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Marine capture fisheries in Jamaica are primarily artisanal in nature and are conducted mainly by fishermen operating from canoes. Approximately 95% of these fishermen operate on the coastal shelf and its associated banks. The commercial species harvested comprise bottom-dwelling, coral reef species and semi-pelagic species of finfish. Other fishery resources of commercial value include marine shrimp, conch and lobsters. Catch statistics are not available for all species, but the Department of Fisheries reports a slight decline in fishery production with production decreasing from 16 million lbs in 1990, despite the fact that fishing effort has doubled. Over this period the number of registered fishermen has grown from 12 000 to 16 000, all of whom are engaged in full-time fishing. There are also part-time fishermen who are not registered.

The decline in fish catch has been accompanied by a decrease in fish size and quality, suggesting that the fisheries are under pressure and have already exceeded optimum production in relation to available resources. As a result the economic returns to fishermen are declining. There are also other problems, such as high incidence of conflicts among fishermen at sea, the high purchase cost of boats, outboard engine fuel, and equipment, together with the dangers involved in fishing offshore (piracy, and poaching) create serious social and economic difficulties for fishermen. Notwithstanding, there is an apparent move on the part of the fishermen to leave the industry or to seek alternative forms of employment. But in fact, the Department of Fisheries reports that it is still receiving applications for new licences to operate fishing boats. This is probably due to the fact that where the basis of a community is fishing, it becomes difficult to introduce alternative forms of employment, such as cottage industries, village crafts or other trades.

In 1987 the Jamaica Department of Fisheries prepared a management plan which proposed several conservation measures to promote the efficient use of fisheries resources and to control the development of the fisheries in such a way that the country would receive maximum benefits. Adequate attention was given to limitations on fishing gear, the institution of closed seasons and the application of related legislation. Strategies to diversify marine fishing were also proposed. The 1990 five-year Development Plan for marine fisheries also focused on proper resource management in order to reverse trends associated with the overexploitation of marine fish stocks. According to the plan, emphasis will be placed on inland fisheries and mariculture in order to reduce pressure on the marine fisheries. Inland fisheries in the form of freshwater fish-farming has expanded significantly over the past 10 years with production increasing from less than 0,5 million lbs. in 1980 to in excess of 6.0 million lbs. in 1989. However, some freshwater fish-farmers are already experiencing serious competition for water usage and, to a lesser extent, for land from crop-producing farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture is of the view that marine cage culture has technologically the potential for introduction in Jamaica. This technology has been successfully developed in Norway and it is currently being experimentally utilized in several countries in the area. The technology, if widely utilized in Jamaica, could significantly reduce pressure on the existing fisheries, allowing them to be more cost effective and improving the economic returns to fishermen. Already there exist some technical and institutional capabilities in Jamaica to support commercial development of marine cage culture. The Department of Fisheries has highly trained personnel in aquaculture and marine fisheries, some of whom are directly responsible for the success of freshwater fish-farming. In addition, the Marine Laboratory at the University of the West Indies (UWI) is carrying out research on hatchery facilities for marine cage-farming. The Department of Fisheries plans to seek the collaboration of the Marine Unit at UWI which could provide fingerlings of selected marine species for cage culture. One the main thrusts of the research programme of this Unit is the promotion of local species which appear to have potential for aquaculture, with a view to either developing new systems for their culture or to adapting already existing systems to that purpose. The UWI facility is strategically located at Port Royal, one of the older fishing villages in the country.


1.2.1. Objective of the assistance

The main purpose of the assistance was to carry out the preparatory work for and the formulation of longer term projects that will aim to determine the feasibility of marine cage fish farming in Jamaica in order to find a socially and economically acceptable alternative to artisanal fishing and thereby reduce pressure on local fisheries.

The specific objectives were:

  1. to evaluate possibilities to develop marine cage fish farming in Jamaica and elaborate proposals for experimental and pilot projects that will permit an evaluation of the potential for marine cage farming as an economically viable activity in the country.

  2. to evaluate the scope of UWI's Marine Laboratory participation, in particular its capacity to provide adequate hatchery facilities for a meaningful marine cage fish farming programme with potential for growth;

  3. to evaluate the capacity of the Department of Fisheries to carry out a marine cage fish farming programme and to establish and maintain linkages with appropriate support institutions;

  4. to facilitate the preparation by the Government of requests for obtaining external funding for assistance to the above experimental and pilot cage fish farming programme in Jamaica.

1.2.2. Workplan

In order to achieve the above objectives, the following activities will be undertaken:

  1. an assessment of potential sites for marine cage fish farming. Special consideration will be given to commercial fishing beaches and to fishing communities whose regular fishing grounds are under severe pressure;

  2. recommendations for environmental practices which should be observed and or introduced in order to maintain the desired quality of the sites;

  3. an assessment of the social and economic implications of widespread applications of this technology at local and national levels (employment, incomes, availability of protein) the impact of widespread practice on rehabilitation of fisheries and the possible implications for consumer acceptance of the species selected;

  4. an assessment of technical and physical conditions offered by the Marine Laboratory at Port Royal to provide support for marine cage farming and formulation of the necessary improvements;

  5. an assessment of the institutional capacity of the Department of Fisheries to manage the programme and to provide the necessary promotional and extension services;

  6. preparation of a proposal for a longer-term pilot project to encourage widespread practice of marine cage fish farming;

  7. the conduct of a workshop or similar training activity to introduce the technology to fishermen and fisheries extension officers.

The above activities would involve not only government institutions, but also fishermen, fishing cooperatives, and the private sector. The UWI's Marine Laboratory at Port Royal would also be associated to some of these activities.


The work was carried out by a team of four consultants: Mr P. ESPEUT1, Mr Y. HARACHE2, Mr G. LEMARIE3, and Mr J.M. RICARD4, who worked together in Jamaica between 28 September and 9 October 1992, and subsequently contributed to the draft of this joint report. A second mission was undertaken by Mr HARACHE and Mr RICARD between 9 to 16th February 1994, to participate in a seminar organized by the Department of Fisheries, Kingston, and to discuss the preliminary conclusions and recommandations. Following the comments received, and subsequent discussions at FAO Headquarters, Rome in August 1994, this mission report was finalized by Mr HARACHE.

During the mission, contacts were established with the Ministry of Agriculture, administrations, research institutes, private fish farmers, fishermen groups or individuals, under the coordination and with the efficient assistance of the FAO representation in Kingston.

The consultants' visit to Jamaica as well as the preparation of this final report were driven by three main concerns:

Within this framework, the following procedure was established:

Step 1: An analysis of the background to the project request. This involved an analysis of the present status of fishing and aquaculture in Jamaica, and of its positive and negative aspects.

Step 2: A description of the major world trends in finfish aquaculture development, with special attention given to cases of both success and failure. This step provided adequate information to identify the potentials and limits of aquaculture development in any given environment.

Step 3: An analysis of the potential for marine cage fish culture in Jamaica, including an analysis of constraints and the main factors conditioning the activity : the existence of suitable mariculture sites, but also the legal environment, the availability of juveniles, of capital and of human resources.

Step 4: With regard to all the above elements, the elaboration of proposals to enable the achievement of the main longer-term purpose of the project.

1 University of the West Indies, Institute of Social & Economic Research, Kingston, JAMAICA
2 IFREMER Centre de Brest, FRANCE, Coordinator of Finfish Research Programmes
3 IFREMER, Station de Palavas, FRANCE
4 IFREMER, Regional Director for the West Indies, Le Robert, MARTINIQUE.

These latter proposals were developed with two main considerations:

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