Sunday, November 24, 2013

A little note for my two year old.

Dear Skye, we just celebrated your second birthday a few weeks ago, and this past week we celebrated something even more exciting (for me). We celebrated 7 straight days where you stayed asleep through the night. Well most of the night I guess because waking up for the first time at 4:30 is still something to be happy about.
Today "GrannyRa" mentioned something that I figured I better write down in order not to forget. She said that in years to come when you're giving the old man (me) a hard time about getting up in time for school, I'll remember the past few years and not feel any guilt waking you.

Anyway, for now I'm glad that you've decided to sleep in (until 5 am). Watching the sunrises with you has been better than most things I've ever done. You're awesome and I love you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

John Gonçalves or "Bushy" to those who knew him.

Yesterday we attended a service for John Gonçalves who we all knew as Bushy here in Antigua. My father gave the eulogy in the Holy Family Catholic Church and spoke about a Facebook piece I wrote for Bushy. Many people after the service asked where they could see it. Some of them are not on Facebook so I decided to repost it here on my old blog site. Please share it with friends who couldn't make it to Antigua.
There's always so much more that we can say about great men who've passed on but here's what I wrote last week on Facebook:

They say a person's formative years are generally those between puberty and adulthood and I think there couldn't be a better way to describe that time in my own life. Who we are really has so much to do with what goes on during that time. Who we spend time with, the experiences we have, the places we live in and around all help "form" the man or woman we become. I was lucky enough to have spent time with Bushy during my formative years and there's no doubt I'm a better person for it. My dad got a used sport fishing boat when I was about 13 and almost every Sunday he went fishing. His first mate was John Gonsalves who we all knew & know as Bushy. Instead of learning how to be a good grown up in church on Sunday, I got my lessons out at sea with a different group of guys. I don't think I've met many people with as much integrity, honesty and empathy as Bushy had. He was as loyal a friend as anyone could find too and very generous with whatever he had. The thing that most will remember him for was his sense of humour. Today on Facebook so many people described him as a character, and for sure he was that too. When I first went fishing with them I'd get sea sick and despite that I eagerly looked forward to each session. We ended up calling our fishing sessions "church". The ritual was something I'll always remember. Leaving at dark with Bushy still a bit tipsy from the night before and smelling of extra strong cologne, getting outside the reef into the usually rough Atlantic, the horrible smells of engine fumes, cigarettes and ballyhoo, interrupted by bushy cooking his special and delicious corned beef in fresh bread for breakfast, bushy hauling in big tuna, Wahoo, dolphin fish and kings, then my his amazing bacalao for lunch. Throughout the day he'd play tricks on anyone who was on the boat. He was one of the funniest guys I've ever met. But more than just a wild funny prank playing character, Bushy was a solid human being. He was careful to make sure he gave me good advice about life and how to live it respectfully. He was so kind to all of my family and especially to my grandmothers. My mom's mom loved Bushy and he would always give her gifts like mangoes and delicious avocados whenever she was in Antigua. During the week he ran the Bolands service station which has a small shop and post office. In fact, he was a postmaster. He also made rum there which hopefully will continue to be made. He was criticized by some people for his weekend drinking and I remember him telling me so many times that he didn't care about what people said because he lived his life to the fullest without bothering anyone. He would love to say that there's only one thing a person has to after they are born and that's die. He preached out there at our "church" that because death was the only sure bet in this short life you better enjoy the time you're given. "As long as you're not hurting anyone, you better enjoy it". It is a lesson that so many fail to learn to their detriment. He was a special person and so many people were touched by him in various ways. When my son was born two years ago Bushy eagerly asked for updates, encouraging me to bring him down for an introduction. When my son was old enough Bushy would send various fresh fruit for him. A year ago we all went out boating for my son's first birthday. It was a beautiful sunday out and the last time we were boating together. Bushy loved Skye and sent the best mangos for him whenever he could get them. One of my son's first sentences was "Bushy mango good!"Today Antigua lost a legend and an unsung hero. He will be missed by many. The world needs more people like Bushy but I don't think we'll find another.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why the hell would Eli Fuller want cruise ships coming to Barbuda?

As many of you may know or would know just from reading through the years of blog posts below this one, I am very concerned about ecology and conservation. You would also know that I have spent huge amounts of time in Barbuda enjoying the most natural side of our country that anyone can find. Some of my first steps were taken on Barbuda's beaches and some of the my first sights underwater were seen on Barbuda's reefs. I have camped countless nights in the most remote places around Barbuda's coastline since I was a child and still do to this day. Like many others, I would selfishly like Barbuda to remain an undisturbed ecological gem but while we have been holding on to that unrealistic pipe dream, change has come to Barbuda and huge changes are on the horizon.

When I was a little primary school kid my father and his brother would take me and my cousins and brother to Codrington to stay in small rented houses often without running water or electricity. We would walk to one of the wonderful bakeries in the morning for bread and would go to Carter Nedd or Burton for other supplies. In those days there were very few vehicles and no paved roads there. We would go by "Bully" to get gasoline for whatever vehicle we managed to rent or get over to the island. I used to love the smell of the syphoned gasoline. Bully would sell by the container full and would syphon fuel from the metal oil drums which were stored outside his home.
Half of the time we would have flown in to hunt for migratory duck and the other times we would be there to snorkel and fish off the beaches.

I'll never forget how strange it was to be walking though Antigua's airport with shotguns on our way to the plane. Of course, in Barbuda we would have to make sure that the animals were chased off the grass air strip before we landed. There was never any officials at the airport that I can remember.

From the age of about ten we started going to Barbuda by boat for a week at a time during any public holidays. My family never did any other vacation other than going to Barbuda. Spanish Point, Welches, Two Foot Bay, Cedar Tree Point, Hog Hole, and Fishing Creek were our Disney World.

Morris Nedd, known to me as "Tumoch", would always accompany us on our adventures. Vernon Joseph was often with us too. We would often spend a week there without seeing any other Antiguan or Barbudan people. It was simply that remote and that natural teaming with wildlife above and below the waterline. A secret undisturbed paradise is what Barbuda was to me growing up, and that is how I imagined it would stay forever.

I don't have to go into all the changes that have taken place since my first visits there in the seventies but you can imagine for yourself. 230 acres of land was leased to build a small hotel called the K-Club. Palmetto Point hotel was built on 164 acres. Then the Lighthouse Bay hotel was built on 140 acres. Lighthouse has plans to develop along an area which may have the highest concentration of Hawksbill Turtle nests in the Caribbean. Here is an example of what they plan to build in the near future.
As you can see, they have already cleared plenty of the natural vegetation in the image below:
You can read more about their plans on this link.

Some of the other proposals are way bigger and would have much more of an impact on the ecology of the island and everything else that some of us have loved about Barbuda since we were kids. I was told of one proposal recently by a member of the Barbuda Council which would have had the entire east coast leased indefinitely to an entity supposedly connected to the Qatari Fund. There have been two groups of separate Chinese investors visiting Barbuda in recent months who were looking at areas of possible investment in connection with the Citizen By Investment Program (CIP) and I strongly believe that Barbuda is on the verge of a huge change. This change may be good for some and not so good at all for others. Those of us that want Barbuda to remain natural have to understand that the people that live there are tired of being the "forgotten" sister who begs for handouts from Antigua in order to sustain herself. Things are rough in the island's only village and most people there are without work. Unemployment and poverty have started to take their toll in every aspect of life there on the island, and anyone who thinks that things will remain the way they were in the seventies is fooling him/herself. 

Up until now, I haven't said anything about sand mining in Barbuda either, which to be quite honest is how I became involved in trying to bring cruise ships to Barbuda. This article from IPS kind of explains how I got involved. Click here for more
Here is a quote from that article: 

"Calling large-scale sand mining a “destructive and irrational practice”, Eli Fuller, a marine environmentalist, offered alternatives means of income for Barbudans, including light tackle and deep-sea sport fishing. Fuller added that cruise tourism could also be a source of income. “Many of the ships visiting some of the Caribbean’s most celebrated destinations anchor offshore and tender their guests to little docks on the mainland,” he said. “Without any significant investment, this could happen in Barbuda almost immediately. One or two small ships a week could provide significantly more employment than the entire mining industry does in Barbuda,” Fuller added."

According to the Antigua Observer 28/6/12, "Sand mining, which began in 1976, generated around $5 million in revenue annually for the council."
Thousands of barge loads of the most perfect white sand have left Barbuda since I was a kid despite every warning and every bit of expert advice from scientists and engineers saying that this was a bad idea. There have even been legal decisions which supposedly would have ended sand mining in Barbuda and those have been ignored. The local government has even made decisions time and time again to stop mining, but despite all of this barge load after barge load filled with 200+ 20 tonne truck loads of sand leave Barbuda each week. Check this report from 2006 where they made another decision to stop. 

The little money that Barbuda receives doesn't equate to the huge damage that is being done to the island, but they just don't yet have an alternative means of getting income for the council's bills. 

Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions, and I for one think that building concrete hotels and luxury villas all over Barbuda is the wrong path to walk. It's my opinion that Barbuda's value is today and will always be highest if most of the island remains undeveloped. Think of St. John, USVI for example. If the goal is to help the economy and to get rid of sand mining and other very destructive economic practises (unregulated fishing comes to mind) then it needs to be something sustainable, something that doesn't rely on huge capital investments, something that doesn't leave a mark when it's time has come and gone. Remember that Sustainable Development which is something that we are all supposed to be striving to adhere to refers to (wikipeia quote) a mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while ensuring the sustainability of natural systems and the environment, so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come.

This is why I suggested cruise tourism as a alternative. There are islands up and down the Caribbean that are smaller than Barbuda and have smaller populations than Barbuda has, that receive regular scheduled cruise stops. I went to one of them recently in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mayreau is 1.5 square miles and has been receiving cruise ships for twenty years. They use a little wooden dock to receive guests via tenders lowered from the cruise ships moored off shore. The very simple and profitable operation can be seen better through the Wind and Sea website here. You need to click through to the cruise ship section and the island of Mayreau. Have a look to see how simple it is. This tiny tiny island takes a maximum of 2000 guests to their very basic facility on Saline Bay. From there excursions are staged to one of the Caribbean's best Marine Protected Areas, The Tobago Cays. One day, if we are lucky, we here in Antigua and Barbuda will have a marine park as well managed and as rich in sealife as the Tobago Cays!

Of course, this is just one of many ecologically sensitive places that ships visit. The perception that ships are destructive monsters that blaze a trail of environmental catastrophe in their wake is not accurate in 2013. Things have changed and more and more eco sensitive areas are receiving ships in order to provide alternative means of income to their residents. There has to be a balance and after seeing how Antigua's hotels and tourism developments have damaged the environment over the years and as recently as this month, I am more convinced than ever that carefully managed cruise tourism can have a lower environmental impact that traditional hotel developments.

I met with the cruise agents responsible for managing the cruise ships stops on Mayreau and it was interesting to note that the only thing that is left on the island is cash and footprints in the sand. Everything else is taken back to the ship. Compare that to a hotel... I know we need both forms of tourism, but dismissing cruise tourism as bad for the environment is misguided. The list of eco sensitive areas and islands that cruise ships visit around the world is huge.

Another interesting cruise ship list is the list of tiny islands in the West Indies that receive cruise ships. Almost all without cruise ship docks too. Here is a list of 6 "private islands" which are owned by cruise lines. Click here.  There are quite a few more that are not private.

I think that another thing that got me interested in being part of this idea was that if people who are interested in nature, ecology, conservation and ultimately sustainable development are not interested in getting involved, then the inevitable impacts of future developments will be worse as a result. Those of us who care about this stuff have a responsibility to get involved more than just talking and writing. We have attempt to influence the way our small islands are developed. I really don't need the extra work or headache that is involved as you have seen from my last blog, but at the moment I am still prepared to try. 

As a side note, since getting involved in this thing, I have come to find out that designs for a large Barbuda cruise ship dock were paid for recently, and within the past few months there has been some back room lobbying by certain interests to try to make this a reality. One of these dock design representatives tried to get Barbuda Council permission to go and look for financing for the construction of a large cruise ship dock. These are things that I will fight tooth and nail to stop from happening.

The Denco Management website is in the very early stages of development as we explore this initiative on behalf of the Barbuda Council and I will have more info on there in the near future. I just wanted to give some personal perspective on the whole thing because so many of my friends were puzzled.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I'm being slandered by two tourism powerhouses.

I am writing this blog post to give my side of a story which I had hoped wouldn't have gotten this far. There are some people who are actively trying to damage my reputation and I have to set the record straight. It's going to be a long one so please don't bother unless you have heard something about my recent trip to Cartagena. 

Several weeks ago I purchased a ticket to attend the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association annual convention in Cartagena, Colombia. The entrance fees, airline tickets and apartment cost me over US$3500, but I felt that this trip was important enough to justify the high expenses. Since 1999 I have been operating my company Adventure Antigua which is an excursion company taking guests by boat around our country. We have four boats taking visitors and local guests on a variety of different and exciting excursions to areas off the beaten track. I employ 19 men and women and also hire subcontractors to do things like catering, transportation and maintenance. I pay my taxes on time too! Since 1999 I have promoted my company and my country on the Internet and have built Adventure Antigua around our reputation on the internet and here on the island. Through my website, I started taking cruise ship passengers independently on my tours in the year 2000 and each year the number of cruise passengers that we take out has grown steadily.

Excursion operators like myself that take guests from ships independently through the use of our own websites or through independent travel agents, are not held in very high esteem by cruise ship executives or their local agents. The main reason for this is that the ships and their local agents profit extremely well from having exclusive contracts with excursion operators where cruise passengers are booked on board the ships to go on their contracted excursions. Usually these are referred to as "ship excursions". 

It has often bothered me that I am not part of the cruise association here locally while taking many cruise ship passengers on my excursions. Having no say in an industry that I somewhat rely upon seems like bad business to me. Many excursion companies have started long after my company and have contracts with ships and attend the annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association conventions. This year I made the decision to attend one of these FCCA meetings to get a better understanding of how the entire system works and also to decide for myself if it was good for my company to be contracted directly by ship lines. As it happened I was also persuaded earlier in the year to join forces with the Barbuda Council in an effort to attract ships to the shores of our financially troubled sister island. I am spokesperson for a company called Denco which is contracted to represent the Barbuda Council on all cruise ship dealings. I'll talk more specifically about that on another blog post.

Anyway, when you pay your US$900 to attend this convention you are given a clear itinerary of the different talks and seminars that will be given, and also a list of special "one on one meetings" with pertinent cruise executives. 

Six weeks before my departure I wrote a letter to Patrick Ryan of Brysons shipping, the main cruise ship agent here in Antigua asking for a meeting to discuss our Barbuda plans. I never got a reply.
I didn't write to Nathan Dundas, the chairman of the Antigua Cruise Tourism Association, and one of Brysons top executives because I knew he wouldn't reply to me. You see, in 2003 I was chairman of the Antigua Barbuda Excursion Alliance, and I caused great embarrassment to Mr Dundas by exposing what appeared to be a fraud he was orchestrating. It was a very sticky situation where all the boat excursion operators were notified via an announcement in The Daily Observer of a meeting at the ministry of tourism the following day where there would be a discussion on licensing of captains. The next day about thirty excursion operators met at the ministry and were briefed by the then Junior Minister of Tourism, Hilson Baptist. He told us that Mr Dundas, who was standing next to him, was the main agent for the cruise lines that visited Antigua and that he had been contacted by these lines on a very serious matter. According to the Minister, the cruise lines had told Dundas that if the excursion operators didn't have licenses for their captains by the end of the year that they would stop coming to Antigua. He told us that Mr Dundas has located a new company in English Harbour that would be providing the training and testing for these licenses. He then introduced Mr Dundas who pretty much said the same thing. 

The day before someone had notified me that this was going to transpire and I had made a few calls. I was told that Mr Dundas was a major shareholder of this new company which would be handling the licenses. Anyway, when Dundas finished telling us about the costs of instruction and time our captains would need to be off work, it was time for questions. I got to ask the first one. "Mr Dundas, I understand that you are a shareholder in this new wonderful company. Could you tell us if this information is correct?"

For a second, the room was silent and then he spat out a reply that essentially ended that days meeting in chaos. "THAT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS". He practically screamed those words at me. The meeting ended with even the minister shaking his head and walking off. I haven't had much dealings with Dundas since then apart from appearing on a tourism panel talk on Observer Radio.
On my first day in Cartagena, I met Dundas in the hall of the main hotel and said hello explaining that I was there with the Barbuda Council. As expected his coldness and disinterest wasn't hidden. For the next two days he and Colin James, Chief Executive Officer at The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, made every effort to avoid me and my Barbuda associates. There were no questions about how our meetings were going or anything for that matter. I saw them at the Antigua Trade Show booth and asked Colin how things were going. I also asked how the dredging plans for the harbour were coming along. They coldly explained that 3D Construction would be getting started on St John's harbour soon. I was slightly surprised and asked if 3D was bringing in another dredge. They didn't think so, and asked why. I just said that I had watched the little dredge this summer doing a job in Jolly Harbour and would be surprised if they were going to be using the same one in Deep Water Harbour which sounded like a much bigger job. 

The next morning, Tuesday, I had several meetings with top level cruise executives about Barbuda and about my company Adventure Antigua. In the afternoon a special seminar on "Itinerary Planning For the Future. What You Need to Know" was scheduled and as this seemed very important to our plans, I was there early with the other Barbuda continent. The room had seating for about 65-70 but well over 100 turned up early. More and more seats were brought in to accommodate as many as would fit in the room. No other people from Antigua were at this very important seminar.

Four top cruise ship executives gave presentations on how their particular company decided upon a particular itinerary and upon particular ports. This photo shows one of the sides which was shown and refereed to throughout the presentations.

It was very interesting hearing about what made a destination so valuable, and one thing echoed by each presenter really caught my attention. The first to talk about it was, Joanne Salzedo, an executive from Norwegian Cruise Lines and specifically it had to do with lines making painful decisions to stop visiting a destination if and when particular problems went unaddressed for too long. She described ports which had everything going for them with wonderful and profitable excursions, beautiful beaches or other natural landscapes and fantastic ports, and described that sometimes she would make recommendations to her CEO that they stop visiting a port like this because of a problem which hadn't been corrected.
Imagine that! A cruise line happy with a destination but dropping it because of one issue that remained unresolved year after year. Sounds like Antigua could be in danger right? Could this explain some of the cruise ship arrival decline?

After they had all given their presentations there was a question and answer session and many people asked questions of the panel. The Minister of Tourism from Grenada and also The Minster of Tourism from Dominica asked questions. The Tourism Minister of Grenada asked questions, Excursion operators asked questions, port managers asked questions, agents did as well. Each time someone asked a question they introduced themselves and mentioned where they were from and what company they were involved with. I was intrigued and worried with what they had said about dropping ports and decided to ask a question. I introduced myself and said I was from Antigua. I said that I came to this convention to see if I could negotiate excursion contacts after working as an independent excursion operator for 13 years. I said that after graduating from university, I worked in the duty free shopping center at the cruise port and heard about certain problems the ships and their guests faced. When I started my company years later, those problems still persisted and today those same issues were still there. Joanne nodded her head in agreement. I said that considering what they had mentioned a short while earlier about dropping ports that didn't fix problems I wanted to know if they ever considered another tactic that could help ports like ours solve their long standing issues. I said that despite obviously telling our island's cruise representatives about these issues they remained fixed. I asked them if they thought that it would help if they were interviewed by our local media so that people back home could actually hear from the horses mouth what the ships loved and what problems they experienced. I said that possibly coming from them a greater impact could be made back home. The CEO of one of the lines answered by saying something very simple. He said, "Mr. Fuller, our job is the ship and your job is the island". That was good enough for me and I didn't need any further explanation. It was that clear. There are more and more ports coming online each year and more and more money being spent on existing ports. The cruise lines have more choice and making a decision to stop visiting a port isn't as difficult as some would want to believe.
After the seminar finished there was the Trade Show Grand Opening next door. Many different ports had wonderful exhibits and it was a great opportunity to see what other islands were doing to be competitive. As it was winding down one of my Barbuda colleagues and I decided to leave. At that point we saw Nathan Dundas (from Brysons Shipping and The Antigua Cruise Tourism Association) and Colin James, Chief Executive Officer at The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority looking more cold than usual. We said hello as we walked past, and Colin said he needed to speak with me about something. 

Remember Colin James is a government worker who's paid by our tax dollars. Anyway, he says to me that someone told "them" that there was a person from Antigua in a seminar saying that they (He and Nathan) had no credibility back home in Antigua. I immediately said that I was the only person at this seminar from Antigua that had asked questions and so obviously they were speaking about me. I did say that the person misrepresented me and that he, Colin, should have been there to have heard exactly what I said. I told him that I didn't say that they had no credibility in Antigua. He was clearly upset and told me that I shouldn't have mentioned "Antigua". He suggested that I was damaging Antigua's reputation. I reiterated that he should have been there and that he's got this all wrong thanks to bad info that was brought to him. He was clearly upset, and I told him that he shouldn't be so sensitive to what people say. I also asked why he was getting so upset at the things I did say since I was trying to find a solution to chronic problems that threatened our cruise tourism industry. I asked him if it was a state secret that we had issues at our port? I asked him if the ships were in the dark about taxi issues or dredging problems? 

Nathan then jumps in saying that I simply shouldn't have spoken about Antigua. I reminded them that each person asking question was asked to say where they were from. He angrily snapped back at me saying that I shouldn't have asked any questions. Here we were,  ambassadors of Antigua and Barbuda inside the Cartagena Convention Center clearly having a argument. There were executives there from all the major cruise lines as well as 600+ other industry folk from the Caribbean and around the world walking by us. I was astonished at this coordinated attack from Nathan and Colin, not so much that it was happening but that they chose to have a confrontation in front of all these people. The message that sent was awful and I was very cognizant of that. Remember I have been representing Antigua and Barbuda internationally in sporting events since I was 12 years old, and I know how to carry myself abroad. It was incredibly disappointing to me to be involved in this conflict. I said to Nathan that he had received incorrect information and that he should have been there. This enraged him even more and he shouted at me saying that he'd been in this industry for "twenty seven years" and that he didn't need to attend every little seminar that was offered. (The Ministers of our neighboring islands felt that the seminar was important enough to attend though.) He exclaimed that he had taken Antigua's cruise arrivals from nothing all the way above 700 ships. He yelled at me asking what had I ever done for Antigua? "You're not even an authorized tour operator"!! He screamed. I was so dumfounded that I didn't know how to reply. I asked him what he was speaking about and told him to settle down. He then told me to just get away from there. Again I was surprised and asked him if we wanted to "run" me from this place. "YES! I want to run you!! Nathan Dundas said it several times. "I want to run you. That's exactly what I want." I lost a little of my composure at that point and quietly asked him where he planned to run me. I asked him if he wanted to run me to Guyana. That was a very rude thing for me to have said because of course, he's originally from Guyana, and I said it to upset him. If you're reading this Nathan, I apologize for that. The next thing I told you was that you were a joker. I am not sorry for that!!

In fact, I didn't get a chance to tell the same to Collin James, but because of what transpired during that exchange and overall at the FCCA Conference, I have to say that I think he is also incredibly unprofessional. It's one thing for Nathan Dundas to be unprofessional because he's just an independent business man (despite getting his entrance fee and possibly other expenses provided by the Ministry of Tourism), but Colin James works for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. I am astonished that in this day we have someone like him working for our tax dollars and behaving in the way he did.

I had a chance to sit down for a private lunch with The Minister of Tourism from Dominica the next day, and he was also astonished to hear about what had transpired. He had heard clearly my question during the seminar and thought that there was nothing at all wrong with what I had asked. In fact, I was approached by quite a few other people over the next few days who heard my question and thought it was a good one which provoked a very good and telling answer from the lines. They were also surprised to hear that I had had received harsh criticism from my fellow Antiguan delegates.   

Within no time, the word was being spread to Antiguans at the conference in Cartagena and to people back in Antigua that Eli Fuller was "slandering Antigua", "airing our dirty laundry",  and "damaging our country's name". Weeks later people on the street here in Antigua are telling my friends that I was hurting Antigua's reputation at the FCCA conference in Colombia. Gentlemen outside of the RBBT bank were overheard saying this nonsense just yesterday.

Exclaiming in public at an FCCA conference that I am an unauthorized tour operator and then telling people far and wide that I was damaging Antigua's reputation at the conference is hurtful and damages my reputation. I have spent all of my adult life promoting Antigua and Barbuda. I don't need any pat on my back for the work I do to promote this country but I also don't need to have people slandering me. I don't think there is a person alive that has put more positive Antigua content on the web. Try running through a list of the results after a google search for Eli Fuller Antigua or even better have a look though some of the content I have put online over the years.

Here are a few of my online accounts:
I own and help moderate on behalf of The Ministry of Tourism, because our Tourism Ministry couldn't afford to have their own message board and relied on an old unmoderated forum that internet trolls had taken over. Thankfully we had that one which was tarnishing our country's name taken down. I have been one of only a handful of people actually in Antigua actively writing on the official Ministry of Tourism message boards since 1999. 

I also am active on Tripadvisor's local message board posting in the old days as 365 and more recently as antiguaadventures

I have been one of the only local contributors on the main cruise forum Cruise Critic since 2004. You need to register to see the things I have written on there to help promote Antigua and also to help with damage control. I posted under the name "Antiguan" which you can search for. 

I have provided photography for many international and local tourism related magazines. 

I have also written countless articles about Antigua and Barbuda for international publications in an effort to promote this beautiful and unique destination. 

I also have been featured and interviewed in countless articles about Antigua and also in many pieces for international TV always with the sole purpose of promoting our country as a unique destination.

For these guys to be telling people that I was tarnishing our country's image is asinine and speaks volumes to their characters and professionalism. Neither of them heard me speak and got second hand info from someone who didn't represent what I said correctly. I will continue to promote Antigua and possibly will start taking a more active roll in Antigua and Barbuda's cruise tourim's future. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An alternative to Sand Mining in Barbuda.

Light tackle and deep sea sport fishing could be one of the main ways that the residents of Barbuda make a living after sand mining is finally put to rest. The destructive and irrational practice of large scale sand mining has been one of the main income generators of our sister island for decades, and despite engineers' and environmental consultants' best advice to stop, government has continued to sanction the lucrative yet unhealthy practice. 
Barbuda is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean with dazzling white sand beaches stretching around most of it's deserted coastline. Approximately half of the coast is protected by barrier reef, and it's this reef which has helped to produce most of the island's wonderful sand. For millions of years parrot fish have chewed algae from coral which they easily digest. The bit's of chewed coral which are not digested are excreted as sand onto the sea floor. This essential process for Caribbean white sand production has made Barbuda one of the most attractive beach destinations in the region. One of the island's beaches is about the longest in the Caribbean, and at different times of the year tiny pink shells wash up on the shore turning the beach pink. There's nothing quite like it to be honest.
With all of this in mind it's hard to accept that commercial mining of this amazing sand has gone on without noticeable regulation for decades. It's to the point now that serious environmental issues are threatening the island's water supply and more critically the integrity of the coastline. We are starting to see erosion on some areas of shoreline closest to the mining. Some environmentalists think that the damage being done is so severe that it would take hundreds if not thousands of years for it to be corrected. Coupled with that has been a huge increase in the amount of parrot fish caught for export to Guadeloupe. Neither practice sustainable in any way and equally destructive for the beaches.
It would seem that mining the very thing that makes the island a sought after destination would be a bad decision, but the decision makers can't seem to find an alternative income generator. I can see why this has been difficult. Tourism in Barbuda has always lagged behind Antigua mainly because of transportation.
Without a large airport, there simply has never been enough seats coming to Barbuda to fill guest houses and hotels in any meaningful way. Tourism and all of the fun things that go along with tourism like sport fishing for example, have had it tough forcing the government to keep the mining of sand going. This could all change in the near future if decision makers are brave enough to entertain alternative business plans.
One of several changes that could happen has to do with Cruise Tourism. Many of the ships visiting some of the Caribbean's most celebrated destinations anchor off shore and tender their guests to little docks on the main land. Without any significant investment this could happen in Barbuda almost immediately. One or two small ships a week could provide significantly more employment than the entire mining industry does in Barbuda. In addition to that, the types of jobs generated would be ideal for Barbuda's residents who would be able to conduct both light tackle and off shore fishing opportunities. Barbuda has all of the top game fish species endemic to it's coastline and interior lagoon. Species like bonefish, tarpon, permit, barracuda, jacks, mackerel, wahoo, dolphin fish, tuna, marlin, sailfish and many others are not difficult to find for Barbuda's experienced fishers. Of course there is great diving, snorkeling and bird watching too. The island is a nature lovers dream come true, and there is no end to the excursion activities that could be designed to make cruise passengers happy. From an environemtal point of view, cruise tourism as an alternative to commercial sand mining is a no brainer. Limited capital investment would be needed to get a foot in the door and with all visitors coming to the island by tender there would be very little waste of any sort left by ships. They would not leave anything on the island except footprints and money. The potential to make Barbuda the main sport fishing destination in the eastern Caribbean is there and just waiting for the first ship to drop anchor. Until that happens white sand is still being exported to Antigua and other destinations to be irrationally used in construction.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Clearing a few things up on the new Fisheries Regulations.

The 1990 Fisheries Regulations (which were not even being enforced) are no longer being used in Antigua and Barbuda and we have new rules pay attention to. Thankfully at the start of February this year, our fishers are being guided by a new set of regulations which they themselves helped create. These new regulations were created thanks to consultations with stakeholders which went on for years. Fishers, their representative organizations and environmental groups met with government reps again last summer to review the draft regulations which had been sitting unsigned on the Minister's desk for years. These second round of consultations which took place both here in Antigua and in Barbuda at the start of last summer actually suggested tougher regulations which essentially had a more sustainable-use approach than before.

There have been several very loud people in the media who have been suggesting that I (Eli Fuller) helped create these new regulations to suit my own agenda. This is hilarious for several reasons. First of all, I never attended any of the first consultations which ended up creating the first unsigned draft regulations of 2004. Then when our Minister called for a fresh round of consultations on the Fisheries Act and the draft regulations I did not attend these either. In fact, I have never had any meetings with any minister or any Fisheries officer or any other government representative to discuss anything within the new 2013 Fisheries Regulations. It's a complete mistake for fishermen around Antigua and Barbuda to believe that I have had any input whatsoever on what the regulations are calling for.

That all being said, let me explain what I did do, and how I feel about the new regulations. What I did was complain like so many others that our fishery was being used in a way that was unsustainable. Fish stocks were being depleted and the apparent lack of management had plenty to do with many of the problems that fishers were facing out on the water and back here on land. It was a no brainer that we needed seasons for certain species and last spring when called by the media to comment on the fact that Chinese businessmen were buying all available lobster here and exporting them, I said that we needed new regulations to be signed. In May, I got tired of complaining and hearing complaints about all the issues to do with fishing and decided to do more. I got together with The Antigua Conservation Society and we started an aggressive petition to the PM asking him to intervene. We felt that whatever was in the unsigned draft regulations sitting on the Ministers desk needed to be signed and implemented. After all, it was developed with the input of fishers and their organisations. That's what Eli Fuller did! I called for all of us fishers to be guided by new rules and regulations so that our children and our children's children may be able to fish here in our waters some day in the future. Many said that we should leave it alone. "When it's done, it's done!" is what some said. I didn't think that was right and I am happy that I got involved to push for change.

Now I am being accused of creating fisheries regulations which hurt poor people and help me. Typical coming from men like James Tanny Rose I guess. Tanny (interesting article and comments) is a man who I have never met, but who has always astonished me. I don't know how he is permitted to be a beacon of hate on the call in radio stations. Using ethnic slurs to describe races of people here on the island and derogatory descriptions of others who are not as "picky head" as he says he is because they came from other shores just is disgusting, and the media should be ashamed of themselves in 2013 to permit people like him to get away with it. He filled the airwaves apparently with untruths about the new regulations and how they came about. Anyway, I hope that the next time someone like him starts bashing me on this issue using racist descriptions or not, there will be someone else who has the facts which are simply that I called for new regulations but had no input whatsoever on what are in them.

Clearly I feel that generally it's a good thing that we now have some rules on fishing in place out there on the ocean and here on land. I have not had a chance to read the 2013 fisheries regulations but I have registered as a fishermen. The first thing anyone noticed when they go and register is that being registered with Social Security, Medical Benefits, and the Education Levy department are prerequisites. This is a big shock to many fishers who have fished for years without ever paying into these schemes. Many had no idea that they were required to by law, and some fishers are furious that Fisheries is forcing them to sign. I think that it's a bit much really and obviously this policy is something coming from an another area within the Government. Maybe even the IMF were involved, but I doubt the Minister or the Chef Fisheries Officer had anything to do with that requirement (and neither did I). I guess it may be a good things though to be registered with Medical Benefits if you are a fisherman. It can be a dangerous job out there and having free medical after you register and pay your modest contributions is very beneficial. I am told that every fisherperson must be registered with Fisheries unless you are fishing off the beach or off the rocks.
There are other controversial things in the new regulations, and one which creates the most noise has to do with spear fishing. Up until Feb 1st this year spear fishing in Antigua and Barbuda was only legal if you had a special permit from the Chief fisheries officer and permits were not being given out. Now anyone can get a permit to spear fish legally. What is controversial is that there are limits to how many fish each fisher is permitted to catch. This is something I am hearing about and didn't have any input at all in the regulations other than to publicly say in the past that spear fishing should be legal as long as it's not done in marine protected areas. I don't think it's a bad thing though.
If you spend the time to search for spearfishing vids on youtube you will see many people shooting large fish in deeper waters. There are hardly any vids of people shooting small fish for many reasons but most of all because good spearfishers want to go for big "choice fish" to maximise their productivity. Why take 6 hours to catch 20 lbs of tiny fish when you could spend one hour and catch three fish over 10 lbs? Check the videos for yourself. The problem here is that many fishermen rely on old techniques and would rather shoot fish on the shelf in the very shallow waters. Spearfishing in deep water for large fish would mean them having to re tool and learn new techniques. I know of several spearfishermen here in Antigua that are shooting big fish (without tanks) in deeper waters. Two big fish and they are done!
Although fishermen don't like to admit it, we have a big problem with our inshore fishery and reefs. Over fishing with all the various methods, worst of all netting, has caused this in conjunction with the hurricanes of the 90s. The government Fisheries department have put a limit on the numbers of fish spearfishers can catch in an effort to try and protect the reef ecosystems. I think we will see a huge increase in the number of spearfishers overall and probably an increase in the overall poundage of fish harvested in this method. It's legal now and unemployed people can go out and find some fish for their family. This legalising of spearfishing will help small scale fishers but the commercial spearfishers will need to learn new techniques. Swimming down to 50+ feet to shoot fish isn't as hard as many people would think and larger fish out beyond the reef make the regulated limit plausible.
Another controversial thing is seasons for certain species. These were so controversial that many have been deferred until 2014. Antigua and Barbuda will join all the islands nearby to finally have closed seasons for lobster and conch. Amazing and a positive thing for the environment and for fishers. Giving these highly targeted species some time to reproduce will ultimately give fishers more a more sustainable and stable catch. These regulations were not just pulled out of a hat. Regulations from around the region and much further afield which have worked well for fishers were taken into consideration along with the feedback and input from fishers both here and in Barbuda.
There are many things that I am sure we will find in the regulations which we can debate upon, but the reality is that we needed some rules here and this is a good starting point to help protect the marine environment and the fishing industry for generations to come. After visiting the main Fisheries office in town I can tell you that officers there are ready and willing to help you understand the regs. At the end of the day we are in a much better place than we were 12 months ago.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Feel like doing something POSITIVE today?

Hello Eli, This is John, the AUA student that you met outside the school when you were getting lunch a few days ago. You asked me to post a link about the fundraiser for Carol Harvey and I made one on my website: I apologize for the delay, but the beach event is today, Saturday from 12 noon until 6pm or 8 if we can get a bonfire going, we hope. 3 Cylinder will be playing for free, with food, drink and Dj. We asked the general public for 50ec all-inclusive food and drinks. On the website link I also posted a PayPal link where I will collect the money, deposit it into an Antiguan Bank account and write a check to Dr. John's office. I stopped by the office on Friday and spoke with them. Thanks for your help! John

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Glen is one of my competitors and also a great friend. He's been hurt and needs our help.

As some of you many have heard Glen, the owner of Creole Cruises and Oceano's restaurant was shot during a brazen and heartless robbery. He, his wife and kids were closing up his restaurant a few weeks ago and two masked men opened fire without warning. He and his staff driver sustained gun shot wounds. Thankfully his family were physically unhurt, but Glen's femur was severely damaged when the bullet pieced his thigh. Due to the nature of his injury, Glen and his family have been advised that he should get an operation done in Trinidad.
This costly disaster couldn't have happened at a worse time for them and they need some assistance to help them get to Trinidad and back to Antigua is quick time. As usual Angie and the team from Al Porto in Jolly Harbour (and others) have offered to help. This Sunday Al Porto will be doing a special buffet for EC $50 and $25 from each meal sold will go towards Glen's operation. There will be entertainment thanks to Mackenzie Brown, a donation box and even a "raffle" with prizes among others a special dinner voucher at Sugar Ridge. I'm sending my Adventure Antigua crew down and I hope that you all will consider helping in this little fundraiser. Al Porto, in Jolly Harbour just before the golf course has great food and a great atmosphere. Come down this Sunday to support Glen and his family.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Proud Antiguan? Why?

Yesterday I was flicking through the local radio stations and heard what sounded like a parliamentary debate on the Economic Citizenship program. The passion in the speaker's voice who clearly was against the idea was intense. Whenever I hear people speak about it they act like having an Antiguan passport is the best thing a person can have in their possession, and that permitting others to get it somehow dilutes it's value. Antiguans have to be some of the proudest nationals in the world. They make sure everyone knows that they are from Antigua. "Me bharn yah", "Antigua me come from" or "Me nuh bang water" are some of the first phrases in dialect any new resident learns when they make the move here. To be honest they are phrases that they are never permitted to forget, but that's another story altogether. I see more and more young people with tattoos of the flag on their arms, or of the name Antigua inked across their backs, or of the word Wadadli across a forearm. Many local artists sing about Antigua in their songs and there is no shortage of people naming their businesses after the ancient Amerindian name for the island. Despite Wadadli being a slightly modified version "ouladli" found in that famous Carib to French 1666 dictionary, it's still cool to see and hear the word which was used by the Arawak people now long gone and often forgotten here. Island pride or country pride isn't unique to Antigua and I have witnessed it in many of the countries around the world that i have traveled to. However, what is different to me is that many Antiguan's seem to be blindly patriotic or proud of the fact that they are Antiguan. As a proud Antiguan reading this can you easily answer why you are proud to be from Antigua? What makes it so special to hold a passport from this little country? Think about that while continue reading.
There are so many examples of things that are happening in our country which makes you wonder where the patriots have gone. I'd like to touch on one of these examples. Recently on my walks at dawn with my young son I have been astonished by the amount of garbage on the sides of the road. Currently I am renting in Hodges Bay and it truly makes me wonder where these people who throw the garbage come from. They can't be the same proud Antiguans who "were bahn ya" who didn't "bang water" can they? It's a shame to say that the answer is often a resounding YES. Everyday our proud and patriotic people do things to this little island which corrode the very thing that we should be most proud of.

The pristine and beautiful environment which all of our ancestors found here when they first "bang(ed) water" to get here has never taken the beating it's getting at the moment, and we all need to do more as patriots to save our patrimony. I don't think i ever remember seeing as much garbage laying around the place as I do now. Even with regular cleanups the garbage returns daily. Fresh KFC boxes and cups, Guinness bottles, styrofoam food containers are more easy to spot than wildlife down at the beach. Whenever I see people discarding trash I say something. It shouldn't be acceptable to watch people discard garbage on the beach, in the bush or on the side of the road. Yesterday I drove to the government's Hospitality Training Institute at High Point, and realized that I had to write about this issue. I had to say something. Here is a school of young Antiguans and Barbudans who may be the future leaders of our nation, and right outside the school there are piles of garbage up and down the road. Where the students wait for the bus a pile of garbage grows daily. If these future hoteliers ignore the trash sitting at their feet and don't have the interest to do something about it then I am not sure what we can do as a nation. Proud Antiguans have to find a voice and remember what it is that you are proud of. Be brave as well as proud and stand up for what is right otherwise before long your pride may be something as historic as the Arawaks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Music Industry Icon Says Antigua Making a Big Mistake.

Many of us will remember the offshore gambling money flowing in Antigua in the late 90s and after the millennium. It was like nothing we had seen since independence. One of my friends who worked for one of the biggest online Casinos here said "everyone was spending like cowboys in a tavern".
In fact, most of my friends were working in that industry during that time. If you knew how to use a computer and happened to be searching for work you were hired and were getting paid way more than your peers were in the hotels.
Four of my close friends started working for a online casino in the mid 90s. They were the only employees working in the converted house in Blue Waters, and within a few years they were writing marketing checks to the tune of millions to companies like MSN and Yahoo. They had moved out of that little house office and were taking up an entire commercial building. They were working with dozens of others and the company was still growing. The island was buzzing and everyone was seeing some of the pie. The trickle down was more of a waterfall than a trickle. I remember attending one of the offshore sports betting companies new years party which they allegedly spent EC $100,000 on. None of us will ever know how much money was passing though Antigua's banks, but we were the biggest players in a multi-billion dollar industry. There were regular twenty five year olds making way more money than both of their parents were combined, and many of them never imagined it would end. You know what they say about all good things though.
Things really took a turn when Jay Cohen, the founder of one of our biggest sports books, was arrested as he arrived in the USA in July 2004. He felt that the USA had no right to be preventing people in the USA from betting offshore in Antigua. The US had recently used The Wire Act to stop US citizens from placing bets abroad over phone or internet. He was the first person to be charged by the USA for violating the Federal Wire Act. The US did many other things in an effort to stop their citizens from betting off shore including going after the credit card companies and other payment providers. It became extremely difficult to do business, and many casinos and sports books either folded or pulled out of Antigua. The economic trickle down really became a trickle, and in 2003 Antigua and Barbuda took on the USA at the World Trade Organization saying that US policy on online gambling violated WTO rules. In a David vs Goliath ruling, the WTO agreed with Antigua thus beginning a decade of negotiations and arbitration. In 2007 the WTO essentially gave Antigua the right to sell US copyrighted material to the tune of about US $20 million dollars a year in a twisted form of sanctions. It was a fraction of what Antigua and Barbuda was looking for, and it was an extremely controversial judgement which wasn't going to be a quick fix. Either way, Antigua would more than likely be getting the dirty end of the stick. It makes me think about all those WTO protests to be honest.
Anyway, Jay Cohen seemed optimistic when I spoke to him about it. He had done his jail time and was back in Antigua taking a back seat to it all but following the discussion nonetheless. A few years ago he told me that he felt that the minute Antigua started selling US copyrighted material, companies like Microsoft would be lobbying for a change in offshore gaming policy. He felt that offshore gambling's biggest allies would be the American companies who were having their material legally sold (pirated) by Antigua. Antigua and Barbuda didn't jump at the green light to be modern day privateers and instead continued to negotiate hoping that the USA would relax their stance. Nothing changed and on Monday Antigua applied to the WTO to start imposing the recommended sanctions. The World Trade Organization agreed, and Antigua has said that it would be reasonable and responsible in the way that it sells US intellectual property.
Like most people I am eager to find out which property is going to be reasonably sold without the owner of the property getting paid. You can imagine how unreasonable the property owner will think it is.
This weekend I spoke with one of Antigua's most respected music producers about the WTO judgement. Torsten Stenzel is a German award winning musician, songwriter, composer and producer who now resides and runs his internationally famous studio here in Antigua. Apart from local and regional artists like Jah Cure, Buju Banton, Drastic, Jus Bus, Tian Winter, Claudette Peters, Logiq, Kenni Blessin, Itchy Feet, Asha, Shya and Promise, Torsten has worked with huge international acts and his list of associates and collaborators is huge. Since 2007 he has attracted many music industry icons here to Antigua to work in his studio and while his Antiguan company is getting stronger and stronger he is worried that all of his work will be jeopardized by what our government does next.
Torsten says, "Selling music and movies without paying the musicians and artists is unfair and will cause worldwide problems and not just problems with the US. Since illegal downloading went through the roof, the music industry is having a hard time, and artists get little or no revenue from selling music. Some talents live like homeless people yet have a million views on their youtube music video. People always think the pop stars are rich but the ones who are making money are way less than 1%. Government needs to protect their creative people and not just sell them out with no pay."
I reminded him that this would only apply to US copyrighted material and that Antigua has been backed into a corner by the USA. Tosten disagrees. "I think that once a torrent site is up and running it will be difficult to make sure that only US copyrighted material is being sold. Before you know it there will be every kind of music from all over the world being sold on it. I agree that the US has no right to destroy the local online gambling industry, but if you legalize downloading copyrighted material you are hurting the artists that have nothing to do with the problem and not hurting the US government. It is the wrong signal and will effect people who have nothing to do with the original problem. I have had big industry names calling me recently asking me about what the BBC is saying about Antigua setting up a pirate site. I don't want this! In March we fly in Sony Music executives from Japan, and the news that Antigua supports music piracy isn't going to be positive for our relationship and future music business coming to Antigua from Japan."
I put it to Torsten that it may be foreseeable that the music industry would end up being indirect allies in Washington and that artists could possibly join with Antigua in the call for a change on US gambling policy. Torsten didn't seem as optimistic as Jay Cohen though, and for a moment I had a vision of Madonna, Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen doing a TV commercial calling for a boycott of Antigua as a tourism destination until they stopped stealing their music. Who knows what will happen when the downloads start. The USA has made it clear that they would consider any dowloads to be theft and piracy. IT's something to think about and there can be no doubt the this story is long from being finished.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Minister of Fisheries in Antigua is hooked and can't get away.

Yes that's right. He's like a big mouth grouper who's bitten off more than he can chew. The hidden circle hook is riveted solidly in the side of his jaw and he's slowly being reeled in.  He's changing his colours but the camouflage won't help him. He's regurgitating the bait, but the hook is set. He's looking for rocks to hide behind, but there are none big enough. He's shaking his head in protest, but the line is taught and he's coming around. There is no escape now Brother B, you are coming up and have to concede that you are no longer in control.

Hilson Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture and responsible (astonishingly) for The Environment Division and Fisheries was in parliament bad talking me trying to suggest that because my dad, the lawyer, represents illegal French fishermen, I'm a hypocrite for calling on better environmental protection and trying to get the Fisheries regulations signed. In addition, he tried to make it sound like he's the one who has been pushing for the regulations to be passed. The reality is that we, the people, forced him to sign this thing and despite him doing everything he could to bury it, the regulations are starting him in the face once again and he must sign them. For years the finished regulations languished on his desk while he gazed into his solitaire playing computer doing nothing to help our severely depleted fishery. Year after year they remained unsigned despite all the work from the Fisheries Department and consultations with stakeholders that went into getting them to that stage. Each time someone asked him for a reason why he wasn't signing them he gave some lame excuse or the other. The Chief Fisheries officer was quoted time and time again as saying that her hands were tied on fisheries issues until the regulations were signed by the Minister. The Environmental Awarenss Group, The Fishermens Cooperative, The Sport Fishing Association, Fisheries, the press, and many individuals like myself asked for him to sign them and he ignored us all. The regulations did two things that frightened him. The first is that they actually gave slightly more control to the highly educated, knowledgeable people who have spent their careers day in and day out running the Fisheries Division. These people who know better than any other civil servant what is going on out on the water have had no say on what goes on out there up until now. The Minister who once told me after I invited him to come and see some of our reefs for himself: "Me cant swim so what the hell am I going to do out on a boat..." is the one who makes the key decisions in the Fisheries Department. Decisions that often are polar opposite to what his own officers have recommended. Take for example the Cabinet decision which called for Fisheries officers and other authorities to stop enforcing the laws which pertain to spear fishing. It is illegal to spear fish in Antigua without a permit from the Chief Fisheries Officer. Brother B went to Cabinet and lied to his Cabinet members telling them that his officers said that people should be permitted to spear fish. This information came to me from fisheries officers and from one of the Ministers who was in Cabinet. Imagine a Minister convincing other Cabinet Members to issue an order which would see that officers charged with upholding the law permit these laws to be broken. 
The second reason that he hadn't signed the regulations which he himself has been quoted as saying is that he didn't want anyone telling him to sign anything. He wasn't going to be pushed to do anything. It's something these elected officials seem to forget time and time again.. We elected you and you work for us!!!
In March or 2012 when the general public was up in arms about the huge investment being made by Chinese businessmen to target lobster in our waters, I started an education campaign which attempted to show just how broken our fisheries policy and current regulations were. IT wasn't the fault of Chinese, or of Dominicans, or of French fishers. It was the fault of the Minister responsible for Fisheries who permitted a free for all type of policy to carry on. It was and still is the wild west out there and lawlessness prevails. Once again calls were made to sign the completed fisheries regulations. Together with my fellow board members of The Antigua Conservation Society, we started a online petition to the PM. It was clear that Brother B would never sign the regulations unless something drastic was done. Thousands signed it and the press loved the idea that people were so interested in seeing the regulations signed. Brother B knew the tide was turning, and to find a way out of the hole he had dug himself into he decided to start from scratch with the regulations. Defering a decision was as good as not making a decision. New regulations would be drafted. This would delay the process and I think he hoped fishers would water down the regs, but after months of working on it the opposite came to be true. Consultations provided stronger regulations. Fishers were tired of the status quoe. They were tired of catching less and going further to do so. The press and general public was all over the issue.
Everyone has been watching and he's now got to sign it. The Fisheries department sent the redrafted regs to the ministry of legal affairs has FINALLY (after nearly three months) said they are good to go. Sooooo to save face after being found on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue, brother b is now suggesting in parliament that he's the champion of the fisheries regulations. He is the savior of the reefs and the fishery. In parliament this week he declared that I made people sign a document "against him" and that he's the one who got the regulations to where they are. He bad talked me saying that I am only and environmentalist when it suits me and all sorts of other things aimed at personally tarnishing my reputation. I don't care what this big mouth grouper thinks of me. I have one thing to say to him as he flips and flops on the slimy deck..... which is what I have been saying from the start....: JUST SIGN THE BLASTED THING ALREADY!