Stakeholders have expressed fear that the problem of over-fishing in Antigua & Barbuda could cripple the vital seafood industry and damage the island’s marine sector. On Barbuda, “people are more dependent on fisheries and food security than other islands,” Barbuda-based marine expert John Mussington has said.
He fears that over-fishing may lead the island to depend more on imports, “and there is scarce money in these hard economic times to actually support that.” Mussington who is an outspoken advocate for protection of the environment and a trained marine biologist told OBSERVER Media that he has difficulty with the manner in which fishing is being conducted on the island. “They are fishing in a way that is not sustainable and that is another serious threat to Barbuda, its environment and its people,” he said.
The marine biologist wants authorities on Barbuda to intervene and designate areas around the island as protected areas where they can police how fishing is being carried out. “It is the legal responsibility of the Barbuda Council to be responsible for fishing and agriculture. If they would take this responsibility seriously then they can put the mechanisms in place that would help to sustain the fishing,” he said, adding that outside fishers were the main perpetrators of unsustainable fishing on the island.
The Fishermen’s Co-operative agrees that “the sustainability of certain species is into question right now.” “We have seen signs of over-fishing of certain species,” Fishermen’s Co-operative President Leonard Mussington said. “It’s not just about investment we also have to think about sustainability,” he added.
Mussington said the association would be educating its membership with a view to changing bad fishing habits that have mainly arisen from traditional practices.