For a small island, the ocean provides livelihoods, tourism, relaxation, and a sense of national pride for the people of Montserrat. Figuring out how to use these resources wisely while still supporting the people who love and benefit from the ocean is no easy task. The Government of Montserrat and countless individuals have been working for three decades to create a plan to sustainably and fairly manage the abundance ocean resources of our waters. This work has made tremendous progress these past few years due to the dedication of our community and the launch of Blue Halo Initiative on Montserrat in 2015. Each week, I will be featuring a person with a strong connection to the ocean who has been working to build a more sustainable and abundant ocean future for Montserrat.
Dwight Sampson grew up a within walking distance of Grand Anse Beach, in Grenada; with generations of uncles and other relatives who made a living from the sea, he saw firsthand how important the ocean was to making life.
Dwight brought this enthusiasm to his year as the Outreach Officer with the Sustainable Fish Trap demonstration project conducted in collaboration with the Government of Montserrat’s Youth Apprentice Program (YAP) and the Waitt Institute. The fisheries project with YAP was a chance to support under-employed youth by teaching them skills of fish pot-making using sustainable methods and at the same time collecting of fisheries landings data which contributed to the island’s Marine Spatial Plan which was under development.
“I’d heard about the Blue Halo project funded by the Waitt Institute through my work with the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network in Grenada. With entire seaside communities in other islands making their income from fishing, I knew the immense value of fisheries and it was good to see that Montserrat was looking at ways to improve this sector,” Sampson explained.
Although officially given the title of Outreach Officer on the project, Sampson was often thrust into the role of supervisor after key members of the team left. In this way, he was able to see the project from different sides and he found his leadership and teamwork skills grew during the process. He and the other team members learned how to identify the various fish in local waters, got an appreciation for the various zones which were being designated in the marine spatial plan and he also took part in learning how to build the fish traps with biodegradable sides to end the occurrence of ghost fishing.
“I found the program a really good one, but I was left asking what happens next? The project could have continued in order to provide employment for more young people and at the same time build the sector with a new generation of fishers who understood why it was important to care for the ocean and why building fish pots which did not allow for lost traps to continue fishing was critical to saving our ocean resource,” he added.
“I definitely grew more appreciative of the ocean and why we have to protect it. We need the legislation to further implement the marine spatial plan. It will give hope that the government will do more for fisheries while at the same time solve a century’s old problem of ghost fishing and endangering our future stock due to overfishing. The island can also serve as a model to other islands who are struggling to put their own (ocean management) plan in place.”
Sampson now spends his time raising his young family and building up his profile as a photojournalist at D.S. Media & Designs. His work highlights the community and he still hopes to share stories of great ocean science and the Montserrat marine space.
In February 2015, the Government of Montserrat and the Waitt Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding that launched Blue Halo Montserrat. The goal is to foster the sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable use of ocean resources for present and future generations. Over a five-year period, it has developed and drafted sustainable ocean policies and a marine spatial plan through a process that deeply engages stakeholders and is based on scientific, social, and economic data. Other partners of the Blue Halo Initiative include the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing, and the Environment, the Montserrat National Trust.