Saint Lucia fishers have begun receiving free tracking devices for their vessels to assist responders in locating boats in distress at sea.
Fisheries Minister Alfred Prospere told parliament last week that the Fisheries Department was distributing 300 of the ‘non-mandatory’ devices.
Prospere, also responsible for Agriculture, Food Security, and Rural Development, explained that the units would enhance safety at sea and save lives.
In addition, he urged fisherfolk to accept the trackers.
The Operations Manager of the Goodwill Fishermen’s Cooperative Kaygianna Toussaint-Charlery said she supported the tracking devices initiative from its inception.
“We have lived through the experience of so many fishers getting lost at sea,” Toussaint-Charlery recalled.
And she said the tracking devices would assist responders in identifying the exact location of a vessel in distress.
Ten devices were installed on vessels in the Vieux Fort port on Tuesday, and seven at the Savannes Bay landing site.
Nevertheless, Toussaint-Charlery explained that initially, the fishers were skeptical.
She disclosed that they expressed concerns over being ‘monitored’ by the police.
But she said that was not the purpose of the devices.
“It is about keeping them safe and saving lives,” Toussaint-Charlery told St Lucia Times.
“So on Tuesday when we started the installation, we saw a lot more fishers coming up and registering for the installation,” she stated.
Toussaint-Charlery said the installations would occur across Saint Lucia through fisheries cooperatives which have been championing the programme supported by the telecommunications provider, Digicel.
“All fishers will get an opportunity. Right now, it is voluntary and so we are encouraging them to register with their respective cooperatives. Even if they are not members, the cooperatives will facilitate the registration to pass the information to the Department of Fisheries. Or they can go to their extension officers,” Toussaint-Charlery told St Lucia Times.
She said there are sufficient units for all registered vessels.
And although having the devices is not mandatory, Toussaint-Charlery believes that it should become necessary at some point as part of the registration process for fishing vessels.