Court orders forfeiture of Dominican vessels held in Jamaican waters
Senior Parish Court judge Vaughn Smith has ordered the forfeiture of two vessels that were confiscated within Jamaica’s economic zone with 55 men aboard fishing for conch and fin fish.
Fifty-four of the men were from the Dominican Republic and the other, 20-year-old Niko Francisco Espinal, from Jamaica.
On March 2, the 55 men were intercepted off Jamaica’s coast with 25,000 pounds of conch and a large catch of fin fish.
In the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court this morning, Espinal was discharged.
His attorney, Jacqueline Cummings, had earlier negotiated a plea bargain with the State on the basis that Espinal was a young Jamaican who would get a criminal record on his first offence.
However, the 54 Dominicans each pleaded guilty to breaches of the Exclusive Economic Zone Action for exploiting Jamaica’s natural resources without a license.
Last week, the two boat captains pleaded guilty under the Fisheries and the Aquaculture acts and were each fined $40,000 or six months in prison.
Prosecutor Adley Duncan said subsequently the clerk of courts sought advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP).
He said, on review of the matter, the ODPP decided to drop the charges against the men under the Fisheries and Aquaculture acts and instructed that all 55 be charged under the Exclusive Economic Zones Act.
This is because the fishing offence was committed beyond 12 nautical miles from Jamaica’s coastline and that would nullify prosecution under the Fisheries and Aquaculture acts.
However, under the Exclusive Economic Zone Act, it is an offence to exploit natural resources without a license up to 200 nautical miles off Jamaica’s coast.
The boats were intercepted within 200 nautical miles.