Columns

Fishing in Kingston Harbour

BY FRANK COX

Sunday, August 19, 2012    

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A fisherman is an environmentalist by operation of occupation. There was a time when many activities thrived in Jamaica. People nostalgically remember swimming, playing and catching fish like mullet, barracuda, red snapper, sprats and shrimp in Kingston Harbour. Today, any such activities would require accepting heightened exposure to biological and chemical toxins.

Thus recreation in the harbour has declined sharply in the last decade. Jet skiing, wave riding, wind surfing, para sailing and other activities that draw people to water have curtailed.

The state of all marine resources, right around the island, can be summed up by looking at the health of Kingston Harbour. Studies on the harbour have been done, but not much else. Current levels of pollution are staggering and unsustainable.

Raw sewage from dysfunctional treatment plants in over capacity, gully water, industrial waste including petrochemicals and acids, and seepage from the Riverton landfill all end up in Kingston Harbour. The suspended residue from this settles on the seafloor as a toxic sludge.

Two projects are now in the pipeline that will require more dredging of the harbour, (a) the expansion of Gordon Cay and (b) the development of Fort Augusta. By all indications, the refuse from this dredging will be dumped once again into what used to be Hunts Bay.

Expanding from the Fort Augusta shoreline (or prison wall) to Mandela Highway, Hunts Bay is a wetland. There are nurseries here for many species of birds, fish, shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans.

Some years back, home builder Selective Homes Limited was awarded permits to build homes on Long Mountain "Wakieka Hills", regarded by many as the archival cradle of Taino Indians native to Jamaica. The late John Maxwell complained bitterly.

The answer came by way of an action brought by an environmental lobby in relation to the Harbour View Sewage Treatment Plant. It has taken these folks 30 years to get redress. The environmental lobby does not have the deep pockets required to sustain a protracted action.

Sewage treatment plant specs are very simple. Separate solids from liquid, send solids to landfill, treat liquid and dump out to sea two miles from any shoreline. A complete myth in Jamaica.

All sewage treatment plants are in over-capacity. Some have been abandoned. Development plans require the method by which waste from residences or commercial buildings will be collected, treated and disposed of. Countless such plans abound islandwide and are hard to enforce.

Our athletes have shown us what we are capable of. Our standards have been set. Let's get busy. You fix Kingston Harbour, and you will have fixed Jamaica

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