Fish sanctuaries have a vital economic role to play and have a serious impact on the livelihoods of their communities. The decline in coastal productivity over the past few decades has been well-documented across the Caribbean but perhaps nowhere as dramatically as in Jamaica, where the yields from reef fisheries are some of the lowest in the region. Data trends on Jamaican fish catches since the 1960s strongly suggest that increased fishing made possible by mechanization has not been ecologically sustainable.
In 2007 when the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries announced the establishment of five new fish sanctuaries in Jamaica, the BBFFS (with overwhelming support from the Bluefields Bay communities) wrote to the Minister asking for a sanctuary to be established in Bluefields. The Bluefields Bay (area between Paradise/Bluff Point and Belmont Point) was declared a Fish Sanctuary n March 2009 by the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and fisheries. A MOA was signed to manage the Sanctuary with a subvention from the government. There has been National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) certified wardens on the beach since 2006, but in 2010 a patrol program was started with the help of the Bluefields Environmental Protection Association (BEPA) and the philanthropy of the Bluefields Bay Seaside Villas that provided funds that allowed the wardens to take turns patrolling the Sanctuary.
What is a fish sanctuary?
A Fish Sanctuary is a coastal area where no fishing is allowed so that fish (and other marine life) have a sea haven to breed and grow to increase the fish stock and keep it healthy.
The mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds in the Bluefields Bay Fish Sanctuary are home to many young fish, endangered juvenile turtles and marine animals.
Fish Sanctuary Rules
It is illegal to fish in Fish Sanctuaries. Fishermen found to be in violation are subjected to arrest and can have their equipment and catch confiscated.
- Reefs protect people and coastlines from storm destruction.
- Reefs provides habitat for marine life
- Reefs supports diversity of life
- Reefs store carbon dioxide
- Reefs may hold the cure for many human diseases
- Reefs make beautiful beaches
Benefits of the Fish Sanctuary
Fish Sanctuaries are anticipated to gradually increase fish population affected by over-fishing and habitat degradation. Sanctuary establishment has been scientifically proven to improve fish stock by 3 to 21 times it original biomass. Furthermore, due to the ‘spill over’ effect, adjacent marine areas benefit as excess fish from the reserve will migrate into these areas where fishing is allowed.
Things to see at the Bluefields Bay Fish Sanctuary
- Fish and other marine life
- Sea Turtles
- Corals reefs
The BBFFS is responsible for managing the Sanctuary, educating the neighboring communities about the importance of the Sanctuary, partnering with funders and university groups to conduct research in and around the Sanctuary, and fundraising to ensure the preservation of the Bluefields Bay Fish Sanctuary into the future.
It’s important for fisherman, residents, and visitors to be aware of the rules and regulations of the Fish Sanctuary. We all have a responsibility to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks for future generations.