Spear fishing is supposed to be illegal and net fishing inside or on top of a reef is supposed to be illegal, but it happens every single day around Antigua. Bird Island is the most visited by tourists of all off shore islands and these sorts of fishing practices go on without any government regulation. In fact, as long as you don’t rip up any coral you can lay any amount of gill net. Gill nets are the ones with tiny holes which are able to catch anything. Turtles, dolphins and even whales have been known to be caught around the world in gill nets which is why most of the world has incredibly strict laws regarding such nets and the rules are enforced. Most other Caribbean islands ban all types of gill nets with the exception of surface gill nets used to catch bait fish like ballyhoo.
People often wonder why I don’t run the eco tour, and there are many reasons why, but one of them is that I have a hard time being out there seeing the negative changes slowly happen. Even on the Xtreme tour we see this sort of thing happen too. There are countless areas around Antigua that have been changed within the past 2 years and while out on the tour we see many things that make our stomachs turn. Illegal sand mining from the beaches is another practice that frustrates the heck out of me and my crew and it still happens. The crazy thing is that sometimes sand is actually taken by the Public Works Authority as it was after waves from Hurricane Dean pushed the sand up on to the land next to Darkwood Beach. Government trucks took all this sand and instead of pushing it back on the beach they took it away to be used in construction. This happened after hurricane Luis and Georges when thousands of tons of sand were trucked away. People now sit and try to figure out why the beaches there are having such terrible erosion. I wonder why they wonder.
Anyway there is some good news to all this gloom and doom. Thankfully the old farts that are doing such an awful job of running the environmental aspects our tourism, environment, and fisheries divisions area being helped by a few bright young people. I’ll give you an example. On Wednesday, we were out on a private charter with people who wanted to do some good snorkeling. We got to Green Island and found that there were very few large fish at our regular snorkeling site. A short walk with the guests to the top of a lookout spot there are we saw the problem. Three spear fishermen with dozens and dozens of speared fish (mostly parrots) attached to lines behind them. Anyway, this is nothing new so on we went to my favorite snorkeling spot when the waters are clear. Pillars of Hercules at the entrance of Nelson’s dockyard is within the National Park and there are several dive and snorkeling moorings there so that you don’t have to anchor. Anchored there was a small fishing boat and in the water were several spear fishermen swimming in between the moorings. This is the most visited dive site on Antigua and our Xtreme tour stops there to show tourists fish every day.
If you are in contact with people “in high places” please urge them to do something to help protect our key tourist snorkeling and dive sites. It won’t take much and it will help all involved in the long run…even the fishermen since anyone who knows about fishing and regulations knows that almost always its the fishermen who benefit most in the long run.