Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 23, 2015 (SKNIS): Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Eugene Hamilton has signed a National Plan of Action on Illegal Unreported and Unregulated and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing on October 20.
In a brief statement, Minister Hamilton noted that the signing was one in a series of activities being undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture pertaining to the Department of Marine Resources.
“So the people of St. Kitts and Nevis who are fishermen and fisherwomen, for that matter can feel confident that the signing of this document today is part of the series of things that we are doing,” Minister Hamilton explained. “It is for the protection of the marine life in the area, so that their own fisheries conduct can be sustained for years to come rather than to be depleted, which is important for our livelihoods here in St. Kitts and Nevis. We depend on those stocks in these waters.”
Director of Marine Resources, Marc Williams explained that legislation pertaining to fishing was first drafted in the 1980s, more than 30 years ago.
“The first fisheries act for St. Kitts and Nevis was done in 1984 and that act did not have regulations until 1995,” he said. “In 2002 there was the revision of the act and additional regulations. That is the act that is in force today.”
Mr. Williams said that the act did not take into account some of the safety measures for fishermen, as well as the international obligations by which the Federation has to abide. He further noted that St. Kitts and Nevis has a high seas fishing fleet with approximately 40 boats, yet currently there is no legislation to govern their actions on the high seas.
The drafting and passing of new legislation will form part of the actions of the national plan and the Director of Marine Resources revealed some of the procedures.
“Some of the changes that we will see is the requirement of having a safety vest, a life vest on board at all times, once the vessel is in motion,” Williams said. “You will also see a vessel monitoring system for all fishing boats – both in our local waters here in St. Kitts and Nevis and on the high seas where the high seas fleet operates.”
Mr. Williams noted that these measures will ensure the safety of the local fishermen, including those who operate in deeper waters.
He said the monitoring system in particular will be able to pinpoint vessels that make distress calls and ensure a quicker rescue response rate. He added that it will also prevent fishermen from entering the marine jurisdiction of other islands, because Marine Resources will notify such vessel operators via radio.