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Monday 18th August 2014

Putting together the regulations has involved extensive research of the state of marine life around Barbuda’s coastal waters. (Photo by Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson)  

Story via Antigua Observer

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A sweeping new set of strict fishing regulations for Barbuda, including the introduction of five no fishing zones, were signed into law. Once gazetted, the protocols will come into legal effect.

“This will definitely benefit the people of Barbuda, and Antigua as well,” Arthur Nibbs, Chairman of the Barbuda Council and Fisheries Minister said in a statement released by the Waitt Institute.

The guidelines introduced under the Blue Halo Initiative, which is a partnership between the non-profit Waitt Institute and the Barbuda Council, come after 17 months of consultations and scientific research.

The Blue Halo plan has attracted criticism from fishermen in Barbuda, including by those who say more should be done to restrict foreign fishermen before placing limits on Barbudans.

Director of the Barbuda Research complex John Mussington criticised the initiative for being too narrowly focused on restricting fishing and ignoring other factors affecting marine life, such as climate change and rising sea temperatures. He also faulted the plan for failing to find avenues for alternative income for fishermen while the marine life rebounds.

Wednesday’s signing, however, was applauded by environmentalists, including Jeremy Jackson, Director of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network at the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN, according to the release.

“I enthusiastically applaud the measures put in place in Barbuda, particularly the protection of parrotfish and sea urchins. Protection of these vitally important herbivores is the essential first step toward the recovery of Caribbean reefs from the severe degradation they have undergone in the last 50 years,” Jackson said.

The Waitt Institute has said the regulations will see a rebound in marine life and help boost Barbudans and fishers’ livelihoods.

Thirty-three per cent or 139 square kilometers of Barbuda coastal waters will now become off limit to fishing through five sanctuary or no fishing zones.

Further, the catching of parrotfish and sea urchins is completely prohibited. Also included in the regulations is a two- year ban on fishing in the Codrington Lagoon – considered a nursery ground – though line fishing from shore will still be allowed.

The use of fishing nets will also become illegal in 16 per cent of Barbuda’s coastal waters and anywhere within 20 meters of a coral reef.

Billionaire philanthropist Tedd Waitt, who visited Barbuda last year to launch the initiative, praised the signing.

“This type of management must become the status quo. It has been an honour to support the people of Barbuda as they took decisive steps to conserve their reefs and fisheries, and I look forward to supporting similar efforts elsewhere,” Waitt, founder chairman of the Waitt Institute said.

Environmentalists have said the regulations will help marine life rebound around Barbuda and boost fishers’ earnings in the long term.

Waitt Institute Executive Director Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, who has been at the forefront of coordinating scientific research, consultations and negotiations with the Barbuda Council, also praised the move in the statement.

National Geographic also featured a story on the new regulations and progress of the Initiative, dubbed "Small Caribbean Island Shows Bold Ocean Leadership: Barbuda Overhauls Reef and Fisheries Management for Sustainability" by Ayana Elizabeth of the Waitt Institute. Below shows a map of Barbuda's new coastal zones.

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