By Kadeem Joseph
Two resident marine biologists are calling for greater equity in the government’s approach to conservation efforts after four men were fined for various fishing infractions last week.
John Mussington, who is also an environmental activist, welcomes the prosecution of illegal fishing but said officials are ignoring the impact of other factors including coastal developments and mangrove destruction.
While speaking on the Big Issuesprogramme yesterday, he singled out the Yida development, which is in the North Eastern Marine Management Area (NEMMA) and has come under fire for the alleged removal of mangroves within the area.
He said while the spearfishermen should be prosecuted, “you have Yida that is destroying whole systems within a protected area and yet we are not seeing the action that needs to happen to them”.
Mussington also highlighted the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project in Barbuda, which has also been criticised for the alleged removal of mangrove trees in a protected area.
He said the harm caused by illegal fishing is small in comparison to the damage caused by the major developments.
“It makes no sense prosecuting two fishermen and then you have large conglomerates wiping out entire systems that is going to affect generations to come as well as the integrity of our island and we do nothing about that,” he said.
Last week, deputy chief fisheries officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, Tricia Lovell, said the men were spearfishing in a protected area – possibly without a licence – and caught parrotfish during the current closed season.
Speaking on the same programme, marine biologist Ruleo Camacho agreed that there “needs to be fairness across the board”.
He believes, however, that effective preservation and sustainable use of the country’s marine resources require everyone to be on board.
“I don’t care if you are a hairdresser, a tour operator, I don’t care if you never even go to the beach, everyone has a part to play because there is an impact that is felt throughout,” he explained.
Camacho added that there needs to be greater understanding of the issues affecting the fisheries industry, more collaboration and communication in order to see improvements.
Both men agreed that overfishing of key species is still an issue and, if not addressed, the sustainability of the fisheries sector will be jeopardised.