Recent consultation with fishermen to address plans for The Narrows

By S. Williams

The Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Area Network known as the ECMMAN project is in its final stage and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, according to National Coordinator Janice Daniel-Hodge.

In a recent consultation with fishermen, Ms. Daniel addressed the management plan for the body of water between St. Kitts and Nevis known as The Narrows which has been the project’s priority focus area since its initiation in 2013.

“The Narrows have been identified as the area in St. Kitts and Nevis because of the value that is has as a marine resource. It is a bio-diversity hotspot. It is also an area that is used for a lot of social, recreational and livelihood activities,” Ms. Daniel stated. “All the resources of the ECMMAN project are geared towards that area to ensure that the bio-diversity is protected and the livelihood of fishers is sustainable.”

The Narrows, which is protected under the New Fisheries Act of 2016, has both the largest sea grass bed in the country and a nursery habitat for juvenile fish, conch and lobsters, which makes it an important habitat for the species that are important from a commercial point of view. However, according to Daniel, there are different aspects of the project and not all of it is dealing with the establishment of The Narrows as the priority area.

One such aspect includes workshops for fishermen to provide more information about the benefits of marine protected and managed areas understanding that that is the goals in managing resources in The Narrows area.

Another aspect saw that formation of New Castle Bay Foundation, an organization which mirrors the objectives of the ECMMAN project which is to ensure sustainable fisheries. However, it has a much broader reach with regards to also looking at climate changes and being climate resilient also.

The project also includes raising public awareness. Some of the activities that form part of the awareness campaign included videos and songs done about The Narrows, school activities and community activities. Currently the ECMMAN project has on ongoing ‘This Is Who We Are’ poetry contest organized by outreach Coordinator Daniel Moore, where participants ages 13 – 18 are asked to write a poem 8 – 20 lines about the importance of the sea to our culture.

Also under the ECMMAN project, certain items were  procured that would benefit fishermen. These included life vests, buoys and garbage bins that were distributed to help minimize adverse impart to the marine resources. A lion fish boat was also purchased to eradicate the invasive species, but it was damaged during transportation. Management is hopeful insurance funds can be recouped to purchase a new one.

The ECMMAN project, funded by the German government, is being administered by the Nature Conservancy, a large international NGO organization. It is also being administered by the Nature Conservancy regionally since there are six OECS countries that are participating. In St. Kitts and Nevis there is the government agency which has responsibility which is the Department of Marine Resources in St Kitts and the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society is the lead implementing agency for The Narrows project.

The remaining activities to wrap the project up include demarcating the area in The Narrows to show which areas belong to the conservation area and which area is the fishing priority area with buoys to ensure that the nursery area is not being fished in or the juvenile fish and lobsters are being taken out.