Recently in Caribbean Category
This Times article about Haiti's dying reefs I think illustrates an important point about marine conservation efforts: it's not necessarily a case of environmentalism-vs-industry. You need to protect reef habitats in order to prevent the kind of "Tragedy of the Commons" scenario we're seeing unfolding in Haiti, where over-fishing continues even when it's obvious it's bad for everyone in the long run.
In Haiti 54,000 fishermen rely on the ocean for their livelihood... [and in] recent decades, as their usual catches of Nassau groupers and snappers have dwindled and disappeared, many of them have subsisted by netting and spearing small reef fish that keep coral clean of algae. Now those too are almost gone, and the algae have taken over....
Pierre Guy LaFontant, Haiti's director general of fisheries, acknowledged that overfishing was a problem and said that officials were receptive to the idea of establishing protected waters. But if the government cannot enforce its existing fishing regulations, can fishermen be persuaded to abide by an invisible line in the water?
But of course it's not as simple as just protecting and waiting, since these Haitian fishermen have basic short-term needs that can't easily be put on hold.
The whole article is worth a read... As bad as things are for Haiti's coral reefs, it's good to know that conservation efforts are beginning.
Henry Hilaire, who has fished for 36 years, gathered nets from a sailboat with several other Haitians in waters that Reef Check hopes will eventually be protected.... Mr. Hilaire pulled two small fish, each about five inches long, from his basket. "It's really too young to keep," he said, but "circumstances are such that if we didn't keep them, we'd go hungry."....
They're desperate, trying to survive, so how do you tell them not to fish here?" asked Romain Louis, 37, a literature teacher hoping to become part of the eco-diver team.
Mr. Louis suggested that the fishermen would need an incentive... "Maybe, if these fishermen got a trade-off, they'd stop fishing on overfished reefs."
Last January, Seacology's Board of Directors approved our first project in Jamaica. The project is supporting the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), the nation's largest protected area, which includes extensive mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. Such coastal ecosystems provide essential habitat to many species of birds, fish, invertebrates, and plants and are vital for islands as protection against erosion and flooding. Seacology partnered with the local organization responsible for managing PBPA to help construct a field office and barracks for use by the professional rangers who enforce the no-take fish sanctuaries in the reserve. To conserve resources, these structures were created out of recycling shipping containers, which convert into excellent (and even two-story!) office buildings.
In pondering my path to Seacology, I thought about my first venture to a tropical island. It was a month spent on St. Croix in the Caribbean in 1977. I was working for an entertainment company training exotic animals for the movie The Island of Dr. Moreau, starring Burt Lancaster (a living legend in one of his last movies) and Michael York (a fine actor and really nice guy). Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, the sci-fi monster movie was filmed on a spectacular swath of the island privately owned by and leased from the Rockefeller family.
To bring in tigers, lions, bears, and various other exotic animals to the island was an enormous undertaking. We set up a compound in the lush forest about a quarter mile from the beach, where the weather made everyone happy. Since the property was guarded and very secluded, we frequently took the animals for long beach walks ending in a riotous swim in the bath water sea. Paradise, right?
Breadfruit trees (Artocarpus altilis) can grow to 65 feet and produce round, heavy fruit for 50 years. 'Ulu, as we call it in Hawai'i, is found on many islands around the world, and its large, glossy leaves with small bumps are a common Hawaiian quilt pattern (below). The skin of the large fruit is green and bumpy, the flesh starchy and white or pale yellow.
As a food, breadfruit (always cooked) is common throughout the Pacific. When I studied in Samoa, breadfruit was served every day in the cafeteria, prepared boiled--and very bland. In contrast, roasted breadfruit (either cooked in a modern oven or the traditional underground oven) is delicious, and in Samoa the fruit is used as a vehicle for palusami, coconut milk and onions in taro leaf. This dish is one of the things I miss most about Samoa.