Monday, July 12, 2010

Just another comment on fisheries in Antigua

As you will know if you have been a regular reader of my blogs over the years, I often comment on the lack of proper fisheries management here in Antigua. Our marine ecosystem is way bigger than our terrestrial systems yet it has no real visible management and as a result many areas of the fishery and the marine environment that support it are having huge problems. Use the little search box up in the corner to search for "fisheries" and you will probably find more posts.
The comment here is about a dinner I went to this week. Actually it happened twice. The first was a dinner with a bunch of people from both sides of Antigua's political divide. The politics wasn't that interesting, but what was to me was that dinner was two different types of fish. One is probably the most widely consumed fish in Antigua and Barbuda. I have no idea what the real name of the fish is or even what it looks like. "Banga Mary" is imported from South America and eaten all around Antigua these days. The other was flying fish, another import. While i ate the deeply fried fish, I contemplated the situation. Here we were in a room with some of Antigua's most influential people and possibly the next prime minister and we were eating imported fish. Why is it a big deal? Well it's not that I am complaining as I was a guest, and the fish actually tasted very nice. It's just that I know that the reason we were eating this imported fish is that it's almost impossible to get enough local fish for a large group such as we had that night.
On Saturday night I went to another dinner. This time the dinner and import was salmon and it was totally delicious, but again had the cook had been able to get some nice local fish we wouldn't have been eating something imported.
Yesterday I went to First Choice Supermarket, where I was surprised as how much seafood they had on the shelves. Salmon, shrimp, squid, scallops, lingfish, mackerel, conch, mahi mahi and others. The only thing on the shelf that was actually locally harvested was conch. Interesting as conch fishing is banned in many parts of the Caribbean because of such low stocks. On paper, we have legislation about conch fishing and there are size limits, but if you go around Antigua's coastline you will see piles of tiny conch shells that were illegally harvested. Why? Simply because nobody is out there checking.
Anyway, even the mahi mahi at First Choice was imported. I assumed it was simply because each time I have seen mahi before in the supermarkets, it had been imported from the Indian Ocean. These had a funny colour to them and had been frozen some time ago. The labels didn't say if the fish was from Antigua as did the conch. This is a fish that we have around Antigua off shore in good numbers.
The average hotel guest coming here to Antigua will not eat local seafood in their hotel at any time during their stay. This is almost totally because of terrible fisheries management. The same can be said for our residents. We have a very hard time finding any variety of fresh local fish. IT isn't because we don't have good fisheries facilities. We have quite a few lovely ones donated by the Japanese in exchange for our whaling vote. The simple problem is that overfishing without management has all but killed our fishery. There are still a few areas which can be utilized, but without management they won't last long. I fear that conch and lobster will be wiped out before long unless something is done. The sand producing and reef sustaining parrot fish and other similar herbivores are being harvested in unsustainable netting methods at alarming rates at the moment without any management at all. It's almost not worth speaking about it because the powers that be don't seem to be interested at all.
There is always cod fish right? We have been eating that here for hundreds of years..... Hold on a moment. The cod fish industry wiped cod out.

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