The St. Lucia government Wednesday announced a relaxation of the new protocols it had put in place so as to ensure better control of the borders and prevent the illegal entry of persons into the island.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as well as Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Ezechiel Joseph met with an official of the fishing sector to discuss the protocols that included the suspension of licenses for fishermen to go out, for at least one week.
“We are going to continue revisiting the protocols and for the next three weeks, reduce the hours they are allowed to go out to sea, while we consider additional medium to long-term solutions,” Joseph said following the meeting.
Last weekend, Prime Minister, speaking at a news conference, outlining new measures to deal with the spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, said that the new measures would come into place by Monday.
“There is going to be some new protocols coming in place with regards to the border control, which will include the fishermen. An announcement will be made… and I know we’re going to be meeting with the different associations, but the likelihood is by Monday, that we will be suspending licenses for fishermen to go out, for at least one week.,” he said then.
The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) described the measures as “draconian, excessive, without logic and good sense.
“The St. Lucia Labour Party is calling for the immediate repeal of Statutory Instrument No. 165A of 2020 published in the Official Gazette on Friday 30th October 2020….pursuant to Section 18 of the Covid-19 (Prevention and Control) Act which the Government had, only a few weeks before, hastily rushed through Parliament in the most questionable of ways,” it added.
A government statement issued following the meeting on Wednesday, described the talks as “amicable” adding that a “unanimous position” had been taken on the sector’s role in helping protect the nation’s borders amid community spread of COVID-19.
“Acknowledging the importance of the fishing sector, its contribution to the local economy and food security Government has decided to allow fishers to resume their trade however only between the hours of 4.00am and 7.00 pm (local time) daily.
“Captains or owners of fishing vessels must share information on the vessel with the Marine Police. The Vigie Lighthouse must also be furnished with all relevant information when a vessel is leaving port. No more than three people are allowed onboard a vessel,” the statement said.
Operations Manager of the Goodwill Fishermen Co-operative Society, Kaygianna Toussaint-Charlery said the meeting was productive on many fronts.
“Most of the issues we were confronted with due to the one-week suspension, we were adequately able to explore at the meeting, and what we are most happy about is that our fisherfolk will be able to resume work in about a day or so.”
The statement said that the Statutory Instrument containing the measures will be published on later on Wednesday and comes into effect on Thursday.
Chastanet told reporters last weekend that his administration is working with the authorities in the French island of Martinique in a bid to prevent the illegal entry of nationals into St. Lucia.
Prime Minister Chastanet said he was also encouraging St. Lucians who want to come home, to do so legally, “so that we can keep them safe, we can keep their family members safe and keep our communities safe as well”.
Martinique is one of the islands in the Caribbean with a high number of COVID-19 cases.