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4.1.1. Site selection criteria:

Many variables, detailed hereafter, have to be taken into consideration when assessing the suitability of a marine site for cage farming (a detailed list of selection criteria is given hereafter). Among these, shelter from rough open sea conditions is one of the first criteria to be taken into consideration. The most sheltered sites allow the use of the simplest and cheapest cage technology, but more exposed locations can also be considered, where high resistance surface structures or submersible cages may be suitable. The experience of other countries suggests that where protected sites exist, it is wise to use them before looking to other areas requiring more elaborate technology. - Waves :

Characterizable by their height and period. A long period is less favorable than a short one. The following limits are generally considered for site selection:

-1 m:maximum limit for working on floating cages
-2–3m:maximum limit of resistance for simple floating structures
-8 m:maximum limit of resistance for specific off-shore structures.

The magnitude of waves on a given site, which depends upon wind exposure and strength, fetch distance, and depth of water, can be predicted. Two examples, for wave amplitude and swell refraction are provided. - Currents:

A weak and continuous current flow is favourable to bring oxygen and remove wastes from a cage. Long periods without a current implies a choice of limited volume of cages and low density of fish inside. Strong currents may damage floating structures or cages, and reduce their usable volume, due to the deformation of the net. The size and cost of moorings and anchor lines are directly linked to the current speed. Acceptable conditions are found between current speeds of 0.1 and 1.5 to 2 knots. - Tide

Very often, tide and currents are linked. Limited tidal amplitudes are generally preferable. The varying depth of water due to the tide implies specific problems for anchors and moorings, maximum : 5–8 m (though cages may operate in stronger tide conditions, at an increased cost). - Wind

Beneficial effects are provided by moderate wind which facilitate the movement and renewal of water masses. Strong winds induce perturbations of daily work on cages (feeding, fishing, etc...) or cage structures (nets or awnings) and implies heavier moorings (maximum 30–40 Km/h for sale operation). - Depth

Shallow bays with limited depth of water under cages, are not favorable for water renewal but generally favour the settling of wastes. On the other hand, important depth of water requires expensive moorings. A depth of 15 to 30 m at low tide may be considered as ideal conditions. Depths inferior to 10 m require the use of shallow nets, in order to avoid interaction with the sea floor (chemical and bacterial interactions, net damage, crab and bottom organisms predation...). Depths inferior to 5 m, are less favorable to cage farming, and special care should be given to monitoring of the sediment evolution. Periodic move of the cage site should be considered. - Bottom shape and composition

Mud or rocky bottoms may cause difficulties for a safe and reliable anchorage. A sandy or gravel bottom is generally looked for. - Water quality

Criteria quality for rearing waters have been established in Japan in 1983 by the Resources Fisheries Department. Criteria for marine fisheries. There are summerized in Table 11. There are no established maximum concentrations authorized by law but data concerning perturbation levels for toxic effects on marine organisms are available. Different species prefer various marine environments and each organism can have a different sensitivity to the toxicants. So, one recognizes the difficulty to establish any general pertinent criteria for water quality. These criteria are based both on scientific results and on cumulative knowledge of aquaculturists. Although these criteria do not exist as legal regulations, they can be considered as indications for wildlife protection and safe aquaculture practices.

Wastes from aquaculture can be reduced by avoiding over-feeding and over-crowding in cages. The water quality in properly managed aquaculture areas must stay constant and convenient for that purpose for long periods. Water quality is necessary for the health and growth of the reared species. To restore a polluted aquaculture area is difficult and requires time, so a substantial effort is necessary to check, manage and maintain water quality from the start of the activity on a site. One should not forget that good water quality and clean sea bed allow the development of wild life (nursery for fishes, crustaceans and so on...) and healthy leisure areas for human beings.

Table 11: Water quality criteria for marine life and aquaculturete

(compiled from various sources)

 25–40 ppt, avoid abrupt change
pH7.8–8.4, avoid abrupt change
Temperatureno abrupt change
Dissolved oxygen> 6 mg/l
Chemical oxygen demand< 1 mg/l
Algae culture demand< 2 mg/l
Total inorganic nitrogen< 0.1 mg/l
Ammonia (NH4 + NH3)< 1 mg/l for pH=8
Dry suspended matter< 2 mg/l
Transparence (yearly mean)< 5 m
Colourno abnormal behaviour of the fish
Oilno iridescence in surface
Faecal coliforms< 1000/100 ml
Rearing oyster coliform< 70/100 ml
Total inorganic phosphorus< 0.015 mg/l
Chlorine< 0.02 mg/l
Total mercury< 0.05 mg/l
Lead< 0.1 mg/l
Copper< 0.02 mg/l
DDT< 0.025 mg/l

It is recommended that the establishment of finfish cage-culture activity in Jamaica should utilize very simple floating cage technology able to withstand reasonable surface wave action (no more than 2 meters amplitude), with relatively low structural costs. For this reason, selected sites should preferably be well sheltered against open sea rough conditions and heavy oceanic swell.

Under hurricane conditions (last major hurricanes were in 1988, 1951), practically no site would offer satisfactory protection to floating cages of any type. This fact should be considered a major risk with respect to future marine aquaculture. Its probability should be introduced in the economic analysis preceding the development phase.

4.1.2. Methodology:

Existing maps and charts were examined by the mision, and a site survey was conducted using two different approaches:

4.1.3. Results

Among 57 sites preselected after an examination of existing charts and after discussions with Jamaican experts (P. ESPEUT, V. RODNEY, P. BUNTING); after examination by aerial survey, 22 had interesting potential but only 17 have been retained as most suitable.

Information on all these 17 locations are provided in Table 13, including shelter, water depth, road access and water quality. Where available, magnified parts of the relevant marine charts are contained in annex 1.

While a certain number of sites appear suitable for surface-cage fish-farming, Port Morant (Bowden) appeared to be the most appropriate for running a pilot-scale cage project: the unpolluted waters, slightly lower salinity, closeness to Kingston, existing land based facilities (the oyster culture project), makes it very favourable.

It is important that a large surface area be available which would theoretically allow a large production if fully developed. A rough estimate based upon the experience from other countries indicates an annual yield of 20–50 tons/hectare as a conservative figure. However, among the sites listed, there will undoubtedly be competition with other users, making the whole site unavailable for cage farming. Moreover, the protection of rearing structures and reared fish from poaching or praedial larceny appears to be a major constraint in the Jamaican context. A legal status for this new activity should be established (see 4.5).

Table 12

Detailed list of potential sea water fish farming sites (cages or ponds)
located during the survey

The following sites were identified and observed by air or by road.
They are cited in the order observed during the clockwise flight around
the Jamaican coastline starting from Kingston:

1 Port Royal (in/out)21 Hedonism*41 Port Maria*
2 Fort Clarence22 Orange Bay*42 Annotto Bay*
3 Wreck Point23 Green Island43 Golden Grove coast
4 Manatee Bay24 Davis Cove*44 Burlington's Coast
5 Cabarita Point25 Lances Bay45 Port Antonio West
6 Great Goat Island26 Lucea Harbour West*46 Port Antonio East*
7 Old Harbour Bay27 Lucea Harbour East*47 Sax San Bay
8 Galleon harbour28 Mosquito Cove*48 Dragon Bay
9 Port Esquivel*29 Round Hill Bluff W49 Priestman's river estuary
10 Salt River*30 Montego bay50 Manchioneal*
11 Rocky Point 1*31 Montego Freeport51 Happy Grove*
12 Dolphin Island*32 Salt Marsh52 Bowden*
13 Portland Bight NE33 Falmouth53 Port Morant*
14 Rocky Point 234 Trelawny Beach54 Prospect Point East
15 Rio Minho estuary35 Rio Bueno*55 Prospect Point West
16 Port Kaiser36 Discovery Bay W*56 Salt Ponds*
17 Calabash Bay37 Discovery Bay E*57 Bull Bay Coast
18 Savannah la Mar38 St Ann's Bay 
19 Cabarita point39 Ocho Rios 
20 Negril40 Oracabessa 

(*) sites with an interesting potential are quoted in italics

Figure 5

Figure 5

Distribution of the potential marine cage culture sites identified

Table 13 :

Characteristics of selected sites for marine cage farming in Jamaica

NoLocationCharacteristicsEnvironmentWater qualityCh
 South coast              
 Portland Bight              
Port Estivel
x  2904–6 x x  VTxx
Salt river
x  2705–8   x  VT x
Main Bay
 x 12,00010–20   x  Txx
53Port Morantx  3207–10 xx  xLTxx
1Port Royal (south) x 1,10025xxxx  LT x
 West coast              
22Orange bay  x1005–8 x    Cx 
 North coast              
23Green Island x 705–10xx   xLT  
24Davis Cove x 205–10 x    LTx 
26/27Lucea Harbour x 2103–10xxxxx Cxx
28Mosquito Cove x 204–10      Cxx
35Rio Bueno  x2010–100      Cxx
36/37Discovery Bay x 9510–45xxxxx Cxx
 East coast              
41Port Maria x 405–20xx  x Cx 
42Annotto Bay  x300 xxx  xCx 
46Port Antonio (East H.) x 605–20xxx x Cxx
50Manchionealx  205–10xx    Cx 
51Happy Grove x 1010–30 x    C  

Shelter:G = good, F = fair, B = bad
Environment:Ci = city; Ro = road access; Hw = harbour, wharf
Ind = industry; Tou = tourism;
Aqu = aquaculture (oysters, sea weeds)
Water quality:Tur = turbidity: (VT) very turbid; (T) turbid;
(LT) low turbidity; (C) clear,
Riv = river estuary
Chart:x = existing (see annex 1)

1 acre = 0.4047 hectare


The type, distribution and quantities of the juveniles of marine species are poorly known. Anecdotal information suggests that some species demonstrate a seasonality of abundance normally coinciding with the rainy season, although relatively large schools of juveniles have been located outside this season in estuarine waters. Preliminary investigations will have to be done in order to determine species distribution with regards to quantities and seasonality. Concerning the removal of juveniles from the marine environment, section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1945 prohibits the capture of juvenile fish; however, the act does not define juvenile. Section 14 however does allow the Minister to make regulations controlling the capture of juveniles.

The culture of the freshwater fish Tilapia is well advanced in Jamaica and juveniles are readily available for growth trials in cages within the marine environment: preliminary research having indicated that this species is highly adaptable.


4.3.1 Agents for development: large private enterprises or fishermen's cooperatives?

Fundamentally, there are two courses that the development of marine cage-culture of fish in Jamaica could take the industry could develop as large-scale operations owned by a few individuals or companies and employing the necessary labour; or it could develop as small-scale operations owned and operated by many small fish farmers or co-operatives.

Each option has its own rationale:

Small-scale cage fish-farmingwill diversify the rural coastal economy and may provide an alternative to capture fishing, thus reducing fishing effort.
Large-scale cage fish-farmingmay permit economies of scale, thus reducing the costs of production and making the products cheaper and more price competitive.

Large scale corporate operations can be expected to obtain their own financing for research and development, but credit may have to be provided for small-scale farms through special schemes. A corporation will purchase the management and technical expertise it needs, while substantial government supported extension services will probably have to be provided for smaller farms. Purchasing and marketing will be vertically integrated into a corporate structure, but small operators will have to make their own co-operative or other arrangements.

Although the management of many small individually-owned units may be expected to be weak relative to large corporate-managed farms, the model of many smaller-scale farms would have the advantage of generating more rural income leading to a more valid rural development. The operations of these small-scale units may be improved through the provision of management training, and by the introduction of co-operation in some management, purchasing and marketing operations.

In the early stages, these options are mutually exclusive and may not be pursued concurrently; the technology developed during the research phase will favour either one option or the other.

The main domestic competition with fresh cultured marine fish will be fresh fish from the local artisanal capture fishery which has relatively low production costs but suffers from declining stocks (numbers and sizes) of the favoured species. What cage-culture can offer is good-sized high-quality marine species at prices much higher than would obtain in the local capture fishery. Local demand for these (high-priced) marine cultured fish will be low, and production for export will have to be the main thrust. This will require further processing and storage capability as well as export contacts, best done by one central agency.

4.3.2 Research and development phases

Since a workable technology for marine cage culture is not yet available, a Research Phase of several years prior to the Development phase is called for. This period will allow time for the necessary development planning. However, the choice of the type of future aquaculture activity, and its general characteristics (including the level of technology required) will be influenced by the type of development expected. It is thus important to answer these questions at an early stage.

4.3.3 Administration of a marine cage-culture programme

The human resources available for the administration of a research and development programme are limited. Some resources exist: in the Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture; in the Marine Science Unit of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona; in the Scientific Research Council; and in the private sector. The Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture.

The Fisheries Division (FD) has suffered from staff attrition due to low salaries and “restructuring” under IMF conditionalities. It is headed by a Director and a Deputy Director (both currently acting in their posts), and although there are six posts for Fisheries Officers, all have been vacant for some time2. The current staff resources of the FD -- already stretched to their limit -- will not be able to effectively administer a Marine Cage Culture Programme; and more retrenchment is expected.

The Aquaculture Branch, (of the FD) has a technical capability in fresh-water Tilapia production (hatcheries and pond culture), as well as in the marine cultivation of oysters (Crassostrea rhyzophorae), and seaweed (Gracilaria spp.). It has a Head, a Research Officer3 and other staff. The spat collection facility of the oyster culture project4 located in Bowden, St Thomas, is staffed by a farm manager and an assistant5. As currently staffed, the Aquaculture Branch does not have the capability to administer a Marine Cage Culture Programme. The Marine Sciences Unit, University of the West Indies.

The Marine Science Unit (MSU), of the Faculty of Natural Sciences (FNS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, has a Director, one Research Fellow, and several Associate Fellows from the Departments of Zoology, Botany, Chemistry and Geology in the FNS, and from the Institute of Social and Economic Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Associated with the MSU are the two UWI Marine Laboratories at Port Royal and Discovery Bay.

At present neither the Zoology Department nor the MSU conduct research into the cage-culture of marine finfish species, and no current staff member has practical experience in this field. Several graduate students are currently investigating the marine cage-culture of the red hybrid of Tilapia6, and are supervised by a member of staff, currently on leave7. The Scientific Research Council

The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is a statutory body established by the Jamaican government in 1960. The Scientific Research Council Act of 1960 states that the duty of the SRC is:

2 Others staff include fisheries wardens, clerical, janitorial, kitchen and security wardens. Also on staff are “fisheries instructors” who sell subsidized fuel and lubricants at central fishing beaches across the Island, plus captain and crew for the Division research vessel “Blue Fin”.
3 Other staff include clerks, drivers attendants, pond operators and casual labourers.
4 Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada.
5 There is also an extension officer and three watchmen.
6 A hybrid of O. mossambica and O. nilotica.
7 Dr Dunbar STEELE

To foster and co-ordinate Scientific Research in the island and to encourage the application of the results of such research to the exploitation and development of the resources of this island.”

The functions of the SRC are conducted in four main Divisions: Research and Development; Technical Information and Co-ordination; Administration; and Finance.

The Research and Development Division is comprised of six departments: Agro-industry; Analytical Services; Engineering and Energy; Microbiology/Biotechnology; Food Science and Technology; and Mineral Resources. The achievements of this Division are numerous. Biological projects include: the development of technology for the cultivation of mushrooms under tropical conditions; the development of tissue culture technology for the Irish potato, yams and anthuriums; the development of the culture technology for Artemia (brine shrimp) in ponds; and the development of a project for biological nitrogen fixation.

The SRC has the capability to administer a research programme to develop a technology for the cage culture of marine fish. The Jamaican Private Sector

The Jamaican Private Sector, has developed substantial capability in the pond aquaculture of Tilapia, and has identified considerable unfulfilled market capacity. As the exploitation of Jamaica's water resources approaches its limits, continued expansion of freshwater operations will be severely constrained. Considerable interest has been shown by the private sector in the marine culture of marine species and marine culture of Tilapia.

Traditionally, the Jamaican private sector has shown a preference for off-the-shelf technology and has kept its research efforts to a minimum. Nevertheless, several companies possess the staff capacity to manage a major research programme in marine cage-culture. They can also be expected to be committed to the development of large-scale cage-culture technology.

4.3.4 Research

The human resources available for marine aquaculture research in Jamaica are at present severely limited, as there are no experts or specialists in marine fish culture in the island. If existing human resources are to be used, they will have to receive some training and exposure to cage-culture methods as applied to marine species, and the necessary provisions will have to be made.

Certain basic human resources exist in the Scientific Research Council; in the Marine Science Unit of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of West Indies, Mona; and in the private sector, but there are no human resources available in the Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, or its Aquaculture Branch, to conduct this type of specialized research. The Scientific Research Council

The SRC, located next to the Ministry of Agriculture, is devoted to Jamaica's economic growth through technological development. Human resources of the SRC include biologists, physicists, civil engineers, biochemists, microbiologists, chemists, food technologists, food scientists, nutritionists and geologists. In addition, the SRC establishment includes laboratory facilities.

Although it has no marine fish aquaculturist on staff, the SRC has the human resource capability to conduct research in marine cage-culture, and should have no difficulty in procuring any additional expertise needed. The Marine Science Unit, University of the West Indies

Associated with the MSU are the two Marine Laboratories at Port Royal (PRML) and Discovery Bay (DBML). The DBML is staffed and equipped for research in coral reef ecology, and has an enviable reputation in that field; it has no facilities for aquaculture research. The PRML has facilities for both freshwater and marine aquaculture research, and indeed, investigations into both freshwater and brackish water culture of Tilapia are in progress there. Aquaculture research at the PRML is conducted by graduate students - mostly training for master's degrees -- under the supervision of the Department of Zoology of the FNS.

Research into the cage culture of marine fish by the MSU could be approached in two ways: graduate students could be funded to do the research towards a higher degree; or research staff with higher degrees could be hired to conduct the research. The former approach would be cheaper but the research will take years to complete and supervision will be a problem. The latter approach would be much more expensive, but should produce results in a shorter time. If time is of the essence supplementary funding can be identified, then the latter option should be selected. The Jamaican Private Sector

The Jamaican private sector (JPS) at present does not have human resource capability in the cage culture of marine fish. Some companies have hired fisheries experts at the Ph.D and Master's levels, and although they would be able to supervise a research program, their regular duties would not permit time for a concentrated effort at performing the research itself. If grant funds were available to the private sector, the necessary expertise could be hired and based in the private sector. The JPS is unlikely to fund marine cage-culture out of its own resources (see also § Participatory Research Techniques

If a choice is made to develop small-scale labour-intensive cage-culture technologies suitable for adaptation by coastal dwellers, then techniques which will allow rural folk to participate in the research should be used. Such an approach is likely to facilitate a smooth transfer of the technology.


Considered in this section is the availability of local capital for research, and the availability of local capital for development.

4.4.1 The availability of local capital for Research

Very little of the research conducted by the University of West Indies or the Scientific Research Council is funded out of the recurrent budget of these organizations: they depend almost exclusively on grants to fund the research they conduct. The Jamaican government does not, as a rule, provide funds from general revenue for research purposes.

The funds required to conduct a serious research programme in marine cage-culture are likely to be extensive, and no small private sector company is likely to want to provide funding but an approach could be made to all pond culture interests in the private sector to jointly fund the necessary research. Although some funding might be obtained from this source, it is likely that much more will be required, and overseas sources will have to be sought.

4.4.2 The availability of local capital for Development

Both the University of the West Indies and the Scientific Research Council conduct research into new technologies, but once completed, they normally choose to hand over their findings to others for development. Judging from past performance, the Jamaican private sector tends to be more prepared to adopt already researched technologies and to adapt them to local conditions, than to fund and conduct research of its own. It is likely that sufficient development capital can be sourced locally by the private sector once the technology is developed.

If the technology developed is small-scale and labour-intensive, a loan scheme and other support to assist the transfer of the technology to rural coastal dwellers, will be required. There are a number of non-governmental organizations which have the expertise and experience to be able to handle this sort of operation. Funding for this type of rural development activity should be easily available from overseas.


Marine aquaculture is a novel idea in Jamaica, and specific legal instruments which might facilitate, regulate or protect such operations do not exist at present. Having said this, there are already laws which may impact upon cage culture operations.

The Beach Control Act (enacted June 1, 1956) vests “all rights in and over the foreshore8 of this Island and the floor of the sea” in the crown [Section 3.1]. The Minister responsible has the authority to declare:

any part of the foreshore and the floor of the sea defined in the order together with the water lying on such part of the floor of the sea to be a protected area for the purpose of this Act;” [Section 7.1 (a)]

Certain activities may be prohibited within a protected area, including fishing, “the use of boats other than boats propelled by wind or oars”, the disposal of rubbish, water-skiing, dredging, the removal of flora and fauna, and treasure hunting. No mention is made of prohibition of entry or trespass.

Commercial activity may not take place on or over the foreshore and the floor of the sea without a license:

From and after 1st of June, 1956, no person shall encorach on or use, or permit any encroachment on or use of, the foreshore or the floor of the sea for any public purpose or for or in connection with any trade or business, or commercial enterprise, or in any other manner (whether similar to the foregoing or not)… without a license granted under this act.” (Section 5.1)

But even if a licence is applied or granted the licensee does not appear to have the right to exclude others from the area; which is important, as if cage culture operators were to be given licenses, they could not prevent fishermen or others from approaching or sailing/rowing between their cages. If deliberate damage to cages were to be committed, one would have to catch the offender in the act to be sure of conviction, and the cage operator could not fence off the sea or declare a prohibited area as a precaution.

The Harbours Act and the Marine Board Act are silent on usage of sea areas not used for navigation. Shipping lanes should not be obstructed by racks, anchored rafts or floating cages.

If marine aquaculture is to have a future in Jamaica, then there is the need for legislation which will encourage and protect the activities. At the very least, marine fish farmers should be able to prevent human intruders (above and below water) from encroaching on those parts of the sea in which their farms are located.

8 The foreshore is defined as the strip of land exposed between high tide and low tide.

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