Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Earth Today | Teamwork making the dream work at local fish sanctuary

Published:Thursday | November 22, 2018 | 12:10 AM

THE impact of collaborative actions taken to conserve the White River Fish Sanctuary (WRFS) is bringing to life the catchphrase 'teamwork makes the dream work'.

Since it was officially gazetted in 2017, the WRFS has worked closely with members of the local Fishers Association to protect marine life in the sanctuary. The fishers are its cornerstone.

"One hand can't clap," said Noel Francis, also known as 'Cook', an executive member of the local association.

"But since the fishers' association and the sanctuary have come together, we've been clapping away and are a force to be reckoned with," he added.

Four part-time and eight full-time wardens now patrol the sanctuary, and not to prosecute so much as to educate fishers and marine users, including tour boats, divers, snorkellers, beach guests, among others.

As part of its '500 in 5' campaign, fish stocks are clearly increasing and fishers see the impact.

"I think we will reach our 500 per cent goal in two years," said Donald Anderson, a member of the association and now a warden.

"In five years, I think we'll see a 1500 per cent increase. My dream is coming true. In a year or so, I already seeing the fish coming back and I see a future for our youth," he added.

Five coral nurseries have been established. Buoys now mark the sanctuary's borders. And it has its own patrol boat, 'The Interceptor'.

Unlike some less successful large-scale marine protected areas that have been the norm in the past, the WRFS has adopted a smaller-scale approach that has been pioneered and proven effective in other parts of the island.

Jamaica's fish sanctuaries were recently described as a "Quiet Success Story", but both Harvey and WRFS partners believe it's time to "make some noise" to galvanise greater investment and to expand WRFS's impact.

Future plans for the sanctuary include the 'Adopt a Warden' programme and will explain how individuals and private sector partners can get involved.