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Fishing licence renewals falter but new permits climb

The renewal of fisheries licences hovered at a low 20 per cent last year, a new report from the National Fisheries Authority shows, despite efforts by the Government to get more fishers into the formal system.

The renewal rate was even worse than the year before when 25 per cent of fishers reapplied for licences.

On the upside, however, However, for the first time in a six-year period, the NFA hit the 5,000 mark in new fisher licences issued.

In total, new fisher licences issued amounted 5,687 for 2022, up from 3,995 a year earlier.

The growth in new licences may be partly attributed to the 15-month Jamaica Formalisation Project between the Government of Jamaica and the International Labour Organization, which began in 2020. The initiative, backed by US$70,000 in funding, was aimed at bringing 100 farmers and fishers into the formal system, with help from the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

Before that, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had been prodding informal operators to get regularised through their association or other means. The Government even went on to offer sweeteners such as access to state-supported group health and life insurance coverage through AgriCare.

Still, while the efforts were convincing enough to bring new licensees into the system, it fell short of incentivising those already onboard to remain in the industry, which was valued at US$118 million for the 2022 financial year, up a “significant” 15 per cent over 2021, according to NFA’s report.

Both fishers and their vessels need to licensed. But no permit is required for persons fishing from the seashore or riverbank using a single line.

“Another area of compliance being tracked concerns the high incidence of individuals fishing without a licence, which is part of illegal unreported and unregulated fishing,” the authority stated.

“Issue one of this publication highlighted that on average, only 24 per cent of persons being licensed each year are renewing their licence from the previous year although there is evidence to suggest that they continued to engage in fishing activity.”

The report showed that individuals aged 17 to 25 are among the least likely to apply for a fisher licence as well as to get a renewal. The highest renewal rate was among individuals between 56 and 65 years, who racked up a total of 254 over the October to December quarter.

For the third quarter under review, of the 1,553 persons registered, 1,128 were renewals. However, only 256 were renewals from the same period of October-December in 2021. This represents a quarterly renewal rate of 23 per cent year on year.

“The data shows that on average, fishers do not renew their licence consistently every year,” the NFA stated in its October quarter statistics report.

It added that the Fisheries Compliance, Licensing and Statistics Division had been responding to the trends highlighted by hosting monthly in-field licensing sessions and increasing enforcement by training and deploying more compliance officers.

The NFA also has plans to launch a new online licensing system by December as an efficiency measure.

Once operational, the system is expected to reduce the time taken to produce fishing licences down to four to five business days, compared to the current waiting time of four weeks.

The NFA’s implementation of the new system is being executed in collaboration with the Transformation Implementation Unit and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

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