Banning Fish Traps

CORALations corals at
Wed May 12 16:33:36 EDT 1999

This letter is in response to REEFKEEPER Int regarding a petition being
circulating to demonstrate support for an equitable phase out of fish traps
in the U.S. Caribbean. The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (NOAA) is
currently holding regional meetings to discuss. I've decided to post the
response to let others know about the petition and to possibly generate
some discussion from managers facing similar problems elsewhere in the

Dear Alexander and Michael,
	Thank you. We received the information from REEFKEEPER, and will be
discussing the petition and resolution with the fishermen on Culebra
	CORALations agrees trap fishing is unsustainable. Cultural issues aside,
another concern in Puerto Rico is that the Department of Natural and
Environmental Resources [DNER] and the fishermen are constantly fighting.
This is relevant, as you know,  in that most of the waters used for
trapping around PR are governed by the local DNER.  Since founding
CORALations in PR in 1995, we have never witnessed any common ground
between this agency and the fishermen. The fishermen blame the declining
fish populations on the water pollution and the Government blames the
declining fish populations on over fishing. This rhetoric goes around and
around and the fishermen keep overfishing and the government keeps
polluting, or allowing the pollution to continue. 
	It is my opinion, the DNER in Puerto Rico needs to make a public show of
respect for the fishermen's concerns about water pollution, if they expect
any cooperation on the fish trap ban. Our concern is that this ecosystem
will just continue in rapid collapse if there continues to be no
constructive dialogue between these groups. 200 million gallons of primary
sewage and untreated industrial wastes are discharged into our coastal
waters every day. Now the government of Puerto Rico is planning the
construction of a new primary sewage discharge plant.(through a loophole in
the Clean Water Act.)  DNER scientists can't or don't express any concerns
about this, possibly  for political reasons and/or  job security...and this
is not right. These smelly plants which have gross (and I mean gross)
histories of non-compliance, are placed in poor coastal communities which
rely heavily on subsitence fishing in the area of outfall.   
	As educated people the DNER scientists should take the "high road" on this
and recognize the need for diplomatic action. My guess is, the petition
will end in conflicts, although I hope this is not the case. Successful
banning not only means legislation and enforcement, something Puerto Rico's
 Marine Natural Reserves* still don't benefit from, but it also means
fostering compliance on the part of the fishermen. 
(*Note: in PR law, the designation marine natural reserve is not a MFR or
"no take" zone, in many cases it implies absolutely no management plan)
	So, while we feel this is an important issue to back...and we will support
it, we also feel it must be handled diplomatically, and some effort of good
faith on the clean water front be acknowledged by DNER in Puerto Rico, in
order for it to be successful.   Thank you again for forwarding the
petition, and as mentioned earlier, we are supporting the resolution and
circulating the petition, although will be drafting our own letter which
will include some of the above stated concerns to Mr. José Campos.
Mary Ann Lucking
Amapola 14, Suite 901
Isla Verde, PR  00979
corals at

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