International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Jamaica

Section 13(3,1) of Jamaica’s Constitution recognizes the right to a healthy and productive environment, In fact, the section reads: “The Constitution recognizes the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage.”

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is an Executive Agency that came into force on April 1, 2001. It represents a merger between the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), the Town Planning Department (TPD) and the Land Development and Utilization Commission (LDUC). The aim of the merger is to integrate environmental, planning and sustainable development policies and programmes and to improve customer service. Finally, NEPA aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring protection of the environment and orderly development in Jamaica through highly motivated staff performing at the highest standard.

Featured Legislation

1956: The Beach Control Act was signed. The legislation oversees activities relating to the floor of the sea and the overlying water and to the foreshore and beaches of this island. It also serves as a framework for  the establishment of a Beach Control Authority for the purpose of controlling and regulating the use of the floor of the sea and the overlying water and of the foreshore and beaches of this island in the interests of the public and of persons who have acquired rights therein.

1963: The Watersheds Protection Act was created.The Act provides for the establishment of a Watersheds Protection Commission and for each of the watersheds areas Watershed Protection Committees. The Commission has the power to make regulations (sect. 8). The Minister may declare, by Order, watershed areas for the purposes of this Act (sect. 5). The Commission may also enter into an agreement, named an Assisted Improvement Agreement, with owners of lands or any other persons for the carrying out of improvement works (sect. 10).

1991: The Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act was passed, providing for the management, conservation and protection of the natural resources of Jamaica. The Act establishes the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, a body of persons appointed by the Minister of the Environment. The functions of the Authority include the taking of such steps that are necessary to ensure the effective management of the physical environment of Jamaica; and the management of marine parks and protected areas.

1998: The WildLife Protection (Protective Zone) Regulations were brought into force, providing for the establishment of a wildlife protection zone around every game sanctuary specified in Part I of the First Schedule to the Wild Life Protection Act. The Regulations further prohibit the hunting of any animal, bird or fish within any wildlife protective zone.

1999: The WildLife Protection (Hunters' Returns) Regulations were introduced (and later amended in 2006). This Order of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority provides for returns relative to bird shooting to be made by the holder of hunter's licences before the end of each year.

2001: The Wildlife Protection (Amendment of Third Schedule) Regulations were enacted. These Regulations add to the list of species protected under the Wild Life Protection Act in the Third Schedule various species of whales and dolphins and some other marine animals.

2003: The Watershed Policy for Jamaica was unveiled. This policy on watershed management in Jamaica sets out the principles that should guide decision-making by agencies having functions in relation to watersheds. The Policy builds on the already agreed National Integrated Watershed Management Programmatic Framework and supports the continuing efforts to define and clarify roles, responsibilities, programmes and actions. It is intended to guide all watershed management activities and legislative initiatives carried out over the next five years by government departments and agencies, private sector interests and donor agencies. It will be monitored and adjusted as necessary to ensure relevance and usefulness as a management tool. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) will exercise this monitoring function.

2007: The WildLife Protection (Game Bird Hunting Limit) Regulations were instituted. These Regulations specify the maximum numbers of specified game birds that may be shot by any one person during any one day. Any person who contravenes these Regulations commits an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate to a specified fine or specified term of imprisonment.

2013: The Natural Resources Conservation (Wastewater and Sludge) Regulations were formulated to govern the discharge of wastewater and sludge. The issuing of the Regulations forms part of Jamaica’s compliance to the Cartagena Convention concerning Pollution from Land Based Sources and its Protocol.

2017: The Forest Policy for Jamaica was tabled. The Vision of the Forest Policy is that: by 2062, Jamaica’s forests and its biodiversity are sufficiently restored and sustainably managed, so once again the island can adequately be described as “the land of wood and water”, capable of meeting the social, economic and ecological needs of current and future generations. The Government of Jamaica is committed to the sustainable management of Jamaica’s forest resources and recognizes the importance of being guided by the following principles in the implementation of the Policy: 1) Transparency and Accountability; 2) Precautionary Approach; 3) Sustainable Development and Inter-generational Equity; 4) Varied Management Approaches; 5) Participation and Collaboration; 6) Protection and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity; 7) Best Science; 8) Recognising the Value of Forest Lands Goods and Services.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The scope of environmental crime in Jamaica is extensive, including the violation of regulations; the falsification of data, inflation of invoices, concocted environmental impact studies, bribery of officials, and fraudulent insurance claims. Organized crime in Jamaica is increasing and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, National Environment & Planning Agency, Natural Resources & Conservation Authority, and Town & Country Planning Authority are attempting to empirically establish the nature and extent of the toxic waste coming from households, companies, factories and public administrations that end up in rivers, aquifers, and underground streams, cumulatively polluting the environment. The government is already in talks to overhaul the bulk of environmental regulations, imposing heavier fines/punishment towards meaningful deterrence. In fact, the Government has amended a number of climate and environment-related legislation in the 2019/20 fiscal year, in an effort to strengthen the regulatory framework governing the management and sustainable use of Jamaica's biological and natural resources. Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has spearheaded this effort, beginning with the amendment of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act, the Forest Act, the Wild Life Protection Act, and the Watersheds Protection Act. The said amendments are part and parcel of the country’s priorities areas, which have already come to fruition through the first phase of the ban on some plastic packaging materials and various private sector-led initiatives to institute a deposit refund system on plastic bottles.

References and Further Reading


Minister of the Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment & Climate Change, Minister Pearnel Charles: pearnel@gmail.com