White River Fish Sanctuary
It doesn't take a PhD in marine biology (or rocket science) to know that Jamaica's marine environment is facing serious threats.
Tourism is thus in a two-way relationship with the environment. This two-way relationship places a heavy burden on tourism to manage the environment effectively.
Jamaica's Tourism Master Plan
Coral coverage has decreased 85% since 1975 with overall coral coverage estimated to be 10% of healthy levels.
The remaining coral is often covered in algae.
Also, Jamaica has some of the most overfished waters on the planet with fish stocks that have declined drastically.
The dual threats of declining fish stocks and decreasing coral coverage have caused a vicious cycle: less healthy coral leads to less fish, which in turn leads to even less coral. Wash, rinse, repeat. This negative cycle has devastating social and economic impacts
Local fishers are finding it increasingly difficult to earn a sustainable living. Total catch has decreased over 600% since 1950. It would take fishers 7 times the effort (and 7 times the cost) to catch the same amount of fish as before. The hardships push many families below the poverty line.
It is estimated that poor reef health may cost the Ocho Rios area in excess of US$21,000,000 PER YEAR in lost ecological services.
(R. deGroot, et al 2012)
BUT THERE IS HOPE!
Around the world fish sanctuaries are proving to be a powerful and effective tool in reversing the decline in marine health.
Can it work in Ocho Rios?
Yes it can!
And yes it is!
The White River Fish Sanctuary is a designated ‘Special Fishery Conservation Area’ off Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast. It extends 3.62km/2.25 miles and covers 150-hectares/372 acres of coral reefs and sea grass meadows.
It is run by the White River Fishermen Association (WRFA) and White River Marine Association (WRMA - stakeholders, NGOs…) in an equal partnership, and relies totally on donations.
The 12 wardens employed (4 full-time, 8 part-time) are WRFA members; 3 are also scuba-certified and trained as coral gardeners.
A baseline survey has been done.
Patrols started 1st November 2017 and they are doing an excellent job!
Our initial goal: 500% increase in size and number of fish in 5 years.
A core of environmentally conscious properties is helping fund the Sanctuary’s operations. These are our Champions, the founding stakeholders.
Phase 1 of a 5-year Coral Restoration Program is funded by a grant from the Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund-AP@FM Project PPCR, which also funded the boundary buoys. Other local grant donors have since come on board.
Community Based | Results Driven
Protect: By training and empowering local fishers as wardens we are vigorously protecting the integrity of this no fishing area. Here’s the team!
Restore: Using methods established in Jamaica, we are growing and nurturing out-planted coral in a 5-phase Coral Restoration Program. Phase 1 is well underway and plans in place for Phase 2.
Engage: Our wardens will continue the process underway with local fishers and extend our outreach to local community groups and organizations to ensure continued local support and ownership of the Sanctuary.
Get on Board!
We are confident the grass-roots approach has laid the foundations for success. Fishers are vested; they are protecting and restoring their livelihoods.
And they are not alone. The White River Fish Sanctuary is one of 18 protected areas in Jamaica, working to save the reefs and bring back the fish for the benefit of all: fishers, tourists, local communities, local businesses, and - in a wider context - the Caribbean Sea.
Improvements are not going to happen overnight, yet already in the White River Fish Sanctuary Special Fishery Conservation Area the fish are coming back.
Before patrols started, up to 20 fishers and 15 shooters were operating in the area that is now the Sanctuary, their typical catch being of pathetically undersized fish and other marine life. Today there are few to none.
Now fish have a chance to grow to their full breeding potential, their progeny spilling out into the surrounding sea.
A six pound snapper produces 3,000,000 eggs.
Imagine the exponential population growth when these fish are kept safe!
Join us by coming on board - engage with the White River Fish Sanctuary community and help us make a difference.