WESTERN BUREAU—Fishermen at Whitehouse in Montego Bay who are to meet representatives of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) today, say they will be seeking compensation in the region of $10-million from the Ritz Carlton Rose Hall Hotel for loss of income and damages over the past years.
The fishermen have insisted that development work on the upscale hotel in 1999 polluted the sea in the area where they fished, thereby contributing to a decline in their livelihood over the last three years.
“We are hoping to come away from the meeting with some sensible talk and compensation for the fishermen. And I would like the NEPA and the Ministry of Agriculture to go up to the Ritz Carlton and check everything out because things going wrong there,” Troy Jumpp, president of the Whitehouse Fishermen`s Co-operative, told the Observer yesterday.
“We are going to take action if we don`t get the results that we want tomorrow… We have to stand up and put our feet down for the environment and that is what we are doing.”
He said that in the early months after the construction of the hotel, the principal concern had been the run-off of mud and marl into the ocean, which had served not only to pollute the sea, but to destroy their traps.
Since then, however, and particularly over the last 12 to 16 months, he said some kind of moss/algae had started to grow and spread along the shoreline.
“The moss is there more than before. It used to be just by the Ritz Carlton area. Now it`s from the Half Moon Hotel all the way down to Sandals Royal. And I have been warning them and telling them that it is coming West,” Jumpp said.
Jump said fishermen were forced to move their fish pots as far west as Sandy Bay, but the algae continued to spread.
He also argued that when the Port Authority of Jamaica starts dredging the Montego Bay harbour, their livelihood would also be affected.
“We have been moving our pots westward to get out of the area and it`s coming westwards now, so it`s more problems for us. And we are going to be having a greater problem because the Port Authority people are going to be extending the harbour and extending the pier and anytime they start to do that we don`t know what we`re going to do,” he said.
Today`s meeting comes in the wake of a protest demonstration by about 30 fishermen with 20 fishing boats who gathered along the hotel`s shoreline last Friday.
During the protest, he said he had spoken to hotel representatives and urged them to take a look at the fertiliser they used on the golf course to see whether it contributed to the algae build-up.
Yesterday, Calvin Brown, who works in the Office of the Prime Minister, told the Observer that he had felt the need to call today`s meeting so that the fishermen`s concerns could be addressed.
“It is an important matter, a matter that needs to be dealt with. It affects the livelihood of a critical set of people involved in the Jamaican landscape. The matter was brought to our attention by the fishermen and other interests and we feel it is in our best interest and in the interest of the government to ensure that the matter is dealt with expeditiously,” he said.
Investigations into the fishermen`s complaints against the hotel by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority last year found that the pollution taking place had not been caused by the Ritz Carlton or its developers, Rose Hall Development Limited. The Running Gut Gully in the area was blamed for the pollution that was causing the destruction of the area where the fishermen set their pots But the fishermen insist this is not the case. Rather, they say the problem of run-offs experienced in 2000 and 2001 had been worsened by the removal of hillside trees for the golf course`s development, leading to a loss of top soil.