Legal gaffe puts pressure on Jamaica to protect the conch

A leading Jamaican environmentalist has told edie that the Jamaican government's failure to pass legislation protecting the conch and lobster from overfishing risks placing the country in conflict with international laws.

Jamaica is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES-based restrictions on conch shell and lobster fishing were introduced in Jamaica in the mid-80s.

A seasonal quota system for export licences was developed and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) in the early 90s in response to declining numbers.

In early July, a Jamaican Court of Appeal ruled against the two government bodies in their attempts to deny export licenses to two companies – Seafood and Ting and DYC Fishing. The ruling, based on Jamaican law, risks placing the country in breach of CITES regulations.

“The government has been severely embarrassed and rightly so,” Peter Espeut, executive director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, told edie. “Even though there is no local law to support CITES, there was a gentleman’s agreement about quotas and how they would be allocated. The large conch processors have supported the arrangements, except these two mavericks.”

Espeut is hopeful that the embarrassment caused by the court case will motivate the government to pass the legislation to protect NRCA’s right to operate its quota system and, thus, protect conch and lobster from overfishing. “This might make them pass some of the laws they have been drafting for decades,” says Espeut.

Jamaica is one of the few countries with enough Queen Conch left to export.

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