There are concerns that not enough is being done to protect the island’s reef system and the animals which inhabit it.
What’s more, questions are being asked why nothing has been done with plans, dating back to the 1990s, that would have led to an abundance of reef fish two decades on.
The rebuke from Professor Emeritus with the Centre for Resources Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), Robin Mahon, follows the August 24 Barbados TODAY front page which highlighted spear fisherman Kevin Greenidge as he walked through Oistins Bay with his fishing gear and a mix of pot fish including an octopus in a circle around his waist.
“Your front page picture and caption showing a spear fisherman with his catch is a sad advertisement for how badly we have failed in managing our reef fisheries in Barbados. While I applaud Mr. Greenidge’s prowess and stamina as a fisherman, his catch tells a depressing story. It consists of immature parrotfishes (chubs), squirrelfish and other small species. That he had to be in the water for six hours or more to catch what he has around his waist reveals, for all to see, the impoverished state of our reefs.”
“If we properly managed this fishery, he would have caught what he did or more and been home for lunch. His catch would be of larger fish and he would not have any parrotfish in it. The evidence is now clear that parrotfish play a crucial role in keeping reefs from being overgrown by algae that kill corals and prevent young ones from get started,” Mahon told Barbados TODAY.
He lamented that the authorities were hardly doing anything to protect the island’s reef system, “apart from building a major sewerage system on the south coast [South Coast Sewage Project]” which he suggested has more than improved the water quality in the area.
You will have to ask the CZMU about that, [but] we have done very little to regulate the stuff that is going into the sea from all our drains and from other sources and almost nothing to regulate the harvesting of whatever, mainly fish.. I mean you can go in St. Lawrence Gap, you can go in Holetown and you can see the guys selling little corals, conchs, the sea fans . . . If you are on the coast you can see spear fisherman, recreational and those doing it for a living coming in with a string of little parrot fish, sturgeon fish which are herbivorous . . . There are no regulations whatsoever to prevent them from doing that.
The Fisheries Act of 1993 would have been the act to regulate all of those things and the Coastal Zone Management Act would regulate the corals and so forth.. The Coastal Zone Management states clearly that you cannot take those things from the sea, but there is little or no enforcement and the Fisheries Act is not really of any use unless you make some regulation. They have not done so since 1993 when the act was passed,” he suggested
The academic, who at one time was the Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Committee told Barbados TODAY back in 1997, himself, along with the then Chief Fisheries Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Patrick McConney, and the fishing community endorsed a plan that would probably, by now, have led to significant improvement in reef fish abundance and reef health. However the then Agriculture Minister chose not to implement it.
We had had consultations, we had had the fishing industry on board with it, but Cabinet, maybe they were busy with other things . . . I don’t know the reason why it was not taken up. . . . I do know from a political point of view, no politician in Barbados wants to be seen as squeezing the little man who is trying to make a living and trying to put school book for his children shoes on their feet when the school year comes around, try to put a little fish on the table.. There is a reluctance. A politician that does that feels, I think that they are going to be seen as being against the small guy.
“This thing has been put forward to several ministers. I think it is an across the board unwillingness to do that kind of regulation. The Judiciary is also a part of it, if you looking at where sea eggs are concerned, for example.. They have shown themselves unwilling, that when there are regulations to actually act against fishermen.. the have been some fines and so forth, but they don’t take it very seriously.. You know, I mean it is a guy trying to make few dollars.. why are we dumping on him,” he said.