[Coral-List] Re: Destructive fishing practices - Caribbean

Jeremy Woodley jdwoodley at yahoo.co.uk
Mon May 3 17:30:42 EDT 2004

Stephen Dunbar asked (27 April) about destructive fishing methods (eg dynamite, cyanide) in the Caribbean in general and Jamaica in particular. Dynamite has often been used in the shallow waters of the south coast of Jamaica westward from, and including, the Port Royal Cays. However, the use of small-mesh wire netting in the ubiquitous fishtraps has been a much more extensive destructive method, with a big impact on the size structure of reef fish populations. 
Secondly, he asked if there had been studies in the region on the effectiveness of environmental education of fishermen against using such techniques. There may well be some from St Lucia, which I hope other readers will provide, and I can suggest some from Jamaica. 
Before doing so, I'd like to comment on his response (30 April) to Amanda Bourque. He attributes the "devastating toll on coral reefs in the Caribbean" to "a great lack of education". Surely it is not the lack of education among fishermen that has caused the decline of so many other commercial fisheries around the world? I suggest that, rather, it has been due to need/greed, competition and inadequate regulation (and, as Peter Mumby pointed out for the Caribbean, the destructive effects of careless development on land). That one tends to blame the ignorance of fishermen (and I have been guilty of that in the past) is, I guess, unconcious acknowledgement that we are looking at artisanal open-access fisheries with little obvious regulation. Unlike the Pacific islands described by Chuck Birkeland, there is no indigenous tradition of conserving marine resources in the Caribbean. Enforced management of widely-scattered fishers is expensive and unpopular so it has been neglected by many
 developing countries. Without that, even after an education programme, the organization of collective restraint among competing individuals and groups is very difficult. Fishermen are aware of over-exploitation and they have said to me, with a shrug "what can I do, by myself?"  Not to mention individual restraint: we can recommend a reduction in fishing effort (and then go home to dinner), but it's the fishers who would bear the immediate costs until fish stocks recovered.
Many of us believe that the best way forward is through some kind of co-management; a strong element of management by local communities within a national framework of education, legislation and enforcement. Education is essential, but it is only the beginning (although it can never stop). Human societies are annoyingly complex! In every community, changes in behaviour encounter various constraints (cultural, social, economic, legal etc), which have to be faced and dealt with. They will differ between the diverse Caribbean societies, but here are a few examples: 
- the lack of a fishermen's organization, for discussions and representation; 
- distrust between different areas of the community, or users of different gear, or between adjacent communities; 
- differing attitudes of full-time and casual fishers; 
- non-availability of large-mesh wire for fish-traps; 
- lack of appropriate protected area legislation.. 
The point I want to make here is that, in the absence of major 
government programmes, progressive change will be slow. It will take years. The more that it is driven from within the community, the better. Outsiders must beware of seeming to tell people what to do. Its hard, but we must aim to provide information (eg success stories from other tropical locations) and let the local people make their own decisions. Resident advisors should move from being educators to facilitators: within and between fishing groups, within the town, with the Government, as needed.
The best example of such work within Jamaica is that of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, led by Peter Espeut, in the Portland Bight Protected Area (in St. Catherine, west of Kingston). The Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council, representing thousands of fishers, has planned protected areas and drawn up regulations. You can read something about it at http://www.unesco.org/csi/act/jamaica/jamai3e.htm
Some of the work of the Fisheries Improvement Programme, founded at Discovery Bay, Jamaica, in 1988, is described in the following papers. If anyone needs a copy but does not have access to the journal, I will try to provide copies. The second one would be the easiest for me to send, but I can probably scan the others.
Sary Z, Oxenford HA, Woodley JD (1997) Effects of an increase in trap mesh size on an over-exploited coral reef fishery at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Marine Ecology Progress Series 154:107-120
(We offered fishers twice as much large-mesh wire for every small-mesh trap they turned in to us. Notice the built-in compensation for loss of catch! It worked well, but needed continuing education/facilitation to sustain it all the way to local elimination of smaller-mesh wire)
Woodley JD, Sary Z (2002) Development of a locally-managed fisheries reserve at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Proc 9 ICRS (2) 627-633
(A history of protected area initiatives at the DB Marine Lab)
Woodley JD, Sary Z, Gayle PMH (2003) Fishery management measures instituted at Discovery Bay, Jamaica, with special reference to establishment of the Fisheries Reserve. Gulf and Caribbean Research 14 (2) 181-193.
(An expanded version of the above, somewhat long-winded, with a few more details for would-be managers about the protected area project: which has yet to succeed)
Jeremy Woodley

13 South St. W., Dundas, Ontario L9H 4C3, Canada.

Tel: (905) 627-0393    

Centre for Marine Sciences, University of the West Indies (Mona), Kingston 7, Jamaica.

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