The Aquaculture, Inland and Marine Products and By-Products (Inspection, Licensing and Export) (Change of Name and Amendment) Act, 2013, was approved without any amendment. It will now be sent to the Senate for debate and approval.
Piloting the Bill, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said that presently, the Act fails to address the import of aquaculture products, as well as the establishment of proper and adequate guidelines for all aspects of Jamaican fishery.
"The Veterinary Services Division is not presently empowered to monitor local trade. The Act deals with the sanitary requirements for fishing for export with no jurisdiction over local fishing, so that there is no system for guaranteeing that fishery products consumed locally are in keeping with internationally accepted standards," Mr Clarke said.
He noted that whereas the Public Health Department has jurisdiction for food handler’s permits and markets, that department does not inspect vessels which go to sea.
"Although many artisanal fishers claim they are fishing for local consumption, many of them have been integrated into the industrial fishery, which mostly exports fishery products. Additionally, based on World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, countries need to regularise their trade protocols, so as not to maintain or impose any barriers to trade," the Minister said.
Mr Clarke added that the dual system which exists in Jamaica is untidy and hampers the Ministry’s ability to effectively monitor the sanitary requirements for fishery products, when a fisher can easily hide behind an excuse of local consumption, while engaging in trade with industrial fishers.
He added that with fishermen often at sea, it presents logistic problems for effective monitoring.
"It means that there is no effective guarantee of fishing being conducted using the requisite international standards, where fishery products ostensibly for local consumption end up in the export trade. Additionally Jamaica cannot justify a dual system which requires sanitary conditions throughout every stage of production from harvesting to processing for exports and no such monitoring for local consumption. This loophole needs to be plugged (and) in plugging this loophole it would mean one system for export, import and local trade," Mr Clarke explained.
He further noted that the Bill seeks to bring fisher processing establishments or cold storage under the umbrella of the Act, and not limit the activities to export.
"The Bill seeks to bring imports under the present system used for exports," Mr Clarke stated.
For his part, Opposition Spokesperson on Agriculture, J.C. Hutchinson, said the Bill is timely and "is one which is to have better control, better management of the whole fishing industry."