The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will undertake a social and economic survey of the Pedro Cays to determine the living conditions of the area.
The $2.54 million survey, which is being funded through the Fisheries Management Development Fund, will be done during the March/April conch season, when the population on the cays is at a maximum.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, who made the announcement during a statement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 5, said the assessment will determine the number of people living on the cays, their social economic profile, as well as a description of the existing facilities.
Already, the Ministry is working with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to determine the carrying capacity of the cays, which will assist in deciding how many persons will be allowed to remain on the cays, as well as the kind of infrastructure that is needed to support the population.
Minister Clarke said that these studies will inform the development of a comprehensive and sustainable management plan of the area.
Last September, some $2.44 million was allocated from the Fisheries Management Development Fund to undertake a cleanup of the Pedro Cays, coming out of reports of improper solid waste management of the area. Some 1,504 bags of garbage were removed from the cays by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) as well as other solid material such as zinc.
A further $4.82 million has been allocated from the fund for the continued removal of garbage from the area for one year, commencing February.
Meanwhile, the Ministry has limited the number of fishing licences issued this year for fishing on the cays to 380.
“We will be intensifying enforcement activities…to ensure that only people in possession of a licence will be allowed to remain there,” Minister Clarke said.
He said two fisheries officers will shortly be deployed to live on the cays, and they will work with the marine police, the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) Coast Guard and the Fisheries Division on enforcement actions.
“We are therefore urging all fishermen and all the relevant stakeholders to co-operate as we step up out enforcement activities in the ensuring days,” Mr. Clarke said.
The Ministry of Health will also, in two weeks, provide recommendations on the kind of sanitation system that is required to sustainability support the number of licensees, who will be allowed to inhabit the cays until a management plan has been formulated.
Mr. Clarke assured that the sustainable management plan will be put in place as soon as all the relevant studies and surveys are completed.