Who trapped who?

CORALations corals at caribe.net
Wed Jun 2 16:16:23 EDT 1999

	CORALations recently wrote an email to the list and a letter to Caribbean
Fishery Management Council [CFMC] in support of ReefKeeper International's
resolution to phase out the use of fish traps in the Caribbean. For the
first time we received documents from this organization in advance of
meetings. Normally we receive the announcement 2 weeks after local
ReefKeeper meetings are held. The documents included 1) the announcement of
where and when CFMC meetings were being held to discuss the phase out of
reef traps (CFMC's adgenda), and 2) ReefKeeper's phase out resolution and
 	Today we received in the mail another document from ReefKeeper. This
document was clearly meant for mailing prior to the CFMC meetings one month
ago, and was entitled: Help Phase Out Fish Traps and Protect Scuba
Spearfishing! It begins by announcing the CFMC meetings: " CFMC is seeking
public input to determine the best ways to reduce the total number of fish
caught as well as the number of unwanted fish caught. Options being
considered include a ten year phase out of wire mesh fish traps,
elimination of spearfishing and lobstering using scuba and the elimination
of gill nets".
 	As an ocean conservation org based in Puerto Rico we recognize all of the
above practices as contributing to the decimation of fish populations and
commend CFMC for opening discussions on the issue. ReefKeeper publication
asks, and I quote:
	 "So who does more harm to fisheries and the environment - fish trappers
or scuba spearfishers?...[and answers]...the answer is obvious - fish traps
destroy habitat and kill thousands of juvenile and tropical fish every
	The document continues: "There will be fish trappers present at the
meeting that will blame scuba spearfishers for some harmful impacts to the
reef fish and lobster fisheries. The trappers will blame scuba spearfishers
as a way to distract from the subject of fish trap shortcomings."
	We are concerned  that after extending our support (albeit with major
qualifications) for the first documents ReefKeeper sent to us, which
sounded like a reasonable proposal to phase out traps...we receive this
document...one month later that attaches what appears to be some kind of
non conservation minded agenda geared at appealing to recreational spear
	Because of the support we previously gave to ReefKeeper on this list, we
are writing to reiterate that CORALations strongly feels solutions to
overfishing will have to come in large part from compliance of the
fishermen. This may mean compliance to stricter fishing regs or by
supporting the establishment of Marine Fishery Reserve areas, the latter
being easier to enforce. Education and compliance are hard objectives to
meet with the confrontational agenda of opposing the commercial trap
fishing while endorsing other fishing practices which may also be argued as
unsustainable. CORALations recognizes that recreational and commercial
spears are taking a toll on reefs in Puerto Rico. The larger fish targeted
are the most reproductive. We have been with a scientists who photographed
small reef fish being taken and discarded by spears in one study area.  We
have personally witnessed spear fishermen target everything, including sea
fans when fish aren’t there.
	We recognize that this list was not created to vent frustrations with
other orgs. Since we already sent the message to the list backing the trap
phase out in support of ReefKeeper's proposal, we felt it important to
clarify our stand on these issues to the other orgs and scientists who may
have received the document from ReefKeeper with the attached spearfishing
CORALations in no way endorses one form of unsustainable fishing practice
over another, especially in Puerto Rico where reef fish populations are so
compromised. We would not endorse any policy which alienates the local
commercial fishermen who have direct economic incentive and should be an
integral part of creating management plans to protect marine fish
Mary Ann Lucking
Amapola 14, Suite 901
Isla Verde, PR  00979
corals at caribe
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