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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Plea of frustrated divers


HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Plea of frustrated divers

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GIVE US THE LEGISLATION and the divers will demarcate and enforce any extended marine protected area in Carlisle Bay.

This is the plea from marine biologist, environmentalist, Professional Association of Diving Instructors ambassadiver and owner of Barbados Blue Dive Shop, Andre Miller, as yet another turtle was seen entangled in the Bay – this one in rope from a buoy.

This time, unlike the Green turtle that drowned after the fishing line in which it was entangled trapped it underwater, the divers were able to remove the rope from around the female Hawksbill’s neck and release it.

“We don’t want a dollar from Government,” Miller said. “Give us the designation; give us the laws saying from this point to this point is protected and we will do it.

“All we, the BDOA (Barbados Dive Operators Association), want is designation and we and the divers and the catamarans will demarcate, place the buoys and install signage on the shore,” Miller said.

Dive master with Barbados Blue, Kiera Bloom, said the dive shop was doing its morning dive in Carlisle Bay when fishermen on a boat alerted them to a suspiciously bobbing buoy. They suspected there was a turtle caught on the line.

“This was just outside the Bay in deeper water and it was wrapped so tight that its neck was coming over it. So we had to get it on the boat and she was a big turtle,” Bloom said.

But, Miller added, it was something that should not be happening.

Barbados Blue has started an online petition seeking signatures to push for expanded marine protected areas in Carlisle Bay and Folkestone Marine Park, St James.

Miller said he and other divers had been lobbying Government for such a designation for more than 20 years. He added there was talk about stretching the Carlisle Bay protected area from Needhams Point to Accra Beach.

“We have Carlisle Bay and we have Folkestone. If you do the maths, less than one per cent of all of our reefs are closed off from fishing,” he explained.

 

Miller however said he knew the idea would get some push back from certain quarters.

“When we say we want to close off fishing at certain areas, you would get some people who would come and say, ‘But the fisherman, the poor black man’,” he told Heather-Lynn’s Habitat.

“But right now, 90 per cent of our reef fish are gone, not only in Barbados but in the region. We are not trying to take away from anybody’s livelihood because they are going out for four hours to catch two fish,” he said.

“Give us three to five years closed and after that you will start to see an increase in abundance and diversity outside of the park as well.”

He stressed that Carlisle Bay was the epitome of what a marine park should be.

Where else, he asked, could one find a diversity of marine fauna despite night-time poaching, a prime dive site with numerous wrecks and living coral a mere one kilometre away from shore?

However, said Miller, the inability to prevent fishing in areas just outside of the Bay, in prime turtle sites, was frustrating, especially since a study, done by Barbados Blue and Bellairs Research Centre, found that each turtle was worth about US$1.7 million in tourism revenue.

“Right now, on 99 per cent of the coral reefs you can go and drop fish pots, as many as you want; you can drop lines; you can go with your spear gun, and one of the worse is those big seine nets, which circle the entire reef. We are out there and we are watching them do this and we can do nothing about it.

“I am not making war with the fishermen, but they don’t even realise what they are doing.” (HLE)

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