History of Bluefields Bay Fishing
Until the later half of the 20th century, the Bluefields Bay was able to support its fishers. Bluefields Bay was a fisher’s heaven, being in excellent environmental condition. The coral reefs, grass beds and mangroves were intact and served to make the bay a productive nursery ground. The abundance of food and shelter provided by the mangroves, rivers and streams made the bay an ideal place for fish to deposit their eggs, which developed into fry that would swim out to sea, making an abundance of reef fish. Fishers from that time tell stories of how they were able to take care of their families and the community from the trade.
Changes in the Bay
Since the 1960s, we have seen the destruction of mangroves and fish habitats, and the introduction of seine-net and small (1/4”, ½”, 1”, & 1 ¼”) mesh wire and bamboo pots, killing small fish. Even more destructive was the introduction of dynamite in the 80s and 90s, which is destroying the corals and causing fish to permanently avoid blasted zones.
Most of the youth who have gone into fishing in recent decades practice spear gun fishing. They can be selective in what they take out, but when they shoot a fish and it goes under the corals they will often break pieces off to retrieve the spear and fish.
In 1979, Westmoreland saw a major flood in the area that deposited layers of silt and boulders, changing the seabed. Belmont Fishing Beach is a prime example of the altered landscape. Hurricanes, storms, climate change and effluents are all contributing factors to the decline in the fish catch.
A fishing group was established in Belmont in the 1970s when fishing became a large industry. The Government built a market complex with a storehouse, shop and marketplace where farmers and fishers could sell their produce and catch. The district of Cave also built a storehouse, and they joined the group in Belmont, but mismanagement contributed to the downfall of the group. From the 70s onward there have been several attempts to restart the group, but with little success.
After the passage of Hurricane Ivan, Reliable Adventures Jamaica (RAJ), a Tourist Board licensed Tour Company, and the Bluefields People’s Community Association made an appeal for assistance for fishers who lost their traps.The Anthropology Club at Missouri State University responded, holding two fund-raising events. Following these successes, Mr. Wolde Kristos suggested the fishermen come together and have a meeting to put in place mechanisms to stem the problems the industry faces, and to secure more help for themselves. This led to the creation of the Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society.