The Jamaican Government has imposed a prohibition on sea cucumber fishing, in light of a $30-million study to determine its prospects and viability in Jamaica.
According to Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier, because the sea cucumber industry has been unregulated and uncontrolled, and due to the high level of interest in the species and status of the stock, the Government is prohibiting the fishing of sea cucumber until a management plan is developed and adopted by the authorities.
Minister Kellier was speaking at a ceremony to officially sign the agreement for conducting the sea cucumber study at the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry last Thursday at Hope Gardens in St Andrew.
The study will examine capacity building in resource assessment and management of the Jamaican sea cucumber fishery and potential for aquaculture development, aimed at creating a sustainable basis for the operation of a management system and will specifically focus on the holothurian species of sea cucumber. It is being financed under a grant funding of US$30 million from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Welcoming the support of the FAO Administration in funding the study, Minister Kellier said that species diversification was one option to reduce the level of stress on the existing reef fisheries, and that sea cucumbers had been identified as one of the several underutilised species with the potential for development.
At present, he said, there was a lack of technical expertise to assess, manage and monitor the 16 species of sea cucumbers that inhabit Jamaican waters, six of which are deemed to be commercially important and are currently being exploited illegally.