Some 2,000 fisher folk from six parishes have benefitted from the donation of safety gear, as part of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI). The beneficiaries will also receive training under the initiative which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. An additional 400 fish vendors will receive igloos and training in food safety and sanitation, under the Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Enhancement of Fish Cold Chain Supply and Safety Equipment Project. Speaking at the handing over ceremony held at the Old Harbour Bay fishing beach in St. Catherine on February 21, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the programme will not only improve the personal safety of local fishers, but will also improve the quality of the seafood that Jamaicans consume. The project has received funding support of some $21.6 million from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the World Bank. It is geared at increasing awareness among local fishers to practise safety at sea, thereby reducing the incidences of being lost at sea or losing their lives, as well as improving the quality assurance of local seafood. Under the project, fisher folk from the fishing communities of Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine; Savannah-La-Mar , Belmont and Whitehouse in Westmoreland; Annotto Bay and Pagee in St. Mary; Manchioneal in Portland; Discovery Bay in St. Ann; and Rocky Point in Clarendon received life jackets and marine distress flares to be used while at sea. They will also benefit from training in several areas, including safety at sea, basic seamanship and navigation skills, safe and proper use of the life jackets and other safety equipment. In the meantime, the Minister lauded the JSIF for its part in implementing the programme, which he said represents a significant contribution to the fisheries sector. “We should all be concerned that it is not only the lives of fishers at sea which is important, but also the quality of the fish we are consuming. Everything that can be done must be done to ensure that the fish we eat is wholesome, fresh and safe,” Mr. Clarke emphasised. He implored the fishers to follow the necessary safety guidelines provided by the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard and the Fisheries Division, to protect themselves while at sea. The Minister said each year, the Coast Guard responds to more than 30 search and rescue cases at sea, noting that fishing vessels accounted for 65 per cent of these cases. For her part, Managing Director at JSIF, Scarlette Gillings, said the project is directly connected to the Government’s aim to improve food safety and create a modern and enabling business environment as part of the Vision 2030 goals. Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. Mrs. Gillings said the programme also aims to promote sustainability of the fishing industry and will complement work being done under the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) project.The IICA project will see the upgrading of the physical infrastructure at six fishing beaches islandwide.She said there will be further collaboration under the JSIF’s Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) for the provision of organisational strengthening and training to the fishermen’s co-operatives.