Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is reviewing the policy governing the use of the Black River in St Elizabeth for safari tours.
In a statement, the ministry said the review is to determine the carrying capacity of current operations on the river, which is a popular tourist attraction.
Speaking at a site visit at one of the safari tours yesterday, Bartlett said, “We have a policy that we had developed in relation to the use of the Black River and now my review will look at the capacity and density as there is a call for greater regulation and monitoring of the use of the river.
“In discussion with the tour operators, it was highlighted that the carrying capacity is not so much the problem but discipline and as such we need to create an arrangement that will foster orderly conduct among all operators and full compliance with respect to licensing so we can all benefit and earn from the river.”
The popular Black River Safari tours have been in operation for close to 30 years and attract many tourists annually.
It is a guided motor launch tour, lasting approximately 1 1/2 hours, starting from the town of Black River, and going up into the Black River Lower Morass, Jamaica’s largest wetland area.
In emphasising the need for greater regulation, Bartlett added that, “Without discipline and proper regulation of the river, we can have accidents which create problems not just for the tour operators in terms of paying large sums for damages but also reputational damage to the destination. We don’t want to be reading that there are accidents on the Black River.”
The tourism minister added that there is also the issue of harm being done to the crocodiles which he said serve as the main pull for the attraction.
“The maintenance of the population of the crocodiles plays a major role in making the Black River a popular attraction along with the biodiversity and overall river experience.
“People come to see the crocodiles and witness what they have not seen anywhere else and so we want to encourage that they are not harmed but instead urge the culturing and nurturing of these protected animals,” said Bartlett.