ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Chief Fisheries Officer Cheryl Appleton-Jeffrey confirmed Tuesday that there are laws to protect the abuse of the local fisheries sector, but said the department is awaiting the approval of the necessary regulations to enforce them.
Marine biologist John Mussington yesterday expressed surprise that the authorities were allowing the abuse of the islands’ fishing resources, although the necessary laws have been in place since 2006.
“I am astonished that the persons who are responsible could allow something like this to happen without trying to regulate it,” Mussington, the Barbuda-based expert said.
However, in an interview with OBSERVER Media, Appleton-Jeffrey revealed that while the act was in place, the necessary regulations have not been approved.
“What we are trying to get in place is the regulations for that Fisheries Act,” Appleton-Jeffrey said.
She added that that act would include a “closed season for lobster and conch.”
“It also limits the type of gear that can be used and licensing of fishermen. We would also be able to limit the number of people fishing, if that is necessary. But right now, we can’t,” the chief fisheries officer disclosed.
Once the regulations are gazetted, Appleton-Jeffrey said, there will then be a level of enforcement but currently “it is beyond my control.”
Efforts to have Fisheries Minister Hilson Baptiste respond proved futile despite several attempts to contact him at his office and via his cell phone.
Stakeholders raised the alarm yesterday, warning dive shops to be on the lookout for Chinese businessmen, possibly using locals, to purchase diving equipment for lobster fishing in Barbuda.
Last month, hoteliers complained about a shortage of lobster, which they said had resulted in their removing the popular dish from the menu.
The lobster shortage is said to have been sparked by Chinese traders who are cornering the market by offering local fishermen enticements of assistance and attractive prices in exchange for selling all their lobster catches to them. Local interests groups believe that this latest attempt by the Asians could be the final straw for the local lobster industry.