Shark Fishing from Reef Area in Tobago
Posted: Friday, July 6, 2007
Attention: Ms Shelly Ann Edwards
(Tourist Development Corporation)
and Ms Eleanor Lewis (Tobago House of Assembly)
As a visitor to Tobago I am horrified to hear that sharks, including rare species like Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks, are being fished from the reef area of Speyside. Because Tobago is promoting itself as an eco-destination, I had assumed that this area was a protected marine national park and find it hard to believe that the practise of uncontrolled shark fishing is permitted in such a beautiful place.
I understand that it is not local fishermen from Speyside who are shark fishing, but a small group of four or five individuals from a nearby village. They are apparently fishing large quantities of sharks on a daily basis.
Targeted shark fishing is indiscriminate and catches sharks of all species, including rare species and sharks of all ages, including those not yet old enough to breed. Many countries around the world have already banned shark fishing in their waters.
Sharks are a very important part of the marine eco system. Without sharks the numbers of smaller fish will go unchecked and suddenly, in as little as six months, there can be an imbalance of species whereby small reef fish reach massively high population levels. Small reef fish such as parrotfish, angelfish and damsells eat coral polyps and sponges. If there are no sharks to control levels they will eat out all the reef, leaving nothing but dead corals and dead reef. This would be a tragic loss to the island of Tobago. Not just the loss of foreign currency revenue from reduced numbers of divers, snorkellers, glass-bottom boat tours, etc.. but for the children of Tobago who face losing their natural inheritance.
The reef in Speyside is probably some of the healthiest coral reef in the entire Caribbean and deserves to be protected. Tobago had the foresight to proudly make its rainforest a national park and boasts that it is the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere. It has even banned hunting from March to September, but nothing has been done to protect the marine life. Speyside is the jewel in the crown and is now facing a threat which could destroy it forever.
We humbly and politely ask that you please consider an immediate ban on shark fishing in a zoned area around Speyside, from St Giles in the north to Merchiston in the south, and around the eastside of Little Tobago.
This is not a time for sticking, procrastination and debate but a time for swift prudent positive action. Action like this will show the whole world you care about your environment and stand to preserve and protect your natural heritage. You never miss the water till the well run dry.
James and Sheila Cox
J R C
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