[Coral-List] Distructive fishing practices in the Caribbean--long

Melissa Keyes mekvinga at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 29 18:00:09 EDT 2004

Dear Dr Dunbar, and fellow Listers,
Non-Jamaica comments.  Jamaica is so desperately poor that the surrounding sea is probably doomed.
I have lived in the Caribbean, and worked in the scuba industry since 1988.  In St. Croix, my home, I've worked at dive shops, filling scuba tanks for the fishermen.  While not approving of their lifestyle, I would pretend to be approving, and ask questions about their practices.
One fellow bragged about how many three foot "Midnight Parrotfish" he'd shot on the Salt River West Wall.  Another was laughing about the 300+ pound catches of reef fish they would get in the Buck Island Park (National Monument), before nine in the morning, when the Park people might show up.
The Department of Parks and Recreation people here in the USVI are underfunded, under staffed, and over worked.
I spend  six months each year, hurricane season, on my boat moored in Bonaire, in what is a park.  I went to a Marine Protected area there to help with a supervised coral/ fish survey.  The lady conducting the program said, "There are NO fish."  I couldn't comprehend, until my buddy and I, finished our task of placing the survey measuring tape, burned the remaining air in our tanks going down to 120 feet of depth.  The coral was pristine and beautiful, but the lady was right, there were NO fish.  Zero grunts, coneys, or any fish , umm, spearable sized.  At 120 feet or so depth, I did see a large "Tiger Grouper"  much deeper, running away as fast as he/she could swim.
There are never any commercial boatloads of recreational divers in the area.  Perhaps their park people are as over worked and underfunded as all the others worldwide.
On Bonaire, the 'traditional' fishermen in their little boats are restricted from using anchors of any type.  They are allowed to use heavy cotton string tied to a big rock for an anchor.  Their smashing damage is obvious to a sharp eye on nearly every dive, I very sad to say.  And, occasionally, the string is all tangled in the reef.  I already have been chastised for reporting what I see there.
In the British Virgin Islands, there is an open season on sea turtles!  You can go to an Island restaurant and eat turtle, as you can in the Bahamas!  I know they're not coral, and perhaps shouldn't be mentioned here.
I have no desire to ever visit Jamaica, sorry.  The "grinding poverty" there has upset cruising friends who did visit.
Melissa E. Keyes, 
s/v Vinga, Caribbean

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