Sandals Foundation manages Jamaica's first rotating fish sanctuary

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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Since its inception in 2009, the Sandals Foundation has been involved in marine conservation around the Caribbean, but it is making news this year with the introduction of a new concept on the island — rotating fish sanctuaries.

In March 2013, the foundation, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, established management of the Boscobel Special Fishery Conservation Area (SFCA) in St Mary.

“With every passing year, the SFCA has been providing excellent fish and coral growth in and around its boundaries and from 2013 -2017 fish biomass — the size and number of fish — has increased by 1,300% within the SFCA,” the foundation reported.

The local community has also benefitted from the presence of the SFCA through capacity building initiatives which have culminated in the formation of the Stewart Town Rio Nuevo Fishermen's Association, it said.

“And because it has been so very successful, we are always looking for new and more innovative ways for the SFCA to benefit the fishing communities that surround it,” the foundation added.

Executive Director Heidi Clarke explains: “We believe that marine conservation is a priority in the region, given the fact that so many persons depend on healthy reefs and fish populations for their livelihoods. We also see this as a top regional issue both from a food security point of view and also as a means of ensuring the defence of our coastlines from the increasing intensity of tropical storms as exemplified by the hurricanes this year.”

According to Sandals, the rotating SFCA, which allows for sections to be open periodically throughout the year, is intended to further increase the benefit of the SFCA to the surrounding community by not only expanding the boundaries of the SFCA, but also allowing fishermen to benefit from the increase in fish biomass by enabling them to fish in sections of the SFCA in the open periods.

The eastern border of the SCFA is open September 1 to December 1; the western border from December 1 to March 1; Boscobel East opens March 1 to June 1; and Boscobel West opens June 1 to September 1.

Dr Karl Aiken, marine scientist at The University of the West Indies, commented on the inititative.

“The introduction of rotating SFCA's is an important development in the progress of protected areas in Jamaica. By testing this methodology we can determine if these types of SFCAs will continue to benefit the marine life within them, local fishermen in the surrounding areas and the fishing industry,” he said.

In addition to management of two marine sanctuaries and support of several others in Jamaica and in St Lucia, the Sandals Foundation also supports turtle conservation, invasive species control, and environmental education in schools throughout the Caribbean under its environmental focus.

The foundation, which was established to continue and expand upon the philanthropic work that Sandals Resorts International has undertaken since opening its first resort in 1981, has made significant contributions in the areas of education, health, women empowerment, youth engagement and community, as well as the environment in the region over the past eight years.

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