Thu | Jan 20, 2022

Fishers recognised, given supplies by Sandals Foundation

Published:Thursday | July 1, 2021 | 12:10 AM
Fishers off the coast of Ocho Rios, St Ann preparing for the catch of the day.
Fishers off the coast of Ocho Rios, St Ann preparing for the catch of the day.

Close to 100 fishers on the island’s north and south coasts were treated to a day of celebration and given much-needed fishing supplies by Sandals Resorts International and its philanthropic arm, the Sandals Foundation.

To commemorate International Fisherman’s Day, marine wardens employed by the Sandals Foundation teamed up with their colleagues at Sandals South Coast Resort in Westmoreland, and Beaches Ocho Rios Resort in Oracabessa, St Mary, to host a luncheon and a series of community visits to share best practices and essential fishing supplies with the men and women who earn their living from the sea.

In Westmoreland, members of the Gilling’s Gully Fishermen’s Co-operative and the Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society shared the morning at Sandals South Coast Resort with representatives of the Fisheries Division, the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force Marine Division, as they examined best practices in diving and other safety measures at sea.

“The resort exists within what has historically been a fishing village; it is important to ensure that our fishermen and women are educated and engaged in discussions and activities pertaining to their livelihood,” said Adrian Whitehead, general manager of the Sandals South Coast Resort.

Diego Salmon, manager of the Whitehouse Special Fishery Conservation Area, described the day’s event as a major success as “all the fishers expressed delight at being made to feel special and acknowledged”.

Rudolph Campbell, a fisherman of 15 years in the Bluefields community, said: “I feel happy about what went on today. I love the treatment and what I learned.”

Lorando Charlton, a 40-year fishing veteran, expressed gratitude for being recognised. “Give thanks for everything and for Sandals recognising us on this International Fisherman’s Day. I enjoyed it a lot.”

Care packages

Meanwhile, members from the Stewart Town Rio Nuevo Fishers’ Association as well as the Oracabessa Bay Fishers’ Association were treated to a number of care packages, inclusive of fishing supplies, rope, floats, and boat engine oils, from the Sandals Foundation’s marine wardens, who made carefully coordinated community visits.

Jerlene Layne, manager of the Boscobel Special Fishery Conservation Area, said outreach is an important part of her team’s effort in building a strong relationship with communities since “fishers are a major stakeholder at the table for managing our marine sanctuaries”.

The marine sanctuary manager added: “We work very closely with the fishers across Stewart Town and Oracabessa communities. Oftentimes, we will assist them with resolving various challenges they may encounter, helping with their fishing licence, and in large part being an ear and friendly adviser. As wardens, it is part of our duty to ensure we establish and preserve a relationship of the trust even as we enforce the law.”

In 2010, the Sandals Foundation collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture to establish the Boscobel Special Fishery Conservation Area as part of a targeted approach to ensure the sustainable protection of the surrounding marine ecosystem. With independent surveys showing an increase of over 1,200 per cent in fish populations, significant growth in biodiversity, and increased coral coverage, the foundation then established the Whitehouse Special Fishery Conservation Area on the south coast in 2015.

“We are extremely proud of the levels of improvement that we’ve seen in the biomass and fish population within both of our sanctuaries,” says Heidi Clarke, executive director at the Sandals Foundation. “The marine space is the heart and soul of the Caribbean way of life, with many livelihoods depending on its health to stay alive. As a regional company, Sandals Resorts International and the Sandals Foundation are committed to its responsible use for the protection of its natural resources.”

Over the years, the Sandals Foundation has seen the steady growth of support from fishers. Michael Purcell, a Stewart Town fisherman for the past 35 years and well-known advocate of the marine sanctuary, proudly declared: “No, I don’t fish in the sanctuary. I want to see the fish dem grow, ‘cause when dem grow I can catch them outside more. Once the sanctuary overflow, the fish enter the deep and I catch dem there. I like the work that the sanctuary perform and I want more (fishermen) to come on board.”