Robin Ramdeen of the Waitt Institute and Dr Will McClintock of SeaSketch are currently hosting meetings on the draft marine spatial plans.
The Institute under its Blue Halo Montserrat project has been creating a profile of the waters surrounding the island, with the goal of implementing a management strategy for the ocean and the sea life beneath.
Ramdeen and McClintock have met this week with fishers, farmers and other community groups to share the contents of the plan and to gather their feedback and concerns. They will be collating the new ideas and concerns to present to a steering committee.
McClintock who heads McClintock Labs which developed SeaSketch, said they want information on people’s experiences on the ocean and if the marine spatial plans align with their needs. He told Radio Personality JGP on Radio Montserrat that concerns have been raised about how restricting certain areas will affect their fishing experience. Some have also queried whether the plans will be enforceable.
SeaSketch is a web based application that you can use to contribute information on the distribution of activities and resources in and around Montserrat’s waters.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Claude Hogan said the new plan could be of great benefit to the country. The Government of Montserrat signed an MOU with the Waitt Institute in July of 2014 to develop a plan for how the island can maximize the use of its natural resources by stakeholders.
The minister said the aim is to have fishermen make use of the ocean safely and sustainably so that there will be fish for this generation and the next and the next. “If we have a management system in place, you can know where fisheries are spawning…then you can plan how you can fish and exploit the sea. We can set areas for diving for the tourism industry, and where you put fish pots.”
Hogan said the concept of ghost fishing was introduced during this process. It is when fish pots are lost at sea with fish trapped inside. He envisions that there will be fish pot innovations which will allow fishes to escape after a period of time if pots are not brought in.
He also shared that the new marine spatial plan is tied to the policy on import substitution. With an estimated one million dollars worth of fish imported annually, it would become beneficial if that money was channeled to local fisheries and supply demand and reduce importation. One additional need for this to happen would be adequate storage.
View a Blue Halo Montserrat Document Timeline here: http://waittinstitute.org/bluehaloinitiative/montserrat/