A few anecdotes and opinions on the subject……
Almost every time we used to have a night dive at our moored site at Tankah Reef, there is a boat there from a local restaurant (since destroyed by Hurricane Dean) fishing for lobsters and anything they can kill using scuba gear. In most countries of the world it is actually illegal to spear fish while using scuba gear.
I have been diving in places, most notably the Dominican Republic, where fishing by locals has stripped most reefs of nearly all the fish. I have done dives on reefs with lots of corals, anenomes, sponges etc. but only saw 4 or five fish over 6 inches in an hour long dive and certainly no lobsters. Still I saw two or three poor looking local fisherman fishing from little boats in the same area we were diving. Obviously the fish on these reefs will never have a chance to recover to a reasonable level because the locals need to catch the most they can in order to feed themselves and to sell for local restaurants.
I regularly express my views on this general topic to customers, friends and staff. Almost all eat fish regularly and I frequently get comments back to the effect that just eating or killing a fish here and there doesn’t do any harm or that a few locals taking a few fish for themselves or to sell does no harm. My position on this which can be readily supported by many studies and arguments is that this is just not the case. Reefs throughout the world including here in Mexico, are being systematically and steadily depleted of life. As soon as you attach a monetary value to wildlife, it begins to be exploited. It is rare to see large fish anywhere in the world, other than the remotest areas or ones that are effectively protected from human predation.
Our reefs are being rapidly depleted of their fish and other animal populations by local fishermen. They are pretty good at what they do and find a ready market, mostly selling to restaurants. The problem is the nearly insatiable appetite that the majority of visitors and locals have for seafood creates a market for the fisherman to sell their wares.
I don’t blame the fishermen for trying to make a living. The problem lies in the demand and the blithe disregard of the general public for the massive depletion of the wild populations of the creatures in our seas.
I have a few questions for you divers:
- When was the last time you saw a really big grouper on a dive in a non protected area, yes it happens but not often.
- How often do you see schools of mature, large snappers, just about never I bet.
- Reef sharks in the Riviera Maya anyone?
Just a few of the more obvious examples that come to mind.
Anyone who wants to learn more on this subject can!
Ref: A Sea Change by Sylvia Earle
Ref: The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts
Let’s look at wildlife, not eat it!!
Speak out in what you believe. It might just make a difference, however small.