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Published on Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bluefield's Bay Marine Protected Area

The decline of coral reefs and fish stocks over the past three decades has been documented in many Caribbean islands, perhaps nowhere as dramatically as Jamaica. Due to habitat destruction and over-fishing, coral cover and fisheries yields in the country are some of the lowest in the region, contributing significantly to the poverty and unemployment that afflicts Jamaica"s coastal communities.

As well as fishing, these towns and villages depend heavily on fishing-related economic activities, including fish processing and vending, pot stick cutting, fish pot making, boat building, and boat loading/off-loading.

With the support of Virgin Holidays, UK-based sustainable tourism charity the Travel Foundation and climate change specialists Caribsave, a fishing community on Jamaica"s South Coast is taking action to regenerate its nearby marine environment, ensuring its children and grandchildren will, like their forebears, be able to earn a sustainable living from the sea.

The Bluefield"s Bay Fishermen's Friendly Society, which represents approximately 250 local fishermen, and their dependents are working together with its partners to deliver a long-term programme to manage a fish sanctuary, or Marine Protected Area (MPA), prohibiting fishing in a clearly-marked zone to allow fish stocks to regenerate.

The joint initiative follows legislation introduced by the government of Jamaica in 2009 and 2010 which established 12 new fish sanctuaries around the island, managed by the adjacent fishing communities.

Bluefield"s is one of the first of these community-run protected areas to get up and running. Fishing has been banned in the sanctuary since March 2010 and already locals are seeing the results through improved catches outside the protected area.  

The Bluefield"s Bay MPA initiative comprises three main activities:

  • Construction and installation of 50 marker buoys to mark the boundaries of the fish sanctuary and indicate the no-fishing zone. Virgin Holidays has also provided scuba gear to facilitate maintenance and installation of these buoys.
  • Production and dissemination of a series of short films to increase public awareness of the benefits of fish sanctuaries.
  • The Caribbean Fish Sanctuaries Partnership Fund (C-FISH Fund), will also be established. The fund will provide sustainable financial assistance to fishing communities and receive revenues from various sources, including contributions on the sale of local crafts and jewellery to tourists.

Future revenue opportunities being considered for the Bluefield"s Bay MPA include eco-tourism, catch and release fly-fishing trips and entrance-fees for those wishing to visit the fish sanctuary, reducing locals" dependency on fishing to earn a living.

It is hoped that the combination of these activities will help to secure a profitable and sustainable livelihood for the local community, as well as restoring a productive and sustainable marine environment in Bluefield"s Bay.

For more about the Bluefield"s Bay MPA, visit:

For a cornucopia of Caribbean sustainable success stories see:

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