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5.1 Background

Jamaica is situated in the Caribbean Sea between longitudes 76°11' West and 78°21' West, and between latitudes 17°43' North and 18°32' North. It is about 160 km west of Haiti and 145 south of Cuba. The island is 235 km long and 82 km wide at the widest point With an area of 10 830 km2 it is the third largest island in the Caribbean. The largest city and capital is Kingston.

The terrain is mountainous and the highest peak is 2 146 m. The western two-thirds of the island is composed of soluble white limestone or sheets of calcareous marine sediments. At least seventy, short, fast-flowing rivers descend to the north and south coasts. The only navigable river is the Black River and that only by small craft. The coastal plains vary greatly in width, being more extensive on the southern coast.

The average annual rainfall for Jamaica is between 188 and 196 cm, but it varies greatly from place to place. In Kingston it is about 190 cm; at Port Antonio, 320 cm; in the western provinces in the order of 215 cm; and on the north-east slope of the Blue Mountains it is over 500 cm. Generally, the rainy season starts in May and extends through November with maximum rainfall during the last three months. Cold fronts originating in North America have an effect on Jamaica during the winter months. Temperatures drop and it rains heavily, particularly on the northern slopes (Macpherson, 1979).

As in the other Caribbean countries, tides are low. At Port Royal the Mean High Water at spring tide is 64 cm and the Mean Low Water at spring tide is 21 cm. Tropical storms pass over near Jamaica with varying frequency; five have occurred in two years and at other times two occurred in five years (Lens, 1979).

The population in 1978 was 2 115 000. Population growth is moderated by heavy emigration, but, even so, the average rate of population growth was 1.2 in 1978. The gross income per caput in 1978 was U.S.$ 1 110 (World Bank, 1980) virtually unchanged since 1976. The average rate of unemployment in 1978 was 24.5 percent (Jamaica, 1978).

Like most other Caribbean countries, Jamaica has to import food, and in the aggregate, agricultural imports exceed exports. There has been a growth in agricultural productivity in recent years, but this growth was slower than population and demand. Thus, there has been an increase in imports of farm commodities in recent years, especially cereal grain, meat, milk products, fish, fruits and vegetables.

According to the 1978 census there were slightly more than 600 000 ha in agricultural production. There are two contrasting types of farms; large estates on the plains and small subsistence holdings in the hills. In 1970, 45 percent of the land was taken up by 300 properties of 200 ha or larger. In contrast, 78 percent of the farms taking up 15 percent of the area were under 2 ha, a size too small to support a family (Macpherson, 1979).

Due to the low production and disparity in rural people's ability to provide for themselves, there is a certain amount of malnutrition. The results of a National Nutritional Survey made in 1978 showed that 14.3 percent of the children in the sample were undernourished. A large proportion of undernourished children occurred in rural areas with St. Mary (52.7 percent) and St. Thomas (47.2) having the highest prevalence. Most cases were mild but nearly 8 percent of all cases had second to third degree malnutrition (Jamaica, 1978).

5.2 Present State of Fisheries

The Jamaican fishing industry is engaged mainly in traditional artisanal-scale activities. The coastal fishery, which extends to 18 km from the shore, contributes about 75 percent to the total landings. Approximately 7 000 fishermen operate about 3 500 canoes, some 50 percent of which have outboard engines. The gears used are fish traps, handlines, gillnets and purse seines. The traditional high seas fishery was partly in Jamaican waters and partly in waters of other countries using canoes which are transported to the distant banks by carriers which take catches to Kingston.

Almost all the marine catch is sold fresh for domestic consumption. Most of the catch is landed on beaches and distributed only to relatively nearby populated centres. In general, rural areas in the interior are not well supplied with fresh fish.

There is no systematic collection of fishery statistics at the landing sites. The Fishery Division derives an estimate of quantities landed and the number of craft operating from data obtained in an annual census (Villegas, 1978). The inadequacy of the statistical collection service prevents an accurate assessment of landings. One recent estimate (Lens, et al., 1977) was that total domestic landings are between 8 200 and 10 900 metric tons per year. Of this, relatively small contributions come from offshore fishing activities (31.3 metric tons) and inland fish culture (5.4 metric tons) (Jamaica, 1978a).

With the establishment of exclusive economic zones, Jamaica lost most of its traditional fishing grounds in distant waters and has had to concentrate on fishing in its own waters. The inshore waters appear to be fully exploited now, but there is a potential to develop a fishery in the 30 to 55 m interval (Giudicelli, 1979). It is also possible that fishing concessions can be negotiated for further exploitation of waters within the exclusive economic zone of other countries.

Production from inland waters is not known. There is a fishery for freshwater prawn in the Black River Lower Morass in the Black, Broad, Y.S. Middlequarters, Frenchmen and Punches Rivers. Between 400 and 500 persons participate in the fishery which is mostly with traps. The species comprising the catch are Macrobrachium acanthurus, M. carcinus, and possibly some others. Macrobrachium acanthurus makes up 70 to 80 percent of the catch. In 1979 the catch was estimated at 343 metric tons (R. Ross, pers, comm.). This fishery is valuable. Retail price is reported as high as U.S.$ 10/kg1.

Jamaica has traditionally relied heavily on imports to satisfy domestic demand. In 1975, for example, the equivalent of 35 800 metric tons liveweight of fish were imported, while domestic production was in the order of 10 100 metric tons for a total supply of 45 900 metric tons (Lens, et. al., 1977). Few fishery products are exported and there are essentially no imports of fishery products other than for human consumption.

The increase in fresh fish imports is caused in great part by the rise in price of dried fish. In 1972, 16 207 metric tons, valued at J.$ 4.96 million, were imported. By 1975 the quantity of salted cod fish imported had been reduced to 5 809 metric tons, but the value of this reduced amount was still J.$ 4.31 million (Lens, et al., 1977).

In 1976 per caput consumption of fish was estimated at 22.6 kg from national production of 10 000 metric tons and 35 000 metric tons of imports (Lima dos Santos, 1979). At the time of the Mission's visit, imports of fishery products had been restricted to save foreign exchange. This is likely to result in a drastic drop in consumption which will further aggravate the malnutrition problem in rural areas. However, the Government is expecting substantial increases in inland fisheries production. Some people express concern about the preference of consumers for dried, salted fish and worry that fresh fish would not be appreciated. The drop in imports of dried fish would seem to belie that concern. In fact, Lens, et al., (1977) found that the strong, unsatisfied demand for fresh fish results in high prices at all stages in the marketing chain.

Fisheries fall under the responsibility of the Fishery Division of the Ministry of Agriculture. Some 100 persons work in the Division which has several sections, of which the Inland Fisheries and Extension Unit is the one most involved in aquaculture. This unit appears to have sufficient qualified scientific staff to accomplish any type of activity that needs to be carried out, including research. However, the Division does not have a library, nor is it well-equipped in other ways.

The Department of Zoology of the University of the West Indies at Mona (Kingston) has capabilities for fisheries research in fresh, brackish and marine environments.

1 U.S.$ 1.00 = J.$ 1.75 at the time of the Mission's visit

It has good facilities available at the main campus and at two coastal laboratories. The Department offers M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees. Most of the fishery biologists now employed within the Fisheries Division received their training at the Department of Zoology.

5.3 Status and Potential of Aquaculture

The Government of Jamaica is attempting to increase local food production and to improve its balance of payments situation. The culture of fish in rice fields is one way of increasing the local food production. The culture of Macrobrachium rosenbergii for export could improve the balance of payments situation. The Mission was asked to give priority to those two possibilities when reviewing the potential for aquaculture in Jamaica. Given its regional interest, the Mission devoted part of its time to a study of two current projects: the USAID-backed ‘Fish Production System Development and the Oyster Culture Project’ sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

5.3.1 History of freshwater aquaculture

Tilapia mossambica was introduced into Jamaica in the early fifties. A breeding programme was started and the species was stocked in most major rivers and ponds. The tilapia, locally known as African perch, soon became part of the local inland and brackishwater fisheries.

Attempts were made to introduce monosex culture of T. mossambica. These were unsuccessful and by the mid-seventies there was virtually no controlled culture of tilapia in fish ponds.

In October 1976 USAID and the Government of Jamaica started a project designed to promote inland fish culture. The following year the Government created the Inland Fisheries Unit (IFU) in the Ministry of Agriculture. The Director of IFU became the counterpart of the USAID sponsored project, staffed by faculty members of Auburn University, Alabama, USA.

The first phase of the project intended to appraise the economics (both at a commercial and subsistence level) of farming tilapia and the potential scope for fish farming in Jamaica. It was also meant to create, within the Government of Jamaica, an institution with the capability and technical expertise needed to design and implement inland fisheries and aquaculture development programmes.

The first phase of the project achieved its objectives. Culture of T. mossambica was found to be economically attractive, farmers were interested, and the project estimated that by 1983 tilapia culture would be able to contribute between two and three thousand tons of fish a year to local markets.

As a result, the Government of Jamaica and USAID agreed to extend the project into a second phase. This is known as ‘Fish Production System Development’ and is planned to run from December 1979 to December 1983. In June 1980 the second phase was implemented. The achievements and methods used in the project are described in more detail below.

5.3.2 USAID Project - ‘Fish Production System Development’

(i) Objectives

The second phase aims at expanding the practice of rural fish culture, so that by 1983 production reaches somewhere between 2 500 and 3 000 tons. In order to achieve this level, production of fingerlings should reach 13 million per year, and a large number of extension personnel must be hired and trained.

(ii) Staff and Facilities

The project continues to work within IFU. USAID will provide three U.S. aquaculture experts; one senior technical advisor and two extension advisors - one for each half of the country. The staff of the IFU is expected to increase rapidly and the project will train the new personnel. It will be done through on-the-job training in Jamaica, and through studies at the International Centre for Aquaculture, Auburn University. In addition, funds have been provided for short-term specialists. Twenty-five U.S. Peace Corps volunteers are expected to assist in the extension work

The project works with the facilities available at the Twickenham Park complex and at Mitchell Town Farm. A hatchery and demonstration facility will be established in the western part of the island. Loans will be provided to upgrade and expand ponds and other facilities at Twickenham Park and Mitchell Town. Furthermore, funds will be lent for two pond construction units (bulldozers and transport) and for imports of feed and fertilizer.

In June 1980, Twickenham Park had 28 ponds with a total water area of 2 ha. It is planned to expand the station by another 2 ha of ponds using USAID funds. The station has a wet laboratory, offices and stores. T. nilotica, T. mossambica, grass carp and mirror carp are kept.

Grass carp has been made to spawn at Twickenham Park, but work on producing hybrids with T. nilotica and T. mossambica has so far been disappointing.

The fish farm at Mitchell Town, some 50 km south-west of Kingston, was built in 1976 by Food Farms, a Government corporation. It was turned over to the USAID project in 1978. It is now used to produce fingerlings for the project's extension programme and to produce fish for consumption. When the farm was taken over it had 16 ponds totalling 10.8 ha of water surface area. In 1979 it was extended by the construction of 22 ha of ponds, some of which are 4 ha in size. Construction costs were reported to be close to U.S.$ 9 000/ha. Water is provided by pumping. At the time of the Mission's visit, 10.8 ha were in use: 4.8 ha for production of fingerlings and 6 ha for the growing of fish for sale. Fingerling production has reached 250 000 fingerlings/ha/year. Brood stocks are kept at a ratio of three females to one male and at a density of 7.5 to 10 fish/m2. Fingerlings are collected after four months, when they have reached 7 to 10 cm, and sexed by hand. Males are stocked at a ratio of 1.5 to 2.5 fish/m2 in grow-out ponds. They are reported to average 220 g in 120 days.

Ponds are fertilized and fish are given supplementary feed. NPK fertilizer (5/10/10) and superphosphate are given in a ratio of about 4:1 when the farm manager considers the algal ‘bloom’ insufficient. This means that a period of anywhere from one week to four weeks could pass between applications.

A local feed manufacturer has been requested to produce a feed for tilapia culture. It is specified to consist of:

Soyabean oil cake40
Poultry offal meal  5
Wheat middlings50
Beer waste  5

The feed is expected to have a protein content between 28 and 31 percent and to result in a convertion ratio of 1.3 to 1.5 in fertilized ponds. The manufacture of this feed had not started in June 1980 and fish were fed with ‘chicken starter’, at 2 percent of body weight. The ‘chicken starter’ has a protein content of 21 percent.

Selling fish has been easy. Males, at 220 g, are sold ex-farm at a price corresponding to U.S.$ 1.26/kg. The females, weighing some 25 to 30 g, and separated during manual sexing, are sold as ‘soup fish’ for U.S.$ 1.01/kg. Demand for both types of fish is reported to be high. Higglers (itinerant vendors) purchasing the males, were reported to double the price when selling to the consumer.

T. nilotica was introduced at the Mitchell Town Farm in mid-1979. It is managed similarly to T. mossambica. The farm manager had not noticed any major differences in growth or acceptability of the two species. A few hundred kilos had been sold by June 1980.

(iii) Extension

The project encourages a careful and methodological approach to extension work. Contact between the farmer and the project staff starts with a discussion during which the farmer is told of the demands that fish culture will make on him in terms of time and money and of what he is likely to obtain as a result. If the farmer continues to be interested, the project staff surveys the site on which he proposes to build his pond. The extension agent then conducts a formal appraisal of the proposed project, attempting to foresee the economic implications that the fish culture operation will have for the farmer.

The prospective farmer is supplied with male T. mossambica (or lately, T. nilotica) weighing between 20 and 30 g. Initially this is done free of charge. As soon as a farmer has had a successful harvest, the project charges for fingerlings (in June 1980 about U.S.$ 2.80 per 100). The recommended stocking density is 1.75 to 2.5 fingerlings/m2.

The programme had hoped to be able to provide the fish feed as well. This has not yet been possible and the locally produced ‘chicken starter’ is recommended as a substitute. It has a protein content of 21 percent, and costs between U.S.$ 0.33/kg and U.S.$ 0.44 kg, depending upon quantity bought and place of purchase. The normal quantity given for feeding is between 2 and 4 percent/day, in two applications.

The extension agents recommend the use of organic fertilizers, preferably dry chicken manure. The recommended dose is 3 400 kg/ha/month. Pig manure is recommended at the rate of 4 500 kg/ha/month. These patterns should be modified by the individual farmer to keep the algal bloom going. The cost of chicken manure, of which large quantities are available, is about U.S.$ 28.5/t. For those farmers who cannot obtain chicken or pig manure, NPK and superphosphate are recommended.

During the late seventies, the project marketed a considerable part of the fish produced through the Agricultural Marketing Corporation, but now they have an arrangement with a private fish buyer who purchases tilapia as small as 120 g for the equivalent of U.S.$ 1.51/kg at pond side, and accepts up to 20 percent of fish smaller than 120 g.

(iv) Results

At the beginning of 1980 there were about 100 rural farmers producing fish in ponds, having a combined pond area of about 12 ha. Most ponds are small, the largest being 0.2 ha. Mr. Vern Woodruff, USAID Extension Advisor, estimates that about one-third of the farmers sell their fish; that the rest consume their produce, and that farmers who manage their ponds (fertilizer plus feed) as demonstrated by the project, achieve a productivity of 6 to 8 tons/ha/year.

The Mission visited rural subsistence farmers in the High Gate area. Most of them had recently been introduced to fish farming. The local extension agent had found that T. nilotica was preferred by farmers. At the time of the visit there were 19 ponds in production and eight under construction (by hand). The ponds were all receiving water through pipes. Small fish were reported to be accepted and used in soups. In the High Gate area fish below 100 g sell for as much as U.S.$ 1.89/kg.

The Mission were informed that commercial tilapia farms are being established in the Spring Village (Old Harbour area). In addition, a number of quite large projects, involving several hundred hectares of ponds, were under consideration. The size of the individual fish farm is still small. The Mission saw four where the total water surface area ranged from 0.4 to 1 ha.

The growth rate of T. mossambica is high. When fertilizer is applied and additional feed provided, the average gain seems to be in the order 1 g/day.

(v) Observations

The Mission was impressed by the results obtained by the project and by the enthusiasm and capability of its staff.

Although the growth rate reported for T. mossambica is high, the Mission believes that most likely T. nilotica will turn out to grow even faster, because this has been the experience elsewhere. In the long run there may then be reduced expenditure on fertilizer and feed per kg of tilapia produced. Present rates of fertilizer application seem high.

No attempts seem to have been made to use compost as an organic fertilizer. Compost may be a suitable alternative to inorganic fertilizer for some of the subsistence farmers, as it involves no purchased inputs, only labour, plants and refuse.

Mr. Woodruff is aware that the USAID project has not yet identified a system for rural fish culture that is economical and at the same time makes the producer independent of the Government for supply of (male) fingerlings. The Mission believes that such a system, when identified, will have as one component, the culture of unsexed T. nilotica, and that monosex culture will be taught to those farmers who have several ponds and therefore, the possibility of undertaking monosex culture on their own.

Results in the High Gate region show that even in difficult topographical conditions, homestead ponds can be built. However, when planning for the expansion of rural fish culture in Jamaica, attention should concentrate on selection of sites with adequate water supplies.

5.3.3 Rice-cum-fish culture

Rice-cum-fish culture is a long established practice, especially in Asia. Normally it requires a water depth of 15 to 20 cm in rice fields and a restricted usage of fertilizer and pesticides. The main advantages are: (a) a reduced need for pesticides; (b) increased yield of rice, and (c) reduced need for weeding the rice fields. Yields have been recorded as high as 400 kg/ha of fish for growing periods of 120 days.

The Mission visited Elim, St. Elizabeth and Meylersfield, Westmoreland and concluded that rice-cum-fish culture is technically feasible in both locations, given present and intended rice culture practices.

The Ministry of Agriculture is now developing several schemes for irrigated rice culture. Present plans provide for rice fields covering 2 000 ha. If rice-cum-fish culture was carried out in half of this area, the total fish production might reach some 500 t/annum, assuming two rice harvests per year.

A more detailed account of the Mission's views on rice-cum-fish culture in Jamaica is given in Annex 8.

5.3.4 Culture of freshwater prawn

There were two attempts to start commercial culture of the freshwater prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii; both efforts were unsuccessful. Ocean Proteins established a hatchery and 80 ha of ponds at Ferris Cross, Westmoreland. This farm was operated for four years and went out of business in 1975. A second prawn farm was established by Marbeck at Elim, St. Elizabeth. It operated only three years. The Mission was told that the major problem encountered was pollution from a nearby sugar factory and difficulties concerning lease of the land.

Culture of M. rosenbergii, having had the benefit of continued research, has advanced considerably over the last 8 years, and there are commercial M. rosenbergii farms in several other countries, notably in Thailand. If culture of M. rosenbergii is attempted again in Jamaica, greater success could be expected, especially if more attention was paid to site selection.

5.3.5 Mariculture

There is no commercial aquaculture in brackish or marine waters.

There is an area near Bowden on the southeast tip of Jamaica which has a natural population of oysters. Young seed oysters are extremely abundant and can be collected for growing elsewhere, if need be. There are five or six other sites where water conditions are suitable for growing oysters, but no information is available about the presence of spat there. A project was launched in 1977 on a pilot scale in order to study culture of local oysters in Bowden Bay, St. Thomas by the University of West Indies, Mona Campus, with the support of IDRC. In Bowden Bay spawning of the oysters and subsequent spat collection occurs during the rainy season. It has been determined that barnacle abundance is very high and then declines just prior to the time the young oysters set. To prevent collectors becoming fouled with barnacles, the setting of barnacles is monitored with glass slides. When the barnacles seem to have set, oyster cultch is laid.

Old automobile tyres cut into pieces of about 8 x 8 cm and aged in sea water for two weeks are used for oyster cultch. Ten pieces of cultch material are strung on a string of monofilament twine with about 1 cm spacing. The strings of cultch are then placed in the intertidal zone. Sufficient spat can be collected after approximately two weeks during the peak setting period. When sufficient spat have set on the cultch they are transferred to long growing lines with about 10 cm spacing. The growing lines are then suspended from rafts placed in the centre of the bay.

A single raft holds from three to four hundred strings. Each raft costs the equivalent of U.S.$ 45 and lasts for one year. The cost of materials for spat collection amounts to about U.S.$ 393 per raft. However, this material can be used repeatedly.

Market size is fairly small: 7–8 cm, and the oysters reach that size in six months. Selling price is U.S.$ 0.84 for 12 oysters. At this price it is calculated that a single raft would gross U.S.$ 1 120 every six months. One man could operate four rafts and have a half yearly income of U.S.$ 4 500.

All work to date has been experimental except for one individual who operated his own raft. Because of theft he was not able to harvest enough oysters to show a profit. Efforts are now underway to entrust four individuals with four rafts each, on the understanding that all costs will be borne by the project and the participants will retain any profit.

Major problems encountered to date are poaching, disease, and fouling. It is felt that poaching can be controlled by closer supervision. An unknown disease occurs infrequently, always when salinity is in the range of 32 ppt. Fouling by colonial ascidians is a problem when salinity remains high for an extended period of time. This is controlled by sundrying the oysters for one or two days.

Jamaica has no laws concerning the use of water or sea bottom for aquaculture. Similarly, there are no regulations regarding sanitation or human health aspects for oysters or other shellfish.

5.4 Recommendations for Aquaculture Development

The Mission suggests a few experimental studies to strengthen and widen the range of fish culture technology now transmitted to farmers by the USAID sponsored rural fish pond culture project.

  1. Monoculture of Tilapia nilotica and T. mossambica in earthen ponds to compare their growth rates. Stocking densities: 2 fingerlings/m2. Duration: 120 days.

  2. Polyculture of T. nilotica and T. mossambica in earthen ponds to identify total production per unit of pond area. Stocking density: 1 fingerling of each species per square metre. Duration: 120 days.

  3. Polyculture of T. nilotica, T. mossambica and common carp to identify total production per unit of pond area. Stocking density: 2–3 fingerlings/m2. Duration: 120 days

  4. Preparation of compost and studies of its optimal use in fish farming.

  5. Demonstration of associated animal husbandry (pigs and fish; ducks and fish culture) and appraisal of its economic consequences (commercial or subsistence).

The culture trials described in (i), (ii) and (iii) should be carried out at the same station, as far as possible during the same period and with each stocking alternative preferably being duplicated at least once. The species mix in trial (iii) should be influenced by the results of trials (i) and (ii). The trials should be carried out before any policy decision is taken concerning the role of polyculture or of either of the tilapia species in the technology transmitted to farmers by the extension service.

The mission collected some data on size and price of tilapia at a retail level. An analysis of these data show that small-sized fish are readily accepted by consumers; the economically most rewarding size for farmed tilapia seems to be well below 100 g. The mission believes it would be worthwhile to study this question in detail.

In order to launch rice-cum-fish culture in Jamaica, the Government would be well advised to start with a one-year pilot rice-cum-fish culture project. The project should have the following objectives:

A project proposal is given in Annex 8.

Culture of Macrobrachium rosenbergii should be resumed in Jamaica. Initially fry purchased abroad should be used to attempt monoculture and polyculture with tilapia. This could be carried out in existing ponds at Twickenham Park. The purpose of these trials would be to adapt known culture procedures to local conditions and to develop a feed that can be locally manufactured. In addition, the trials would provide data needed for further appraisals of the economic aspects of commercial Macrobrachium culture in Jamaica. Simultaneously attempts should be made to establish a low technology hatchery and produce post-larvae locally for culture purposes. A project document is given in Annex 9.

Significant progress has been achieved by the oyster culture project. This project should be continued and strengthened.

In order to be able to expand its aquaculture development programme into the field of mariculture, other than oyster culture, the Ministry of Agriculture must form a cadre of staff with suitable education and experience. Apart from including the culture of penaeid shrimp, studies should be started on cage culture of marine fin fish (snappers and groupers).

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