Ag. Deputy Chief Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations
Director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Theodore E. James said his department has been steadily improving its services and facilities at its Paraquita Bay station.
Mr. James, said the focus during the 2019 and 2020 was on improving the department's working conditions and assessing the challenges of the fishing and farming community. Several small projects he said were completed, and more will continue to benefit stakeholders and the public.
The director reported that work began in 2019 with the planning and transformation of the buildings and grounds to create a healthier and safer environment for the team. He said the department also acquired essential equipment, some of which were lost in the hurricanes of 2017. He said by the end of 2020, the department was able to complete the following:
- purchase of equipment including a generator, two livestock trailers and two livestock squeeze chutes with weighing scales; and
- renovation of the office spaces with the replacement of air conditioner units and the addition of a surgical and holding area for small animals at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Development Building.
Mr. James said, “With the purchase of the animal chutes with scale at the abattoir, customers are provided with quick and accurate weight results, while veterinarians can physically examine animals safely to determine their condition before harvesting for food consumption including pregnancy diagnosis.”
The director stated that the department also began a few projects which are expected to be completed in 2021 including:-
- the building of an animal pound that will house stray livestock;
- re-establishment of the Virgin Gorda Substation;
- providing licenced fisherfolks and registered commercial farmers with identification badges; and
- resuming tractor services to farmers with the delivery of the tractor.
He said the administration of Crown land designated for farming will be reviewed to maximise its use and ensure a consistent supply of commercial agricultural products.
Work is also continuing with the assessment of the challenges faced by farmers in having consistent water supply to their farms. Mr. James said the department is developing and costing different plans to provide an improved and consistent supply of water to the Paraquita Bay estate.
The director further outlined that significant focus will be placed on the fisheries sector with assistance from partners to focus on projects including:
- Sustaining Turtles Environment Economy and Livelihoods (STEEL) project which seeks to assess the status, nature and extent of traditional turtle fishery; develop and manage a national Virgin Islands sea turtle database and propose amendments to the Virgin Islands Fisheries Act and Regulations; and
- Capacity Building in Fisheries Evidence, Networks and Management which seeks to strengthen fisherfolks' capacity and facilitate the development of a formalised network of fishers.
"The agricultural and fisheries industry will always be faced with challenges. It is my aim to properly assess these challenges, followed by thorough planning, skilled execution and continuous evaluation and readjust if necessary. It is my ultimate goal to position the fishing and farming industries for major success," Mr. James said.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is appreciative of the patience and understanding of its stakeholders and the public and will continue to improve its services for the benefit of all.