A bight without a boat
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Having signed an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries in December 2010 to manage three fish sanctuaries within Portland Bight, Jamaica's largest environmental conservation area, the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation is still not equipped to carry out its mandate effectively.
When The Sunday Gleaner spoke with Ingrid Parchment, executive director of C-CAM at its recent climate change expo held at the Monymusk Sports Club, it became clear that the aims and objectives of the proposed project were being undermined by the lack of funding and equipment.
"For example, we don't have a boat. We don't own a boat and how can you properly monitor fish sanctuaries without a boat? So we are trying to get a boat and hoping that somebody will give us the funds to do it or will actually give us a boat or an engine so that would allow us to do that," Parchment said.
Dive gear and other equipment needed to carry out simple everyday activities are not at hand, but the problem runs much deeper with the need for an office in close proximity to the water. To this end, C-CAM has taken things into its hands, as Parchment explained.
"We currently have an office in Lionel Town but for the fish sanctuary management we wanted to have something closer to the water. So we have entered a partnership with the Monymusk Gun, Rod & Tiller Club in Salt River, a private members' club. We are going to be operating from that facility for maybe five years. They are close to the water, so it would be a good place to dock a boat if we owned one."
Running all the way from the western part of Kingston Harbour, through the Hellshire Hills, then along the Brazilletto Mountains towards Portland Ridge and ending above Rocky Point in Clarendon, the Portland Bight Protected Area covers some 520 square kilometres of land, and a marine area of 1,356.4 square kilometres. With some 50,000 people spread over this area, an estimated 4,000 of which earn their living by fishing. Having done so before C-CAM took control of the area, they now have to be educated about how to continue their livelihood in a sustainable manner.
"We are also in the process of doing signage, buoys and doing public education with the community groups. It's a long ongoing process, but I think the fishers, generally, are positive about this. This is something that they want to be involved in, this is something that they want to do and this is something that they want us to do," said the C-CAM executive director.
Current circumstances could compromise its effectiveness, however.
"Right now we have five conservation officers who are hired and we have a fish sanctuary manager, so we use boats from the fishermen. We pay them rental for use of their boats and we go and do monitoring on a need to know basis because we don't want people to know ahead of time when it is that we are doing the monitoring.
"We try and go out a minimum of two times a week, but we want to step that up to much more frequently. The areas are large and people are continuing to fish in areas that they shouldn't. They are saying that when we sign it (put up signs) they will stop but the longer we take to sign it, the harder that will get," Parchment shared.
Having received funding to cover salaries for the first three months of the year, with promise of payment for another three months, uncertainty about this is a major cause for concern.
"We are hoping that either from the budget or from the funds that are collected they will continue to fund that and other grant sources and private-sector persons would also fund some of the other activities," the executive director disclosed. However, she made it clear that C-CAM is also looking to partner with individuals and organisations in order to realise its objectives of preserving and enhancing the marine biodiversity of Portland Bight.
"I am happy to sit down and discuss with anybody how it is that they can come and work with us. Even if they want to come and volunteer with us we are happy to do that, but if they can just help toward funding, we will of course, if it's a private sector entity, look at how can they benefit from this partnership. We not just looking at how C-CAM can help the community but how can we help persons who are going to be supporting this effort," Parchment said.