Mo’bay Marine Park Protecting Coastal Waters


The Montego Bay Marine Park is putting measures in place to address the problem of over fishing within coastal waters under its protection, which is causing depletion of a number of indigenous species.
Clayton Powell, Enforcement Officer at the Park, tells JIS News that consideration is being given to the establishment of zones to confine fishing to certain areas. “We are looking at the zoning . to allow some fishing in some areas and no fishing in other areas and then we have multi users zones,” he tells JIS News, while also informing of a plan to source alternative employment for fishermen who make their livelihood from the seas. He says that discussions are being held with private sector groups toward that goal.
“What we are looking at is putting a proposal on the table for stakeholders or interest groups to actually help with some funding to find alternative and sustainable livelihood for these fishermen outside of fishing, so that some of these species can actually get a chance to rebound,” he explains.
Mr. Powell points out that over fishing has caused a decline in some species while others are at the point of being extinct. “It is not just the adult fishes that are disappearing but we are getting smaller and smaller fishes coming in. We even have species that are not endangered but are close to reaching that stage,” he tells JIS News.
Among the species under threat is the Parrot, which is a favourite at local tables. “A lot of fishermen remove them from the water not knowing the important role these fishes play in actually maintaining a healthy reef structure. What the fish normally does is graze on the corals, eating away the algae that would normally smothered the corals,” he points out.
Additionally, Mr. Powell says that the Parrot helps to contribute the white sand beaches that are renown to Jamaica.
Apart from the problem of over fishing, the Marine Park is also under threat from high levels of pollution caused by indiscriminate dumping and unauthorised developments.
One of the major problems being faced is the denuding of the coastline, from the cutting down of trees and shrubberies. “The wetlands are actually being destroyed and are used for developmental purposes. One of the affected areas is the Bogue Lagoon area, which is the only fish sanctuary that exists in the Marine Park,” Mr. Powell informs.
“These breeding grounds have a lot of small organisms that the fishes feed on and the mangrove area provides food so it is a very rich habitat. What happens is that a lot of these areas are now developed and where we once had mangrove, we now have residential areas,” he says further, while lamenting the reduction in the fish population as a result of the decline in oxygen from the loss of vegetative cover.
Apart from being a sanctuary for fishes, the mangrove acts as a filter for runoffs from land, so sediments and topsoil washed from the hillsides are trapped there rather than going into the ocean. The removal of the mangroves therefore provides free passage of pollutants into the coastal waters. “As a result of these sediments, the reef structure becomes smothered and eventually dies,” Mr. Powell points out.
Explaining the extent of the damage to the reefs, the Enforcement Officer tells JIS News that 20 per cent of the Park consists of coral reef and of this amount, 90 per cent have already died.
“The Park has not yet gotten the time to actually start to regenerate itself and with the situation in the city (Montego Bay) where pollution is so high, this has helped to compound the situation. One of the issues that we definitely have to look at, not only the Marine Park, but the wider community, is how we deal with our waste,” he states.
As it relates to breaches of building guidelines, Mr. Powell points out that there is closer monitoring of developments and the reporting of violations to the National Environment and Planning Agency. “We are aware of the fact that with development comes some level of pollution, but the pollution can be contained within a certain level that all parties can live with,” he points out.
On September 20, officers from the Marine Park and its volunteer associations carried out an extensive clean up of the coastline to mark International Coastal Clean up Day.
Work was done at three sites – the mouth of the Montego River, one of the main conduits of pollutants entering the Bay Marine Park; the Old Hospital Beach Park located on the hip strip between Margueritaville and Aquasol Sea Park; and the beaches at the Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal hotels.
He says the clean up effort saw 1.35 kilometres of coastline being cleared of debris with 13.6 kilograms (30 pounds) of garbage collected. Mr. Powell tells JIS News that 105 volunteers participated in the exercise. “The overall results at the end of the day were somewhat of an overwhelming success. We had persons from the Japanese International Volunteers Agency and the United States peace corps and Sandals,” he says.
“One of the highlights of the day was that most of the community members, who were part of the activities, left with a heightened awareness of the vast pollution problems we are dealing with. One young lady in particular was driven to tears when she saw the amount of garbage that was there at the Montego River mouth,” he says.
The Enforcement Officer argues however, that clean up efforts alone will not work, as the problem of solid waste disposal was a perennial one and must be addressed.
“A lot of the pollutants that do end up in the Park is as a result of land based activities. The Marine Park is located in an area where the North Gully and South Gully empty into it and a drain leading from the Montego Bay abattoir also empties into it,” he informs.

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