Gleaner Editors' Forum | The fish are back - Positive results for fisheries sector after population scare
After years of battling the crisis of bad fishing practices that bung the growth of the fisheries sector, leading to dramatic depletion of the fish population in Jamaican waters, word from at least one concerned stakeholder group is that the fish are back.
Fingers were being pointed at the fisherfolk for overfishing and employing destructive methods of fishing that worsened the outlook for the sector, causing anxiety among stakeholders.
However, there is an apparent turnaround, and the outlook is much better, according to Dr Karl Aiken, a director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, who was addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices last week.
"The key thing is to recognise that for easily 20 years, we've been working consistently with the fishers through the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council.
"We are pleased to say that generally speaking, the sanctuaries are working in that in many areas - not just out in southern Jamaica, but in the north coast, especially the Oracabessa fish sanctuary - the fish are back, along with various other things like lobsters and crabs," Aiken, also a fisheries specialist, stated.
Not easy work
The work it took to rescue the fishing sector was not easy, said the organisation's chairperson, Thera Edwards.
Edwards told the forum that her organisation had to approach the situation delicately as they were fully aware that it is a livelihood for folks.
"One of the things that we have started as a local activity is International Fishermen's Day. It started last year, but we cemented it this year. We have had a close relationship with fishermen, everything from mesh size, practices, being safe, at sea ... ," Edwards said.
Aiken emphasised the point that fishers are actually now asking for more fish sanctuaries, a total reversal in their position from in the past when they used to warn against the idea and practice.
"They used to fight us, and now, they are asking for it because they see that this thing works just like we the scientists say it would," he said.