Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Earth Today | Fish sanctuary gets home on land

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2020 | 12:13 AM
Men at work on the new office space for the White River Fish Sanctuary.
Men at work on the new office space for the White River Fish Sanctuary.

AFTER THREE years in operation, the White River Fish Sanctuary (WRFS) will today open the doors to new office space at the mouth of the White River in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

“We are very happy to have a physical home in the heart of the White River fishing community,” said Noel Francis, president of the White River Fishermen’s Association (WRFA) and co-chair of the White River Fish Sanctuary.

“So much work has been going on to restore the fish population and coral reefs in the sanctuary, but not everyone in the community has been able to see what’s happening since so much of our work is out at sea,” he added in a news release shared with The Gleaner.

“The new office and physical presence in the community will make the work of the sanctuary much more tangible and real to the people who live here, especially the fishers,” Francis noted further.

NEW OFFICE SPACE

Construction of the new office space is thanks to the support of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which has partnered with the WRFS to the tune of $5,701,694.94. In addition to the office, TEF’s support has enabled the WRFS to continue its work to ‘Protect – Restore – Engage’ by establishing five coral nurseries in its first year of operation; employing four part-time and four full-time wardens that patrol the sanctuary with its intrepid boat; and support public education and outreach in the community.

The land space was leased from ‘Speedy’ Shalton Whyte and Greg Chung. Speedy, a local businessman, operates a glass-bottom boat tour. Partial proceeds from the tour go to supporting the WRFS.

Since it was gazetted in 2017, and as part of its ‘500 in 5’ campaign, fish stocks are clearly increasing and fishers see the impact.

“In five years, I think we’ll see a 1,500 per cent increase,” noted Donald Anderson, a member of the WRFA and now a warden.

“My dream is coming true,” he adds. “I already seeing the fish coming back and I see a future for our youth,” he added.