The Fisheries Department has known for years about the practice of gill netting for parrotfish (chub fish) along barrier reefs in Antigua and Barbuda and over the past few months has recognized it as not only being unsustainable but damaging for the overall health of the coral reef. Despite this, Fisheries is still permitting the wholesale export of every parrotfish brought to their facility in Deep Water Harbour. Each week thousands of pounds of parrotfish are exported out of Antigua to the French islands. Yesterday these images were taken by John Fuller at the facility before fishermen confronted him physically demanding that he stopped taking photos. One little boat came in with what appeared to be six coolers filled to the brim with netted parrotfish and other reef fish.
Three weeks ago the chief fisheries officer said that new regulations which hopefully would control some of this madness were going to be given to the Minister responsible, Hilson Baptise, for him to sign. These regulations have been reworked after the ACS (The Antigua Conservation Society) highlighted the problem with parrotfish netting as well as many other “unsustainable use” methods practiced here in Antigua and Barbuda. The 2006 Fisheries Act was passed and has been waiting to be put into practice once the Regulations of the act had been signed. These regulations have been sitting on the minister’s desk for years. Finally he agreed to sign them but requested that more consultations were done on them first. This has happened now, and according to the Chief Fisheries officer, the regulations were going to be given to the minister on either the 25th or 26th of July. They still have not been delivered to the Minister for him to sign. It seems that while our reefs continue to be wiped clean of their essential living partners as seen above, the Fisheries Department not only facilitates this destruction by permitting the export of the fish, but also is having difficulties getting the regulations to the Minister. I have received so many emails and calls about the famous Online Petition (click here for more info) and as I keep telling the press (click here), everything is on hold now that we are seeing action from the Minister and his department. My most recent blog before this one was filled with optimism. (click here) However, that action seems to be slowing down or on is even now on hold. I am giving the Minister and the Chief Fisheries Officer the benefit of the doubt, but there are many others involved in this discussion and movement who feel that I am being naive. Yesterday, head of a local fishing organization reminded me that it has been weeks since the consultations and weeks since the Chief Fisheries Officer promised that the Minister would have the regulations on his desk for his signature. (click here). He went so far as to say that the regulations would never be signed in their agreed form.
I decided to call Chief Fisheries Officer, Mrs. Appleton, yesterday and she confirmed that they were having difficulties with the resources needed to get the document prepared for the minister, but promised that the regulations would be on his desk before the end of the week ending August 10th. We have waited years for this document to be signed, and I figure we can wait a few more days. Minister Baptiste has said that he is going to sign it because it’s the right thing to do and not because of any pressure that has been put on him to do so. (click here) As we know, this government was elected on the promise that “what was wrong would be made right” so I am sure he will do the right thing here. What I would love to know is how long will it take for him to sign them after the regulations are handed to him for the second time. The reef and entire marine and coastal environment is being destroyed while we wait. I’m sorry to be impatient but this is probably the most important thing the Minister has ever done as an elected official and the future of our fishery and coral reefs depend on the protection that these new regulations will usher in.