A Port Authority of Jamaica-commissioned study of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) has recommended the development of a plan for institutional strengthening of the area, aimed at improving the management of the natural resources.This was revealed by President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) designate of the agency, Professor Gordon Shirley, who provided details of the Environmental Management Scoping Study on the PBPA, inclusive of the Goat Islands, at a press conference held on October 30 at the Port Authority’s downtown Kingston offices.The $1.5 million study, undertaken by Conrad Douglas and Associates, sought to identify the legal and regulatory environment, the natural heritage resources, industrial and commercial interests and the principal bio-physical and socio-cultural characteristics of the area.This is in light of proposals for the establishment of a transshipment port and an industrial commercial economic zone on the Goat Islands and the lands north of the Old Harbour Bay area, as part of the global logistics hub initiative.The proposed investment, by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), is valued at US$1.5 billion, and represents a key development milestone and could have significant positive impact on the country’s development agenda.Professor Gordon said the study identified the plant and marine life forms that could be impacted by the proposed development and the idea is that a strategy would be developed to enhance the environmental conditions including, for example, relocation of any affected fish sanctuaries and replanting disturbed areas of mangrove and sea grass to ensure that the habitat within the PBPA are maintained if not improved.He informed that there are 21 rare, threatened and endangered species of animals and plants found in the PBPA and of that number, 10 occupy the Portland Bight and Ridge and Hellshire Hill areas.“The iguana…is found only in Hellshire Hills…15 species of plants endemic to Jamaica are found in the Portland Bight and Ridge area and there are three fishing sanctuaries located in the area,” he stated.Professor Shirley noted further that the fisheries in the area are in a degraded condition suffering from a mix of naturally occurring conditions and improper fishing practices including dynamiting and overfishing.He said in respect to the three fish sanctuaries in the area, the Galleon Harbour is the only one that may be affected by the proposed development. He noted, however, that it is experiencing naturally degraded performance as a result of hydrogen sulphide and so the fishing stock has been reduced.Professor Shirley said that PBPA is a multiple use national park intended to host important natural heritage resources along with a number of major industrial, commercial and residential and agricultural activities.Industrial activities being undertaken in the PBPA include the Jamalco Rocky Point Port, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Old Harbour Power Station and Transmission Sub-Station, the Jamaica Broilers Ethanol Plant, and several commercial fish, shrimp and chicken farms.A summary of the key points of the Environmental Management Scoping Study report can be viewed on the PAJ’s website at www.portjam.com.Professor Shirley said while the report is an essential part of the proposed development of the PBPA, it is not intended to replace the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which will be undertaken.He said that the Port Authority will continue liaising with CHEC to clarify the details of the project and the development of a framework agreement to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.“We expect it to come in well ahead of the time limit, which is in April of next year, and assuming that the project meets the approval of Cabinet, then it will be submitted to NEPA (National Environmental and Planning Agency) for determination of the Terms of Reference of the Environmental Impact Assessment,” he stated. Study recommendeds the development of a plan for institutional strengthening of the PBPA. This is in light of proposals for the establishment of a transshipment port and an industrial commercial economic zone on the Goat Islands. Story Highlights The proposed investment, by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), is valued at US$1.5 billion.