The Caribbean is right on our doorstep. It shelters the second largest coral reef in the world and countless marine species. It’s beautiful. It’s fragile. The people of the Caribbean need our support to conserve it for all of us.
This is a short excerpt from the documentary in progress At Sea Level, Caribbean fisherfolk and the future of the sea. The film will tell the stories of fishers who are already leading conservation in their own words. These interviews were done at the Fisher’s Summit of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference.
I just received this email from Eli Fuller, which I am going to post in full. Conservation is so vital in small islands like Antigua – there is so much at stake and it is a shame when one person chooses to stand in the way of progress. Please like the Antigua Conservation Society facebook page and join the Antigua Conservation Society!
You can see the petition Eli is referring to here Below is the email in which he describes the situation.
Dear petitioners, on behalf of the Antigua Conservation Society, I would like to thank you for your patience over the past few months. We have held off delivering these signatures to the Prime Minister for several reasons. Our goal was and still is to have new fisheries regulations signed by the minister responsible for fisheries. The 2004 Fisheries Act and it’s regulations had been sitting on the Minister’s desk for years awaiting his signature. To get to that point The Fisheries Division orchestrated consultations between stakeholders and fishers from Antigua and Barbuda. Consultants were hired and the laws and regulations were developed using input from all of these people. The Act was passed and all that needed to happen was Hilson Baptiste, Minister responsible for Fisheries, needed to sign the regulations. Year after year they remained unsigned and the marine environment suffered more and more. Everyone complained but the Minister just wouldn’t sign.
A few days after we started this petition to the Prime Minister asking him to get involved, The Minister responsible for Fisheries announced in the local media that he was going to sign these regulations at long last, but wanted a fresh round of consultations to happen first between the Fisheries Division, stakeholders and fishers.
This put us in a unexpected position and we decided that we would wait to see the outcome of these consultations before we took our petition to the Prime Minister.
The consultations were extensive and well managed both here and in Barbuda. Once again all interested parties got together to speak about the Act and it’s regulations and potential changes. One of the outcomes was that fishers actually wanted stronger conservations measures within the regulations. Finally when everything had been drafted up, Chief Fisheries Officer, Cheryl Appleton delivered the new regulations to the Minister. He received them from his Ministry’s top Fisheries officer on September 14th. A few days later a reporter from http://www.caribarena.com asked him when he would sign now that he had what he wanted on his desk once again. Astonishingly, he replied that he hadn’t read them yet but that whatever happened he wouldn’t sign them until there was more consultations just to make sure that his Fisheries people got it right.
It seems that so many of the pessimists have been right all along by saying that the Minister responsible for Fisheries had no intention of signing any new regulations which would be more conservation minded. We are still using regulations from way back in 1990 to manage our waters and so much has changed since then in those waters. It’s a terrible shame that the Minister seems to be doing anything he can to not sign these regulations and help our marine ecosystem.
With that in mind we have printed your comments and your signatures and when the Prime Minister returns to the island we will be delivering them to him. Of course this may not be enough. We have been advised by our legal team that legal action may need to be taken to protect some crucial marine species which are threatened with extinction in our waters. The ever increasing use of gill nets along the outer reefs is killing so many crucial species. Without these species the reefs will completely die out allowing more ocean surge to get to our shores. The effects for this little country could be devastating. If we get to the point where legal action is taken, the Antigua Conservation Society will need a larger membership. Becoming a member is free, but you do need to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address telling us “I want to be a member of the Antigua Conservation Society.”
Thanks again for signing our petition and for reading this update.
I hope to have better news for you in the near future.
We had just arrived at our cabin in Montana from St. Louis where it’s 100+ degrees. As we unpack the car, my husband mentions climate change to a neighbor from across the way.
“Climate change is a crock,” responds our neighbor.
Over his shoulder, I see swaths of dying trees languishing on the flanks of Contact Mountain, the result of a pine beetle infestation that is very likely itself a result of stress from warming. Continue reading →
In this film, as usual, the fishers knew before anyone else. In addition to providing a historical context for climate change in the Arctic, it is both lovely and lyrical.
I can’t resist quoting from it.
“We often believe that our own time is at last modern, and we are the last men who can act with the authority and weight of the generations who came before us, the wisdom of all human history gathered together to inform our decisions. Yet after a century of knowledge we have arrived here and now, once again cursed by resource and conflict and unable to change. In another century, whatever happens to the world we know, those who look back will marvel at us for better or worse, our actions and decisions will be studied for years as they attempt to understand us better, those modern men from the past with a vague intellect and a comfortable heart, yet the finer they were the frailer and the cleverer the more wrong headed.”
“Can anyone recommend me kids or teenagers up to about 18 years old who are great spokespeople for the environment and nature conservation? It can be in any area related to the environment and they can be speakers of any language.
“The reason I ask is that once kids in the Caribbean reach their teens, there’s a dropout rate from environmental education programmes in support of our protected areas and protected species. One way we might try to combat this is by showing them kids their own age, or just older, who are cool, passionate and making a difference in the environmental area that they’re into.”
If you know of anyone who might be interested, post a comment in the comments section and I will connect you. Thanks!
Angélica Maria Méndez Parham is the co-founder and current Manager of the Guatemalan Caribbean and Izabal Lake Artisanal Fishers Networks. She has been instrumental in the creation of strategic alliances among fishing organizations all along the coast of Guatemala. A longtime spokesperson for the protection of coastal and marine resources and the environment, Angélica is from the town of Livingston on the coast of Guatemala. In 2010, Angélica was honored with the Gladding Memorial Award by the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute.
I started fishing for crabs at the age of seven to contribute to the family economy. My sister and two brothers fished together but I always went by myself. When I got married at the age of 18, I started fishing with my husband to support our family. We would fish for shrimp using small trawling nets called changos.
I helped get fishing organizations together from Barra Sarstún to Punta de Manabique to form the Guatemalan Caribbean and Izabal Lake Artisanal Fishers Networks. Now we have a voice. Continue reading →
Claudio Gonzales of MARfund(right) with fishers in Honduras.
MARfund is an organization whose mission is to protect the Meso- american Reef, the second largest in the world, a 700-mile long system off the Caribbean coastline of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. We spoke with Claudio in August.
On MARfund’s work with fishers: In 2007 and 2008, MAR Fund, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) organized workshops involving authorities, NGOs, academia and the fishermen in all 4 countries of the MAR region. Since then the fishers have been very interested in being involved in marine resources co-management. Continue reading →
Head Warden CJ Jeffrey patrolling Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area (E. Doyle)
From Emma Doyle of the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum:
[St. George’s] (July 31, 2011) World Ranger Day is commemorated on July 31 by national parks around the world. In the Caribbean, let’s take this chance to honour the dedication and passion of the rangers and wardens who work in our region’s marine protected areas, such as a Head Warden from Grenada. Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area is considered to be home to some of the finest reefs in Grenada, and Head Warden ‘CJ’ Jeffrey tells us about the work that goes on to protect such a special area.
Most important to the wardens is ensuring that there are no illegal activities, especially spear-fishing, which is very destructive to the reef. “Marine protected areas play a vital role in helping provide refuges where fish can breed. The fish grow and fill the protected area, and because they’re territorial they then move out into the surrounding waters and help replenish nearby fisheries” CJ explains. Continue reading →
I’ve spent a lot of time with Caribbean fishers – “simple” people who have a lot to share with us simpletons, uh, I mean simple folk, in the U.S. when it comes to the environment.
Here’s one thing that these fishers get: without regulation and enforcement, conservation won’t happen, because without it, the good guys don’t matter. They also know that it’s up to them to make their voices heard. They’re talking with their government officials. They’re willing to make sacrifices to protect their future – and in so doing protect our future.
There are many in government in this country who are out to undo environmental regulations, and where they can’t repeal them outright drain the funds needed for enforcement.
Let’s make our voices heard. (Especially if you are a Republican who cares about the environment — your elected officials seem to believe only Democrats care. They need to know that someone’s behind them if they break ranks.)
Go to usa.gov, find your official’s contact information. Email ‘em, call ‘em then email ‘em and call ‘em again. Especially when it comes to matters regarding the marine environment. Let’s do our part to keep fish in the sea and a future for all our children. These fishers are doing theirs.