Spear fishers get help to start alternative business
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Some 20 spear fishers in the River Bay Fishing Village in Montego Bay, will now have the opportunity to secure alternative jobs through the recent launch of an eco and heritage attraction in St James.
The new attraction will see the River Bay Fishing Village providing marine, heritage and school tours; boat building and repair services;
the introduction of new eateries and a space to host events.
The venture is a collaborative effort between the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust and the Montego Bay Fisherman's Co-operative Society with funding support from the Government of Jamaica/ European Union/UNEP Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project (CCADRRP), led by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and coordinated through the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
Joshua Bailey, Project Coordinator at the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust said that the project will assist spear fishers with a new avenue to earn a living.
"The fishers were trained in entrepreneurship, business management, tour guiding, and in the Team Jamaica programme. This is important as many of our spear fishermen have seen a reduction in their income, due to reduced catch. This is due to human and environmental stresses such as pollution, overfishing, and climate change," informed Mr. Bailey who added that with these alternative skills, the fishers will reduce the stress on the fish population in the marine protected area, which will allow it to replenish.
Cornelius Spence, known better to his colleagues as 'Raggy', has been a spear fisherman for some 28 years. He was proud to be part of the initiative that would bring a renewed energy to the beach park.
"It's crystal clear where we are coming from. It is a good thing that this is happening," he said.
Spence was referring to the improved physical infrastructure of the beach park. These include: new pathways that have been constructed; improved drainage system; the erection of maintenance signs; improved lavatory and other facilities.
Nichelle Oxford, the NEPA Project Coordinator for the CCADRR Project, noted the importance of the fishers' business venture in strengthening the country's capacity to deal with climate change.
"One of the components of the Climate Change Adaptation Project is to increase community resilience by encouraging alternative livelihood. We focus on fisherfolk, charcoal burners, and other community members who often use the environment in an unsustainable way," she said.
Oxford noted that the programme is aimed at assisting these communities to undertake new ways of earning and adopting best practices that can be sustained even as the country faces increased and more intense hurricanes, extended droughts, rising sea levels, and increasing sea temperatures.
Oxford said through the CCADRRP, over $15 million has been used for alternative livelihood ventures in Westmoreland, St Thomas, Clarendon and St James.
Some 15 spear-fishers accepted their certificates in the Team Jamaica and entrepreneurship training at the recent ceremony to mark the opening of the facility.
Meanwhile, Bailey in reflecting on the vision for the River Bay Fishing Village said, "This is not going to be an area just for the buying and selling of fish. It will be a site for the sharing of information and knowledge."