisherman and every person in charge of commercial cold storage facilities, hotels and eating establishments, planning to have conch meat in storage during the Close Season for Conch must send a signed declaration inclusive of the quantity, description (level of processing) and the address where the product is being stored must be submitted to the Fisheries Division.

Since July 2017, there is a new lobster regime in place which includes the application fee of $125 000, which will be for a two-year period. During that period, sanctions for catching under-size and berried lobsters, as well as harvesting the crustacean during the annual close season, which runs from April 1-June 30, are in place. The spiny lobster fishery is managed using closed seasons, minimum size regulations, gear restrictions and the prohibition of the taking of berried lobsters and moulting lobsters. Spiny lobsters that are found to carry eggs and / or spiny lobsters that have not reached the minimum size of 7.62 cm or (3 inches) measured from the eyes to the end of the carapace (back not including the tail) are illegal throughout the year and will continue to be enforced by the Police, Fishery Inspectors, Game Wardens and other law enforcement officers.

In addition to a valid fishing licence from the Fisheries Division, all fishers (lobster and conch) must have valid food handler's certification from the Ministry of Public Health. Another vital requirement is written authorisation from the Veterinary Services Division verifying that all the vessels meet hygiene standards under the Aquaculture, Inland and Marine Products and By-Special Fishery Conservation Areas (SFCA) are no-fishing zones reserved for the reproduction of fish populations. Their nature reserve statuses are declared by the Agriculture Minister under Orders privileged through Section 18 of the Fishing Industry Act of 1975. It is, therefore, illegal and punishable by law to engage in any unauthorized fishing activities in the demarcated zones. There are twelve (12) declared marine protected areas namely Bogue Island Lagoon, St. James; Bowden, St. Thomas; Three Bays, St. Catherine; Salt Harbour, Clarendon; Galleon Harbour, St. Elizabeth; Montego Bay Marine Park, St. James; Bluefields Bay, Westmoreland; Oracabessa Bay, St. Mary; Discovery Bay, St. Ann; Orange Bay, St Mary; and Sandals Boscobel, St. Mary. The first no take fishing zone was established on Pedro Bank in 2012.

Fishing communitiesJamaica small-scale fishing mainly contributes to food security, but is also the only economic activity and a strong social net in many fishing communities throughout the country.

Inland sub-sectorIn Jamaica the term inland fisheries is often used to represent aquaculture, perhaps because so little is actually known about inland capture fisheries. There are quite a number of rivers, small lakes and wetlands that provide an opportunity for inland fisheries. However, the Fisheries Division lacks means to collect data. Hunting for land crabs during the rainy season and collecting sea-moss (Gracilaria spp.) are quite popular.

Aquaculture sub-sectorCommercial aquaculture was introduced to Jamaica in 1976 through a USAID/GOJ funded project. This project was very successful and led to the establishment of aquaculture in Jamaica. Although aquaculture has grown to include shrimp farming and ornamental aquatic flora and fauna species, tilapia is the main food fish produced in Jamaica both for local consumption as well as for export.The Aquaculture Branch of the Fisheries Division, under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries, has been mandated to provide the support mechanisms needed to foster the sustainable development of the Aquaculture sector. This is achieved through the following:-provision of Extension Services to fish farmers-provision of other support services including sale of high quality ornamental and food fish seed stocks-engaging in adaptive research of economically important species of freshwater flora and fauna andtraining and technology transfer

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. The competition of cheap tilapia and pangasius from imports are generally blamed for the decline in Jamaican aquaculture production.

Recreational sub-sectorMontego Bay is the centre of recreational fishing in Jamaica. The interesting thing in Jamaica for recreational fisheries is the fact that deep water is accessible less than a mile from the shore. With waters this deep, it should come as no surprise that the main focus of most Montego Bay fishing is Marlin. Blue and White Marlin can both be found offshore, tagging each other out over the course of the year. But the waters are home to plenty of other big game species, including Mahi mahi, Wahoo, and Yellowfin Tuna.

Blue Marlin are found in their biggest numbers in the fall. The biggest fish are said to be caught in June. White Marlin are at their best in February and March and as soon as they drift on the Mahi Mahi move in to take their place.  There is no specific sport fishing license in Jamaica. Sport fishing is not very well-regulated in Jamaica and what few strict restrictions there are normally apply to the harvesting of conchs and other commercial activities, rather than the protection of billfish. Marlin can be kept and sold. All other catch is either kept by the boat or split between the crew and the clients.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationAll locally produced fish goes to the fresh fish market. Imported fish comes in cans (mackerel and sardines), as cured cod (klipfish) from Norway and cured herring from Canada. Some shrimp is now coming into the country in frozen form. In addition, frozen tilapia fillets and frozen pangasius fillets are imported.

Fish marketsJamaican consumers prefer to buy directly from fishers. They do not have much confidence in supermarkets for the sale of fresh fish, nor in street vendors. Overall prices for fresh and frozen fishery products at supermarkets are very high for most of the population. Supermarkets sell normally only imported fishery products.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyThe fisheries sector contribution to Jamaica’s GDP for 2013 was 0.29 percent. But as an important social net the importance of the fisheries sector goes beyond this rather low official figure.

TradeQueen conch and lobster are the main products being exported from Jamaica, for an average foreign exchange income of US$ 15 million per year. On the other hand, Jamaica depends on fish imports for its food security. Total import value is US$ 116 million, leaving a negative trade balance of US$ 90 million each year.

Food securityThe consumption of fish in Jamaica is relatively high (25.8 kg / person). Jamaican consumers follow English type diet, with some Caribbean variations. This includes smoked herring, cod, fish heads and the like. Some consumers have the notion that eating fish is good for health, thus seeking to eat more fishery products, but as demand is growing, it is increasingly more difficult to find a fish of good quality and a reasonable price. Jamaican consumers recognize the quality of the fish, and demand fresh fish and good quality lobster. Often the family goes to buy fish, also large amounts directly from the fishermen, to freeze it at home. Jamaican consumers does not have much confidence in supermarkets by the sale of fresh fish. Street vendors do not use ice and at the end of the day the fish is in bad conditions. Overall prices for fresh and frozen fishery products at supermarkets are very high for most of the population. Another important part of the Jamaican diet are Queen conch, which are sold legally and illegally (during the ban period) directly from the fishermen themselves.

EmploymentFisheries are an important source of employment in coastal communities for about 40 000 people. In 2015, 23 786 fishers were reported of which around 6 percent were female. Only 99 people were reported as engaged in aquaculture (also with about 6% of the workforce composed by women). In 2017, reporting remained similar with 22 469 fishers, 105 of which engaged in aquaculture.

Rural developmentIn coastal areas, fishing-related activities are often the only source of food and the most important means of life.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunitiesThe Fisheries resource in Jamaican waters is overexploited, already since several decades, and all efforts by the government to overcome this sector seem not to have changed a lot in recent years.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe Government tries to protect the remaining fish resource by establishing non take zones. In this effort, the government is helped by various non-governmental organizations.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe University of the West Indies has courses on fisheries and aquaculture technology. UWI has establish the Port Royal Marine Laboratory which engages in education, research and community outreach to better understand and value marine systems, and develop effective methods for marine conservation and restoration.

Education and trainingThese are a World Bank-funded community-based development project aimed at strengthening stakeholders’ resilience, and an Inter- American Development Bank-financed initiative through which the turnaround time for issuing fishing licenses will be improved to one week, while facilitating an express delivery service component. The US Embassy partnered with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Port Royal Marine Lab (PRML) on a one-year sustainable fisheries education project during 2017 and 2018.

Institutional frameworkThe Fisheries Division of the Minister of Industry, Commerce, 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. 

Legal frameworkFishing Industry Act (1975) This Act regulates fishing activities in Jamaica. No distinction is made between freshwater and maritime fishing. The Act consists of 29 provisions divided into 5 Parts: Preliminary (sects. 1-2); Fishing licences (sects. 3-7); Registration and Licensing of Boats (sects. 8-17); Fishery Protection (sects. 18-23A); General (sects. 24-29). No person shall engage in fishing in Jamaica, using any of the fishing methods specified in the Schedule to this Act or, if a citizen of Jamaica, fish outside of Jamaica in areas as may be prescribed, without a valid licence (sect. 3). Certain persons may be exempted by the Minister by Order. The Minister shall also designate a public officer as Licensing Authority (sect. 4). No specific mention is made of the licensing of foreign vessels. Sections 8 to 17 provide in detail for the licensing and registration of boats and matters related to the licensing of boats such as the change of ownership. Again no distinction is made between local and foreign boats. The Minister may declare fish sanctuaries (sect. 18) and close seasons (sect. 19). Section 22 has been amended in 1991. Section 22 declares it to be an offence to unlawfully removing, taking away, or having in his possession of any boat, fish-pot, net, gear or other fishing equipment belonging to some other person, or destroying, damaging, displacing or altering the position of such boat, fish-pot, net, gear, or other fishing equipment or of any buoy, float or other mark connected thereto. The Act prescribes a penalty for landing and sale of illegally caught fish.

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.

This Fishing Industry Act is under revision at the moment. The proposed new Fisheries Act remains a priority for the Government, in keeping with plans to institute the necessary framework to more effectively regulate the sector. The new legislation will not only provide the legal provision to facilitate sustainable fisheries management and development, but will also establish the Fisheries Authority that will transform the (Fisheries) Division into an entity that will be better staffed and resourced to serve the fisheries and aquaculture subsectors.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:

  • Aquaculture licenses are required for farms above a minimum stipulated acreage.
  • Mangrove permits are required for the removal of mangroves.
  • Effluent permits are required for the discharge of effluent into water ways.
  • Predator control permits are required for the control of predators e.g. crocodiles and water birds that prey on fish.

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.

Regional and international legal frameworkJamaica is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the British Commonwealth of Nations, and member of the OECS. Jamaica is member of the CRFM. Jamaica is member of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and the Commission for Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPESCAALC)

Espeut, P. Managing the Fisheries of Belize and Jamaica, Third Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP), Washington D.C., U.S.A., September 18-20,1992.
INFOPESCA, Estudio del Mercado de Jamaica, PROMPERU, 2017.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, various articles from website http://www.miic.gov.jm 2018.

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