The fishers of Jamaica are making change mon!

This is an article by Sea Around Us researcher Stephanie Lingard, and also appeared in the September/October newsletter.

Jamaica, the land of wood and water, famous for its warm people, reggae music, jerk chicken and overfished reefs. Jamaica lives up to its reputation in every aspect. The people are some of the kindest, warmest and funniest you could hope to meet in your life. The landscape is an impossibly beautiful green, the food is flavourful, and… the reefs are desolate. However, there are many reasons to expect a better future for Jamaica’s fishers and fishes.

During the winter of 2010 and spring of 2011 I was given the opportunity to live in Jamaica on an internship funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Having worked at the Fisheries Centre for the summer of 2010, I was delighted to find I would be working alongside the Fisheries Division of Jamaica’s Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. I was working with an initiative called Improving Jamaica’s Agricultural Productivity Project (IJAPP). The fisheries aspect of the project, funded in part by CIDA, had three focus points: market facilities, enhancement of fisheries resources through artificial reefs, and capacity building with fishers in six south coast fishing villages. The project also worked to establish co-management bodies within each of the fishing villages. These bodies would be responsible for managing the new markets, and community organization tasks. Capacity building included workshops concerning all aspects of life: money management, conflict resolution, ecological knowledge, fisheries management, and safety at sea, to name a few. During the workshops, fishers faces lit up, and they absorbed the information eagerly. Community members were deeply thankful to have the opportunity to learn how they could care for their resources and improve their livelihoods. Working with fishers during workshops was by far the most rewarding aspect of my time there, and I’m happy to report: progress is being made.

A long list of challenges is faced by the ecosystems of Jamaica: invasive lionfish, pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing habits, lack of regulation, hurricanes, and coral disease. Initially, working among these challenges made it difficult to stay positive and understand why we were building fish markets while previously donated gear sheds, from the European Union, sat unused. Why were new reefs, sure to be targeted by destructive fishing practices, being built? In my mind, enforcement of fish sanctuaries (MPAs), and other regulations were clearly a priority. I often asked myself what the solution was to the myriad of problems, often feeling like I had nothing to offer the fishers or the fish.

Then, as time went on, my attitude changed. The more I became involved with the fishing community, and after meeting fishers and fisheries officers, I felt things, like my attitude, could be changed. The fishers themselves provided inspiration. Despite hauling up empty pots (Antillean Z traps) day after day, they continued to smile and laugh. At community meetings hosted by the project, many fishers were outspoken with other community members about the need to stop dynamite fishing, and other destructive practices. Many fishers I spoke with also expressed that, while they may not see the benefits of their changed behaviour, it was important to keep working at it for the next generation of fishers. The fisheries division staff, Dr. Karl Aiken (the Jamaican fish expert with the University of the West Indies), and members of local NGOs provided constant inspiration as well. All of these dedicated people have worked for years amongst funding cuts, broken government promises, destructive fishers, and natural disasters, and yet they persist in good spirits.

My friend Nakhle Hado, who works with Food for the Poor, teaches lionfish handling workshops around the island. He works tirelessly with fishers to teach them less destructive fishing techniques (like deep water handlining vs. trap fishing), as well as encouraging them to catch lionfish. Along side this work, he promotes a market for lionfish by selling it on the menu of his family’s restaurant in Kingston. The fried lionfish is amazing! The trend appears to be catching on as I had several fishers tell me they prefer lionfish to other types of fish, and that they have customers who will come to them specifically for the prickly fish. In time, it may just become a Jamaican delicacy.

The Nature Conservancy is currently working with the Fisheries Division to set up enforcement of the Pedro Bank Fish Sanctuary. Pedro Banks is a large fishing ground with several small sandy cays which host a transient community of fishers approximately 60 km off the south coast of Jamaica. Although funding is slow to come through, all are hopeful this will commence before the end of this year, or in early 2012.

The Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary was finally launched on October 9, 2011, Dr. Aiken giving me the good news. There is a wonderfully dedicated group of local NGOs working to get the rest of the 8 designated fish sanctuaries off the ground: Caribbean Coastal Areas Management Foundation, Blue Fields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society, St. Mary Fishermen’s Cooperative, Oracabessa Foundation, The Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society, The Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, Fisheries Division, Alloah fisher group and Business Community.

Despite several decades of hardships, and slow-moving political action, there is a strong community of fish-friendly organizations and individuals in Jamaica. I hope the return of the herbivorous long-spined sea-urchin (Diadema antillarum), combined with the much anticipated launch of the fish sanctuaries, and a burgeoning lionfish market signal a recovery of Jamaica’s marine resources.

New Study Quantifies Expansion of Fisheries

While it is widely-recognized that fishing boats have moved further offshore and deeper in the hunt for seafood, the Sea Around Us Project, in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, recently published in PloS ONE the first study to quantify global fisheries expansion.

The study reveals that fisheries expanded at a rate of one million sq. kilometres per year from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. The rate of expansion more than tripled in the 1980s and early 1990s – to roughly the size of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest every year.

Between 1950 and 2005, the spatial expansion of fisheries started from the coastal waters off the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, reached into the high seas and southward into the Southern Hemisphere at a rate of almost one degree latitude per year. It was accompanied by a nearly five-fold increase in catch, from 19 million tonnes in 1950, to a peak of 90 million tonnes in the late 1980s, and dropping to 87 million tonnes in 2005. Now we have run out of room to expand fisheries.

The image here (click to enlarge) shows a time series of areas exploited by marine fisheries by latitude class, expressed as a percentage of the total ocean area.

Daniel Pauly Delivers Keynote at Seafood Summit

Daniel Pauly recently gave the keynote address at the 2010 Seafood Summit in Paris. His talk compared industrial fishing to a Ponzi scheme, where instead of extracting a sustainable interest from invested capital, we use up the capital itself, and hope for other ‘investors’. He discussed the three-way expansion of fishing through the 20th century: geographically, by fishing in distant waters and getting access to African, Caribbean and Pacific waters; by fishing in deeper and deeper waters; and a taxonomic expansion. Pauly then addressed aquaculture and its limitations, particularly the double accounting of carnivorous farmed fish. He finished by talking about conservation efforts and the need to include the small-scale fisheries in the developing world in conservation efforts. His full talk is available through the Seafood Summit website.

High Seas Fleet Kept Afloat with Subsidies

The Belise-registered deep sea trawler Chang Xing trawling in in High seas bottom trawlers catch some of the tastiest fish (think Orange roughy, rockfish, and Patagonian toothfish), which are also some of the most vulnerable and overfished species because they grow and mature so slowly. A new study shows that this type of overfishing continues because the  200-strong trawling fleet is kept afloat with government money.

Several members of the Sea Around Us Project led by fisheries economist Rashid Sumaila estimated bottom trawl fleets operating in the high seas, i.e., outside of the Exclusive Economic Zones of maritime countries, receive an estimated US$152 million per year in fisheries subsides, which is 25% of the total landed value of the fish. The profit achieved by this vessel group is normally not more than 10% of landed value, which means that without subsidies, the bulk of the world’s bottom trawl fleet operating in the high seas will be operating at a loss, and unable to fish, thereby reducing the current threat to deep-sea and high seas fish stocks. The study is titled Subsidies to high seas bottom trawl fleets and the sustainability of deep-sea demersal fish stocks and was published online this month in the journal Marine Policy.

Consumer Campaigns, Pig Feed, and Conservation

wholefoodsAn article titled Conserving wild fish in a sea of market-based efforts appeared last week in Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation authored by Jennifer Jacquet, Daniel Pauly, Rashid Sumaila, and Sherman Lai of the Sea Around Us Project, along with five additional colleagues. Its publication led to an article in the Vancouver Sun on how domestic farm animals are devouring the world’s fish stocks and an AFP piece explaining that consumer campaigns don’t save endangered fish.  The article addresses the effects of consumer campaigns in an increasingly globalized market for seafood.

Sumaila Asked to WTO and British House of Commons

SWITZERLAND WTO GENERAL COUNCILAt the end of October, the Sea Around Us Project’s economist and director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit Rashid Sumaila teamed up with Oceana spokesperson Ted Danson to meet with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to discuss the most recent estimates of global fisheries subsidies and the current state of WTO negotiations on this issue.  The Economist reported on the fisheries subsidies discussion, particularly fuel subsidies here.

Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be $25-$30 billion a year and encourage overfishing as well as undermine free market philosophy.  The current Doha Round of the WTO is an apt forum for discussing and disciplining harmful subsidies, estimated at $16 billion per year.

From the WTO meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, Sumaila traveled to London to the British House of Commons for another meeting between legislators and scientists.  The Marine Advisory  Group of GLOBE International, a group that supports political leadership on issues of environmental sustainability, gathered to discuss overfishing.

Sumaila found the legislators involved, a multipartisan group primarily from the UK, to be enthusiastic, particularly the MP from the same region as author/journalist Charles Clover.  According to Sumaila, the legislators were very keen on receiving scientific information and data and urged the scientific advisors involved to share their findings candidly.

The Marine Advisory Group will continue to work with Globe International to produce a policy document, which should be completed early 2010, to be taken back to member countries, and presented at a number of UN meetings next year.

HoL GroupSumaila, far left, at a meeting of the Marine Advisory Group of GLOBE International in the UK House of Commons.

Daniel Pauly Contributes to the Huffington Post

fish-loveDaniel Pauly published today an article on Fish As Food: A Love Affair, Issues Included in the Huffington Post. His article begins: Imagine the evolution of a relationship, when the delight in discovering a new lover is followed by the discovery of his or her issues, which eventually leads to the relationship being reassessed, however painful this might be. I speak here about seafood, discovered by many only in the last few years. Read the full piece here.