by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Fish sanctuary covers 23.8 hectares of water between Gouyave Jetty and Gros Point, St Mark
- Sanctuary lies within Gouyave Marine Protected Area
- Newly commissioned patrol vessel will be used to police the fish sanctuary
The establishment of a fish sanctuary in St John is expected to reverse years of recorded depletion in pelagic fish species such as Selar crumenophthalmus or jacks, yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and flying fish (Cheilopogon melanurus).
A fish sanctuary is demarcated protected area where no fishing is allowed so that fish and other sea creatures can reproduce undisturbed. Fishermen can harvest from the increase in fish stock outside the sanctuary. The sanctuary is located between the Gouyave Jetty and Gros Point in St Mark, covering 23.8 hectares of water.
The sanctuary lies within the Gouyave Marine Protected Area (GoMPA) and is part of a much larger project spearheaded by the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA) in collaboration with the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society Ltd (GFCSL) and the Fisheries Division.
GoMPA is approximately 5.4 sq km and includes coastal areas that straddle the parishes of St Mark and St John This initiative falls in line with the ambitious target set out by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the Caribbean Challenge Initiative to protect 25% of its near-shore marine and coastal environment by 2020.
The primary objectives of GoMPA are:
- To protect and enhance the coastal ecosystems and their associated resources (ie flora and fauna).
- To facilitate the development of sustainable livelihoods within and adjacent to the GoMPA through sustainable use.
- To enhance community resilience through increased knowledge and awareness of the projected impact of climate change of community livelihoods.
GoMPA is divided into 5 distinct zones where specific activities may occur with defined rules. These zones include the Gouyave MPA boundaries, Fish Sanctuary, Anchoring Zone for fishing vessel, Beach Seine Fishing zone and Reef Fishing zone. According to the management plan, the zones will provide the GoMPA management entity with the opportunity to protect the resources within the area from unsustainable practices and activities. Each zone corresponds to a specific benthic habitat category (eg coral reef, seagrass, beach, etc) where resources are harvested or used for specific socioeconomic purposes. The rules for each zone would ensure that the activities that may occur within that specified zone are sustainable and does not cause unacceptable changes to these ecosystems.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the German Development Bank (KfW) made available approximately US$600,000 in funding, following the signing of the agreement in December 2016. However, GRENCODA’s Programme Manager Benny Langaigne said the agency could only access just over 50% of the funds after encountering several challenges in the execution of the project. “The project was plagued by a late start, and because the paper-based project outputs and withdrawal process was very intense and drawn-out, we were not able to access all that money in the abbreviated implementation period. We were able to access over US$300,000.”
He explained the obstacles encountered: “The finding of a project manager was very prolonged because the process for that is very exacting since you must have it advertised out there for at least 4 weeks. It is something I hope we have the opportunity to discuss with the 5Cs since we would have liked to have shortlisted the top 5 individuals and on the same day interview them before selecting a person; which didn’t happen in that way.”
Another major challenge for GRENCODA was the process of setting up a bank account to be able to access such large sums of money. “It is very tedious in setting up a bank account because of what is happening in the world with regards to money laundering. The banks are now very thorough when it comes to setting up of new accounts, and our project fell victim to that.”
The implementing agency is particularly pleased with the outcome of the project and has recently launched a patrol vessel that will be used to police the fish sanctuary.
Langaigne says fisherfolk were trained to carry out that role of protecting the Gouyave MPA. “We now have people trained to be rangers; we also had people travelling to Trinidad to be trained in seamanship because we have invested in a boat that will help to patrol the area.”
Minister in the Ministry of Climate Resilience, the Environment, Forestry, Fisheries, Disaster Management and Information, Alvin DaBreo, toured the fish sanctuary on the newly commissioned patrol vessel. “This is a step in the right direction for our local fishery because it is always beneficial if we can conserve,” said Minister DaBreo.
He admitted that fisherfolk would be slightly negatively impacted by the establishment of the Gouyave MPA but reassured that alternative arrangement would be made to ensure that their livelihood is not at risk. “Fisherfolk will be affected, but we will want to balance that and have shared sacrifice, but we don’t want it to adversely affect one group over the other, so there will be an alternative means that they can use to supplement the loss.”
“Besides the MPA we are establishing a FAD which is a fish aggregating device outside so the fisherman in St Mark and St John can fish in that area which will be in proximity, so fisherfolk will not have to burn a lot of fuel to go out farther.”
Another crucial component of the project was the fisher community campaign conducted by the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society Ltd (GFCSL) under the theme “Our Fish, Our Future – Conservation in local hands.” GFCSL’s Public Relations Officer, Cecil Marquez said this is truly a historic moment for the parish as fisherfolk themselves took action to protect their livelihood and sustain the marine resource. “This is probably the first of its kind in the OECS where you have actual fishermen taking control of the whole management process. Over the years we found out that there is a depletion in stocks of our marine resources, depletion in smaller fishes and so we are very much concern about that and as a result of that we are working alongside government to ensure that we have fish under the sea.” As part of the project, the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society Ltd will have its own headquarters on Upper Depradine Street, Gouyave, St John.
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