Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy cruise passengers vowing to come back!

A review from one of our cruise passengers who unfortunately came to antigua on a rare rainy day. They should have been out today when the weather was perfect! Thanks for the review!

From: Paula [vital1@******.net]

Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 1:17 AM

To: Adventure Antigua

Subject: Re: AA-Booking Eco Tour Confirmation June 23rd 2010 x4

 Hi! The weather didn't cooperate at all for this tour, but I had to let you know what an outstanding job the crew did that day. They warned us it was going to rain and everyone decided to go anyway. The first rain wasn't that bad, but when the storm blew in at Bird Island it got rough! Captain Cool, Chris and did a great job keeping everyone safe. I've grown up near the water and know how quickly the seas can become angry.
Anyway, Nicole was the other crew member and everyone was fantastic! This was my son and my second time and my boyfriend and his son's first time to take the tour. Even though we only did half, they had a great time and are using the rain as an excuse to go back and try it again! I just felt compelled to let you know that you have wonderful people working for you and we will be back again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

hot and sticky at the moment in antigua.

At the moment, I am sitting on my computer trying to catch up on emails and all the other admin kinda stuff that you try to ignore but know you can't.
We had a stretch of bad weather for boating last week. We canceled both our tours on two different days that started out terribly but ended up being nice days. The satellite and radar sites that we often use in conjunction together didn't work in our favor, but from experience i know it's better to be safe than sorry. On another day we looked at the same websites and forecast that it would clear up sending out our boats. Xtreme managed to miss most of the bad weather which seemed not to be as bad on the East and South of the island. That being said, the North and West side where the Eco Tour had been didn't fare the same. They had significant rains for quite a bit of the tour. My captain gave the guests the option of paying for as much as 50% of the tour's price but said that it would be up to them to decide if it was worth that. It was his decision on what call to make. Anyway, the guests, mostly from a cruise ship all decided to pay the 50% which i must say was very kind of them. Cancelling four other boat trips that week wasn't too cool at all, but sometimes the weather can be a bit hard to predict when a tropical wave is passing through. We usually get it right and don't usually have to cancel tours. Of course when we do, we credit 100% of the money back to our customers.
Today there was no need to worry about that and the Eco Tour is out in some very warm but calm conditions. It's dry too unless you are snorkeling which is where most people would want to be today. WOW it's warm. JD and I will be out cleaning the sloop's bottom later today. This isn't usually the best way to spend an afternoon but it's sooo hot that I think neither of us will mind being below the surface.
I have been uploading photos from my phone quite often to my twitter account. Keep an eye out there every now and then for images like this one.
This is one I posted the other day over at Weatherills Beach.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A very interesting and timely presentation from visiting ambassador.

"Birds as environmental indicators" will be a very interesting lecture held in Antigua on Monday. Once in a while I am sure that many of you reading this get tired the same old TV programs, tired of just hearing the same stuff every day, tired of seeing the same people every week. During the summer many people complain that there isn't enough stuff to do. If you want to experience and LEARN something new and possibly meet some new people, come to the EAG lecture this Monday evening at 7 PM.
For me it's very interesting that this lecture is being presented at a point when many Shearwaters and other birds seem to be dropping dead in alarming numbers. It's also a very poignant lecture for Antigua because so many habitats are being wiped out and with them bird species. I can only imagine what the meeting "Fish as environmental indicators would be like". Anyway, I hope to see you there this Monday!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

other blogs of interest, and more info on birds being killed off.

my web tracker picked up on a few hits coming from a blogger in the BVI. The Captain gives a good list of other blogs they enjoy reading. Check it out here.

Also, i have more info to add to the blog i wrote yesterday about the birds being found dead. It seems as though Greater Shearwaters and possibly sooty shearwaters are being found dead in large numbers in both oceans according to reports from Peru, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and the Bahamas. More info is coming in as birds are being collected here in Antigua by fishermen and given to Vets and fisheries officers.
All a bit alarming.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An alarming number of migratory birds are being found dead out to sea.

I hope this isnt related to the BP oil spill that i mentioned in my last blog, but I went fishing on Saturday and noticed an unusually high number of Audubon's Shearwaters off shore. At least, that's what i think they are called. Looked at the photos and they do look the same. Anyway, we spoke to several fishing boats that saw dead ones floating. On Sunday one boat spotted ten of them floating dead in the water. After speaking to other deep sea fishers who have been fishing the East off Antigua it seems as though we have a problem as many of them report seeing dead birds. Why on earth this is happening, we will only know when we get a specimen. Seeing a dead bird in the water is a rare event, but seeing many is totally not something any of us has seen.
These shouldn't be related in any way to the birds that were recently intentionally poisoned at Jolly Beach Hotel. That's another story!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why the BP oil spill is just another thing for the Caribbean to worry about.

With so much worry in the world about the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many people are searching for answers about how this will effect us where we live. Of course there are answers for questions like these, but not the ones we want and not specific enough to quell our fears.
The 2-mile-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. By the time the well was brought under control in March, 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the bay. The Ixtoc I spill is currently #2 on the all-time list of largest oil spills of all time.
Those of you who spent much time on beaches in the eary 80s will remember pleny of oil and "tar" as we all called it back then drifting ashore. There seems to be many theories about where this oil came from, but I am pretty sure that much of it was from that huge Mexican spill. Although we are not hearing much about the prospect of oil from the new BP gulf spill getting to our Caribbean shores, it is almost inevitable that some will arrive here. However, by the time it does, it will have passed along so many thousands of miles of coastline that we may only get small amounts. This all could depend on what happens with winds and currents in this years hurricane season. For more info on that (if you have time to read about the atlantic currents) you can read the blog I did three years ago about "flotsam and jetsam". Click here.
If you don't have time you can figure it out from this image showing atlantic currents:

This is just some info i suppose to help you figure out why this BP oil spill is also very bad for us all. Notice the red lines in the Gulf of Mexico above meeting up with the "gulf stream" and then slowying making their way around the northern Atlantic and finally back to and through the Caribbean. Keep in mind that we get a huge variety of migratory species of birds, fish and marine mammals that will pass through the spills track too. Anyway, as if the spill wasn't bad enough, we have to worry about all the other stuff damaging our marine ecosystems. Recently there was an article about a huge coral reef bleaching event predicted for this summer (along with the prediction of hurricanes). Click here for that article. Sadly, this one doesn't fill me with dread because unfortunately we don't have much coral left in the eastern Caribbean to be killed off. Here in Antigua the wholesale wiping out of fish from the shallow water reef systems has all but prevented any coral from making a comeback since the first big hurricane in 1989, let along the big ones of the 90s. Our Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are not protected at all so the reefs are in terrible shape. While our government and our Fisheries dept. drag their heels on getting the MPAs protected properly by some sort of structured management, people still can enjoy setting gill nets and spear fishing within reef systems where the last of the parrot fish and other herbivors are found in small numbers and sizes. We shouldn't rely on our island government to spring into action. Organizations like the Antigua Hotels and Touist Association should learn more about the reefs and related marine systems as well as the problems associated with getting these MPAs off the ground. The churches should be involved too. They should be trying to get these areas managed. Caribbean Beach Tourism as i like to call it which helps keep this small nation afloat financially will be nothing but a dream of a bunch of old hotelliers without the realization that healthy marine eco systems are vital for healthy tourism. I could go on and on, but it won't do much good. For now, if you can swallow any more, please have a look at this video which shows very simply why areas just like our offshore habitats turned to "slime" in other islands not too far away. Remember it's not all bad news, if you didn't get to see the last video i blogged about MPAs please come back and click this link after seeing the video below.

EDIT 17/6/10
I found this video which shows more of what i was saying in this blog:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Gotta love our cheap Antiguan politicians and government reps.

Antigua & Barbuda in front line
of whaling debate
Tuesday June 08, 2010 Page 14 By Shelton Daniel (Daily Observer)

Antigua Barbuda is again at the front line of the annual tussle between
pro- and anti-whaling interests.
The bitterly opposed camps are, as usual, ramping up their worldwide
lobbying and propaganda as the annual
meeting of International Whaling Commission (IWC) approaches.
Delegations from the 88 member states, along with innumerable NGOs on
both sides of the divide - as
well as countless reporters and observers - will descend on the Moroccan
city of Agadir Monday, June
21 to Friday, June 25 for the IWC's 62nd annual meeting. This year's
is of special significance, as, for the first time since a 1982 moratorium
on commercial
whaling, the IWC is now proposing a controlled resumption that it believes
will better serve the organisation's
founding mission of conservation. Uncompromising opponents to any form of
whaling (such as the Australian government and the international
environmental group Greenpeace) see this
as a disguised Japanese-inspired move to officially approve a decade long
open season of whale
slaughter. Analysts say this sets the stage for a highly keyed up and
combative encounter in the summer
heat of North Africa.
A m b a s s a d o r Anthony "Mamba" Liverpool is the current vice-chair
of the IWC and a
lead author of the draft 10- year proposal, which its creators hope will
provide the blueprint for a workable
peace plan between the warring IWC factions. The document's main premise
is that it is far better to permit
restricted and strictly monitored whaling within sustainable limits,
rather that to permit dissenting or
unregulated whaling interests to set their own quotas - if at all - and to
determine which whale
species are endangered. Antigua & Barbuda is one of four Caribbean
countries that presently support so-called sustainable consumption of
- a position that allies them with Japan and the few other nations that
hunt whales for food. Dominica, while not making a complete about face
from its usual pro whaling vote, has indicated that it will abstain this year. The country has in recent difficult to reconcile its tourism marketing pitch as "The Nature Isle"
with support for whaling - given the growing popularity of whale-watching as a prime
visitor attraction.
Speaking with The Daily OBSERVER on the weekend, local environmental
activist Martha Watkins-
Gilkes said the government in St John's should change course and oppose
whaling - or to at least do like
Dominica and abstain. She believes such a revised policy will be more
sensible and rewarding.
Like most other anti-whaling environmentalists, she's urging the adoption
of whale-watching
as an alternative that will boost the tourism industry on which this
country so heavily depends. Watkins-
Gilkes says Antigua & Barbuda's current support for whaling puts off many
travellers from choosing
here as their holiday destination. From a tourism standpoint, there is a
lot of negativity about this on
Antigua. You just have to Google Antigua. If you type in Antigua whaling,
you will get over 200,000 sites ...
a lot of which are against Antigua's stance in voting pro-whaling."
Watkins Gilkes said a very large number
of Antiguans and Barbudas were also opposed to the position taken by the
at the IWC, and suggested that even if the government did not wish to
heed the international pressure, it should at least listen to its own
people. She said
there was great potential here for whale-watching, given the number of
whales that pass through the
country's waters yearly. Not surprisingly, among those who strongly
disagree with Watkins-
Gilkes is Antigua & Barbuda's former chief fisheries officer. Daven Joseph
who also served in times
past as the country's IWC commissioner, said Antigua's position on whaling
is informed by scientific
evidence and not emotion. "The Caribbean countries' position at the IWC
is not in support of
Japan. It's a position that is based on the principles of sustainable use
of maritime resources," Joseph said,
echoing a position he has consistently advocated for a very long time. "I
am the coordinator
for the Caribbean programme at the IWC and I will never recommend or
encourage countries to support
the taking of any whales that are endangered or threatened." Joseph said
decisions taken by Caribbean countries at the IWC are based on sound
scientific advice. "The countries
of the region - all the ministers - met in Grenada on the 11th and 12th of
last month and agreed to a joint
position." The other Caribbean countries that vote at the IWC in favour
of "sustainable whaling" are St
Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. They have
been criticised for lending critical
support to Japan in exchange for economic assistance, mainly in the
form of fisheries projects. But Joseph said those who demand a change in
Antigua & Barbuda's
stance at the IWC must also be prepared to bankroll the economic
alternatives. "Apart from St Vincent and
the Grenadines, we in the Caribbean are not whaling countries. And if we are
asked to give up our rights to
take these animals we should be compensated for it." Expanding on that point
he added: "You're
hearing in the news media how much money Japan is making; we're hearing how
many whales the United States is taking; how much millions and billions of
dollars that Australia and New
Zealand are getting from whale-watching. And we are saying that we have a
right to benefit from these
international resources." Joseph added, "Our interest is for a compensation
package within any agreement at the IWC for these countries that are
so much from whales to put funds into a programme so that we can
draw down on technical assistance and also funding for enterprise-building
our country. This will enable us to develop whale-watching and maritime
industries that can enhance our
Mr. Joseph wouldn't know sustainable fishing if it slapped him in the face. If he cared about that as much as he cared about his connections with Japan then he'd be waging war against the French islands that are raping our marine recourses every single day.
Here was the last blog I wrote some time ago on the subject of Antigua's official support for Japan. Click here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Long lost "Part 2" of fishing tournament report.

Wow, I think that the past four weeks has been a terrible record for blog negligence. I have been very very busy though with work. Will blog about that next. First I gotta tell you what happened on board Xtreme on the second day of the fishing tournament.
On this day our Junior Angler decided to rest and instead we were joined by David "Choppa" Mendes, one of our old regulars, who had just arrived back from his med school on a short holiday. We all met up at the boat in Nelson's Dockyard when it was still dark and set off before most of the other crews had even arrived. Also going out at the same time was Captain Mike on the charter boat "Vitamin B", a Bertram 31.
Many boats were fishing in various different places some going very far indeed, but our plan was to generally fish in the same area we had done the day before North-East of Antigua. It's a place where we have hooked many large marlin and lost our big one the day before too.
We arrived at the fishing grounds just after we were permitted to start fishing and the spirits were very high on board. We fished towards a French FAD we had recently found in our favorite marlin area. With them putting a FAD in that area we knew there had to be action since there was plenty of it before the FAD was set. Shortly after we arrived one of the rods burst to life in the early morning sunlight with a hard marlin strike. We looked back as we started clearing the other rods quickly and saw a marlin jump right out of the water shaking its entire body trying to "spit" the hook. It was like a movie scene set in slow motion. The marlin, probably about 200 lbs in the air shaking back and forth for a second or two and before it landed back in the water the lure and hook getting tossed aside. As quick as this one attacked the line we had lost the fish again. Again, we lost this fish due to no fault of our own. The hook was fixed in the recommended position on the lure and all was done according to predominant rule of thumb. Yet the fish was gone once again. Two minutes later after we had let the lines back out we were still trying to figure out what we could have done differently and with a beautiful scream one of our starboard side rods burst to life with a marlin on the end.
This one didn't jump so we couldn't tell how big it was. I knew blue marlin often travel in pairs and wondered if this was the big wife of our last fish. Within no time Guili was hooked up in the harness and all the other lines were cleared. We were slowly following the fish and were fighting! "Xtreme hooked up and fighting", is what i called in on the radio to Fish Control. We were not near any other boats and I don't think our VHF radio is that powerful. We hadn't heard Fish Control for the weekend and so far for the morning we hadn't been able to reach any other boats on the radio. I called in again in the hope that someone would hear me and pass on the info as required in the rules.
The fish took a long second run so we knew we were not on a small fish. Usually marlin under 250 lbs don't have the power to take two huge runs pulling line that has 27 lbs of drag. Guilli worked the fish and kept the pressure on the fish bringing line back in. We fish shimano 50 wides mostly filled with spectra braided line and a top shot of 80 nylon. Often we bring marlin to the boat that never managed to take all the top shot out of the reel. This one was well into the braid so we could tell there was a considerable amount of line out. Then the fish went deep. The line was straight up and down at thirty minutes into the fight and we were not gaining much on the fish at all. It was a standoff for a few minutes before the fish took another short run and the line went slack. I quickly sped up as we have seen crazy marlin do U turns before shooting up to the surface fooling us to think that they had burst the line or gotten off. Just in case I sped up to try to put pressure on the line. Slack line is the enemy, but the line remained slack and we knew this fish was no longer ours. For the third time in just over 12 hours we had lost another good fish. The mood wasn't good at all on the boat, but we all still quickly put lines back over the side. We knew there had to be more out there and it didn't take long to realize that. About thirty minutes later we hooked up once again. This time it was Garvin on the line and the marlin was a jumper.
It took off a considerable length of line before we had a chance to slow it down, but we didn't want to rush anything on this try. I could tell the fish wasn't a small one by the splashes in the distance. We knew that we may have a fish that could be taken back to the scales. Within 20 minutes the fish was getting close and there was talk about killing the fish. Unfortunately this tournament is still a kill tournament with enough money being offered in prizes that you wouldn't turn your back on if given the chance. The gaff was set up and our simple measuring line was also readied. The line was set to the length that would make a blue marlin 300 lbs if placed between the tip of the lower jaw and the fork in the tail. Our line had a lure on the end and was attached to a rod. All we had to do was bring the fish close to the boat with and put the tip of the rod next to it's lower jaw and see where the lure ended up. Sounds easy huh?
Anyway, as the dark outline of the fish came into view on our port side the crew yelled and screamed that this fish was a keeper. I wasn't convinced. One of the crew told me that we didn't need the measure for this one as it was way big enough. They all reminded me that I was not a good judge of marlin size. We have caught and released many marlin but had only killed one before in a tournament. That time I was also worried that the fish wasn't big enough, and it turned out that it was 589 lbs. That was the early days of my marlin fishing and I had released many marlin since then. I wasn't convinced about this fish and told the crew that I didn't think it was big enough to make the 300lb limit, telling them that we had to measure this fish properly. We got the fish close enough to wire, but we had got it here quickly and the fish was very much alive and not wanting to be close to the boat. It would have been easy to just gaff it, but we had to measure it. As John finally was able to bring it to the side of the boat close enough to check the measurement, I put the line in the water. This photo was taken by Guilli exactly at this point. If you look very carefully up in the right side of the frame you can see the rod tip that had the measuring line in the water near the front of the fish :
Before we could see the measurement, the fish started to go wild again and pulled free from john and going under the starboard bow. I had to reverse hard to port to clear the line and it took us another 5 minutes to get the fish close once again. It still wasn't sedate and as we put the measure alongside the fish we argued and second guessed and discussed. This was the first fish we had brought alongside today after loosing two others and a huge one the afternoon before. No marlin had been caught yet and if this one made 300 lbs we would be getting a nice big check. The fish started to struggle again and we decided to bring it on board. We gaffed it and after quite a struggle we brought it aboard.
Only then could we properly measure it and the line showed that the fish was an inch shorter than our measuring line. A dark mood set across the boat for a while as we all sat there thinking about the possibility of it being under weight. The day went on and we actually had another two strikes I think but they didn't hook up or take much line. Towards the end of the day we heard that the fishing had been very bad this year and our fish was the only marlin caught with one other boat releasing two blue marlin and a white.
We were among the first boats back in and after dropping off the fish close to the scales we left John and Garvin there to check the process while we moved over to our mooring to start cleaning up. We really had a feeling that it was underweight even though we had all taken bets on it's size all guessing it was just over 300. Within 20 minutes we heard the bad news. It was 283 lbs and just 17 lbs short of the minimum weight. 
Team Xtreme was in the dog house! Environmentally it wasn't really a huge deal. Sport fishermen in Antigua kill less than five marlin a year if not considerably less. French commercial fishermen have dozens if not hundreds of FADs in our waters stretching from North of Barbuda all the way to our economic border with Guadeloupe and each one aggregates fish including marlin that the fishermen harvest.

I have spoken to many fishermen in islands from St. Barths south to Grenada and it is common for small commercial boats to catch up to three marlin in a day while fishing for tuna on FADs. I fished once on a commercial long line boat where tuna and sword fish were our target species. We had a short line (ten miles) and managed to catch five blue marlin in one night. 
While everyone on Team Xtreme, and mostly the skipper, seriously regrets killing an undersized fish (which was chopped up and eaten), we know that this kind of thing happens in kill tournaments like ours. We have been asking for observers to be stationed on each boat and our tournament be changed to a no kill one. I know that this can happen and hopefully will happen because we will never kill a marlin again on purpose. I say on purpose because it's possible that even in "no kill" tournaments fish get that get hooked up are killed.
Anyway, I am considering ending our marlin fishing, but for now still think that the impact of us going fishing for marlin a few times a year is sustainable.
I think that there is enough support to make our tournament a no kill one and will let you know when this happens. All in all, we had fun out there fishing for the two days but would have had way more fun if we had been able to bring 50% of our strikes to the boat. If we had done that and released them we would have won very easily on points alone. That's why they call it fishing and not catching...... 

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Interesting talk on ocean survival that would help Antigua and Barbuda

Below is an email I got from the original "Big John" who ran Dive Antigua for about 100 years I think. He's very switched on when it comes to eco related issues and this is a good one. As you know if you have followed my blog carefully, we here in Antigua have some very good Marine Protected Areas that could help our people and economy greatly if they were managed as they were designed to be. We just need the government to act. The biggest MPA here is NEMMA which appears to be stuck. If it isn't stuck then i would like to know more. Anyone?

Great TED talk on how to save the ocean eco systems.

As you know I have been saying for years that Antigua and Barbuda with
it's 1,500 sq. mile surrounding shallow area, would be the perfect place
to have set aside no fishing areas and as pointed out in the video, fish
populations spread out into areas open for fishing and subsequently
the fishermen catch more fish than if they did not have no no-go areas.

It's always nice to have new data to back up our proposals.

Best wishes,