There has been mixed reaction from the local fishing community to Government’s decision to extend the ban on sea eggs harvesting for a second consecutive year.
Earlier this week, Chief Fisheries Officer Stephen Willoughby announced that based on the results of a recent survey, the local stock of sea eggs remains quite low; therefore he said the authorities could not support the opening of the fishing season for any reasonable duration this year.
With the ban remaining in full force, 61-year-old Charles Inniss, who has been a fisherman and diver all his life, said he was in full agreement with the prohibition on harvesting of the local delicacy.
At the same time, he complained openly that some divers were making it bad for others.
“I does do surveys and whatever the fisheries [officials] do I accept. If they open the season the fellows will take up all [the sea eggs] in a hurry,” Inniss told Barbados TODAY.
“There aren’t much sea eggs [so lifting the ban now would] set us back before we see sea eggs again. The little bit that we have, I want them to leave them to see if they will grow,” he added, while cautioning that some greedy divers were likely to take matters into their own hands.
“I agree with the ban 100 per cent. Yes, people have been going and stealing the sea eggs and it is unfair, it is far from right,” he stressed.
Inniss, who has been involved with marine life for over 40 years, further warned that even with the ban in place, it was important for fisheries officials to police the situation, given that demand for sea eggs was high.
“[With the ban on], consumers should resist buying them and then who catching can’t get no sale,” Inniss suggested, while pointing out that “[ultimately], the illegal harvesting will affect everybody.
“The divers will suffer the most but if they dive as they like there will be none, and somebody must be there to regulate it so you can’t be vex with the fisheries,” he said.
When Barbados TODAY visited the Berinda Cox Fish Market, Hallum Mayers also endorsed the move by the authorities, saying the local stock of sea eggs must be given time to ripen.
“We have to stop [harvesting] and let the sea eggs come. We have to hold off [because] if you keep catching them, there will be no time for them to breed. We have to give them some time,” the diver insisted.
“They are none out there. We don’t know what kill them, but something killing them,” he claimed, while suggesting that Government should “get a contract with the other islands that got sea eggs and let we go down and get some, because we got none right here.
“The moss ain’t growing like before and the sea eggs fall off,” he added.
Another diver, Kaneil Lane, expressed similar sentiments, while advocating for the ban to remain in place for another five years.
“It [the sea egg] is something we can do without. Out of season we surviving and [the ban] can stay for another five years and see what happen,” he said.
However, Michael Johnson strongly disagreed with the latest move by the authorities, which he said stood to negatively impact on his earnings.
“I just feel that the season should be open. It is impacting heavily on my income. I don’t know why it is closed. Like I said, it should be open,” he said.
Johnson explained that “when the season is good and I am getting sea eggs, I could make a lot of money on it, but it’s closed so all the sea egg catchers not going to make any money this year.
“They [the authorities] talking about breeding stock down, but we don’t know for sure,” he said, while suggesting that the onus was on Government to track down the poachers and deal with them, instead of punishing the entire sector with an all out ban.
The penalty for selling, purchasing or being in possession of sea eggs or roe during the closed season is, on summary conviction, a fine of up to $50,000, and/or up to two years in jail.