Dec. 9, 2002 – Throughout the Caribbean, fishermen face similar issues as their fisheries decline, Will Hayman of The Nature Conservancy said at Monday's opening ceremony of a five-day fishermen's workshop at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John.
"We have to begin to think of ways to manage [the Caribbean] as one body of water," said Hayman, who is based in Belize.
Nick Drayton, who heads The Ocean Conservancy office on St. John, said that since fish migrate, there are no such thing as borders when it comes to fisheries.
The official name of the event, co-sponsored by the two organizations, is the Virgin Islands Reef Fish Spawning Aggregation and Marine Protected Area Workshop for Fishermen. The first day's sessions drew about a dozen fishermen and fisheries personnel from Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Carricou, Mexico, St. Croix and St. Lucia.
Some workshop presentations will center on nuts-and-bolts subjects such as recognizing fish species and making sure fish that are taken conform to size limits. But it's also anticipated that interaction among the fishermen and fishery workers will foster new cooperation among Caribbean countries and territories.
Some of those at the workshop already deal with fishing issues in protected areas. In fact, Belize recently closed off 11 areas, Hayman said.
St. Lucia also has protected areas, near Soufriere. "It's a flagship in the Caribbean," said Seon Ferrari, who works for a St. Lucia fisheries management agency.
Esau Ross, a Grenadian who now lives on Virgin Gorda, said the BVI is moving toward controlling its fishing industry so that its waters do not become over-fished. The British Virgin Islands has a reputation as the boating capital of the Caribbean, he said, adding,"and we'd like to keep it that way."
In a far-ranging conversation that followed the brief welcoming ceremony, the fishermen, fishery workers and conservationists talked about issues near and dear to their hearts.
Drayton said the cruise ship industry is out of control. "Our governments are blinded by the dollars," he said, adding that he sees the monetary attraction in allowing cruise ships to call, but that the environmental costs are high.
Following up on remarks from a fisherman about litter, Drayton said analysis of litter picked up during the annual September Coast Weeks period has found that people who leave cigarette butts on the beach are big polluters. However, he said there was a decline in the number of cigarette butts picked up in this year's Coast Weeks clean-up on St. John.
He observed that "behind every piece of garbage there is a face."
Ross said beer cans are big offenders in the BVI. He said laws call for fining litterers, but enforcement is lax.
The workshop continues through Friday. It was funded by grants from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as well as The Nature Conservancy and The Ocean Conservancy.
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