Thursday, June 23, 2011

Antigua in the news again when it comes to international whaling.

While Japan continues to pump millions of dollars into our politricks and fisheries department the Fisheries ministers continue to tow the line. While fishemen all over Antigua cry for stronger fisheries management here so that our fishery can be sustainably used, our minister is in foreign lands supporting Japanese whaling and speaking about the threats against our sustainable use of our fishery. This stance is what is fed to our ministers by the real propaganda machine that is the Japanese whaling interest. I only wish the politicians knew what the words sustainable use meant and acted like we cared about that policy here. Read this article first that is a shortened online version of what was published on the daily observer yesterday:

The estimated loss of millions of dollars in fish to poachers and the lack of legislation and regulations to protect Antigua & Barbuda’s fish stock have prompted stakeholders in the industry to call on the government for protection.

The call came collectively yesterday from the Antigua & Barbuda Fishermen’s Co-operative, the Antigua & Barbuda Sport Fishing Association and environmentalist Eli Fuller.
Speaking on OBSERVER Radio’s Voice of the People, they agreed on the need for better management of fishing resources in order to protect what’s left for fisher folk to make a living.
Fuller set the tone for the discussion by outlining Antigua & Barbuda’s losses in the sector.
“I feel, and many of my colleagues feel, that fishing methods in Antigua and fisheries management are being done in a way that our resources are not being taken in a sustainable way,” he said.
“Apart from everything else, we’re seeing huge amounts, millions and millions of US dollars worth of fish caught in our waters, taken out of our waters, without anybody in Antigua having any knowledge of it. If you want the facts and figures, you have to go and ask Guadeloupe and St Barths,” Fuller added, suggesting that the illegal catches ended up in those markets.
“I think that if we’re really going to consider fishing as a sustainable thing for people to do and also to see fish on our shelves and our markets, we have to really take a serious look at what is happening in Antigua because fish are vanishing before our eyes and we’re not seeing the benefits,” he added.
Fuller, along with chairman of the sports fishing association, Phillip Shoul, as well as Gerald Price and Len Mussington of the Fishermen’s Co-operative, stressed the need for legislation to protect the industry.
Shoul noted that back in 2004, a new draft Fisheries Act was put together but lamented that it has not yet gone to Parliament.
Mussington said the co-operative would likely take up the charge to get the legislation fast-tracked. The draft law included the designation of certain areas as no-fish zones, closing and opening of seasons to help rebuild depleted grounds, as well as provisions for foreign vessels to sport fish here.
Highlighting the concerns about dwindling stock, Price noted that local fishermen have to travel as far as 30 miles out to net “good quality fish” because shallow grounds have been depleted of their stocks as a result of poor fishing methods and over fishing.

 and then this one below.

By Observer News - Thursday, June 23rd, 2011.
Fisheries Ministers from six Eastern Caribbean islands have affirmed their commitment to work to achieve a common position on the sustainable use of marine resources.
The ministers, along with chief fisheries officers from the six territories, marine biologists, OECS officials, international experts and representatives of the regional media met at the Bay Gardens Hotel in St Lucia on June 20 and 21.
The six territories represented were the host country, St Lucia, along with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis and St Vincent & the Grenada.
They are all members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and are seeking to present a harmonized position when they attend and participate in 63rd annual meeting of the IWC next month in the UK.
The regional territories continue to insist that their voting over the years for the lifting of a 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling has less to do with support for Japan and other pro-whaling nations (such as Norway and Iceland), and more an expression of their own principled stand on the issue.
The islands maintain that given their tiny land masses, the vast majority of natural resources available to them for food is contained in the huge marine spaces surrounding them, and that they have a right to harvest and utilize these resources in a controlled, well-managed and sustainable way.
The six Caribbean islands, almost all of which engage in some form of whaling as a small scale tradition, believe that if the right to sustainable use of marine resources is not defended and upheld, the attempts at prohibition could extend to other marine species on which much of their food security depends, such as conch, lobster and tuna.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Hilson Baptiste was blunt when he declared: “If we band ourselves together, we will have no problem. We are on the right track. Sustainable food security is what we are fighting for, and the right to do what we want to do around our own countries, in our own waters. Our 200-mile exclusive economic zone is ours to do what we like with. We don’t want anyone to come and tell us we cannot catch conch tomorrow or we cannot touch tuna the next day, or that lobsters are off limits. We are fighting that.”
In the past OECS countries have sought to maintain a harmonized position at the IWC, a point, which was noted by St Lucia’s Agriculture Minister Ezekiel Joseph.
“I want to see a full commitment by all of us with regard to sustainable use,” he said. “I am getting mixed signals with regard to the sustainable use of our resources, but where St Lucia is concerned we are fully committed and will remain committed,” he added.
Echoing the concerns of his Antigua & Barbuda colleague, Joseph continued: “Today we are dealing with whales. Tomorrow it will be the tunas and the conchs and the lobsters – which are critical and important to our food security.”
In recent years, Dominica has reviewed its sustainable use policy as it struggled to balance support for whaling with its eco-tourism marketing as the environmentally pristine “Nature Isle.”
For the past five years, Dominica has abstained from voting at the IWC, a marked change from its previously whole-hearted support for a controlled resumption of commercial whaling within the overall principle of sustainable use.
Present at this week’s meeting in St Lucia was Dominica’s Agriculture Minister, Kenneth Darroux, who sought to clarify the development of his country’s position as IWC 63 approaches. He was forthright in explaining the uphill battle that agriculture ministers like himself often face in convincing stakeholders in tourism and other areas of economic activity that sustainable use of marine resources is compatible with the country’s overall development thrust.
“Dominica still maintains that it supports sustainable use of all marine resources,” Darroux said. “However our country has taken a four- or five-year stand on what Dominica felt were or still are its needs at present. While we support the sustainable use of our marine resources, Dominica is probably a little different from the other OECS islands in terms of the nature of our touristic resources. While probably a lot of the other OECS countries can boast of certain expanses of white sand beaches, we, in Dominica, don’t have this.”
Darroux referred to the enormous PR and propaganda machinery of international anti-whaling organizations such as Greenpeace, and the damage they could do to Dominica’s tourist industry in what are already very difficult economic times.
“For the past five or six years, we’ve managed fairly successfully to market ourselves as an eco-tourism destination. How do I go back to Cabinet and appease the anxiety of my tourism minister colleague, if he is advised that Dominica would lose millions annually from whale watching should it change its position?”
Conference coordinator Daven Joseph reassured Darroux that there was no shortage of sympathy or understanding for the considerations with which Dominica had to wrestle over the sustainable use issue as it pertains to whaling.
Joseph, a marine scientist and former chief fisheries officer of Antigua & Barbuda, puts it this way: “It has never ever been proven in the Caribbean that tourism has ever been adversely affected by any propaganda coming from the anti-whaling side. As a matter of fact, tourism development in the region has shown significant improvement – and there is statistical evidence to show this – in spite of the threats and actual launching of propaganda from these groups.”
In offering possible solutions, Joseph said: “It is critical that we put in place a very strong PR programme for the sustainable use programme in the region.”

There has never been a single noticeable effort at marine management here in Antigua or Barbuda that puts some sort of control on fishermen either locally or foreign (who by the way catch 100 times more fish in our waters than our own fishermen fo) to try to uphold the principal of sustainable use. Just recently the fisheries minister went before our Cabinet and pushed an executive order through that gave direction to the fisheries department and other relevant authorities to ignore the law on spear fishing ultimately making it unpunishable even in Marine Protected Areas. Does is sounds like the minister and politicians are simply towing the line or really caring about our fishery and the sustainable use of it? You decide.

Eli Fuller
Antigua Conservation Society Inc.