Jamaican fishers, many unlicensed and largely ungoverned, are taking what they can from the country’s waters, draining them of shad, yellowtail, parrot, snapper, and other types of reef fish. They use destructive techniques, including small-mesh nets that scrape the ocean floor of all life. Undersized fish are harvested indiscriminately, and there are no catch limits. In deep waters, foreign vessels – some of them carrying dozens of divers – poach lobster and conch, a type of shellfish that was on the brink of collapse a few years ago!
Hurricanes have destroyed coral reefs, smashing, dislodging, and burying them under sediment. Development projects have drained wetlands and pumped sewage into the sea. Coral disease, sea-urchin die-off, and coral bleaching have also left reefs severely damaged. Experts who first noticed large amounts of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea since 2011 have said that the problem has occurred practically every year since then and is now up to this year elevated some 20 per cent above that of the pre-pandemic era.
The brown algae when at moderate levels help to purify water, absorb carbon dioxide and is a key habitat for fish and other marine creatures. Now being declared an environmental emergency by experts, "the golden tide", as it is being referred, has become devastating for the region, affecting economies and industries such as tourism and fishing.
Within the fishing industry its weeds has begun to damage fishing engines and gears, preventing fisherfolk from accessing their tools and ultimately resulting in reduced catch of fish stocks and as the water warms the problem gets worse. The number of fishers registered in Jamaica is unclear. According to a 2020 Caribbean Natural Resources Institute report, citing data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 40,000 Jamaican fishers make their living from the sea. But Jamaica’s National Fisheries Authority has licensed only 26,000 of them.
It estimates that around two-thirds of the world's fish stocks are overexploited: these populations are declining because we're catching more fish than can reproduce. Governments may tell you not to worry, but we all really do need to worry especially if your livelihood depends on the sea. In 2018, the Jamaican government passed new adjustments to the Fishing Industry Act, placing heftier fines on outlawed fishing practices but you cant fine Mother Nature and politicians protect the oil companies and others that caused global warming! Fishers have reported boats from nearby Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic poaching the waters along the western end of the banks, with some staying up to a week. The vessels, mostly converted shrimp trawlers, carry large numbers of divers who vacuum the seafloor.
Each year, over 22 million metric tonnes of the seaweed inundate the Caribbean, clogging coral reefs, affecting the ecosystem, impeding the fishing community, and becoming increasingly irksome to the tourism sector. The decaying weed produces a rotten-egg-smelling gas, which keeps beach lovers and tourists at bay. In 2018, sargassum clean-up reportedly cost the Caribbean approximately US$120 million,” the article explained.
It is believed that this yearly spike in sargassum is a direct link to the growing impacts of climate change across the world, and news of a 5,000-mile seaweed belt heading towards the Caribbean, South Florida, and the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico earlier this month should alarm those in authority. What is at stake for Jamaica?
Tourism generates USD $1.934 billion dollars annually. Tourism is Jamaica’s second most important foreign exchange earner. Tourism is also a major creator of jobs, both directly and indirectly for Jamaica. Climatic and environmental features are an integral part of the country’s tourism product offering. The local tourism product is dominated by resort tourism (“sun, sea, sand and fun”) and is
Tourism is concentrated in coastal areas making it vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme climate features. Estimates have shown that a 1m rise in seal level will impact about 8% of major
resorts in Jamaica, while a 2m rise will have an impact on 18% of these resorts. To protect our resorts some 22 miles of coastal protection are needed. Depending on the measures contemplated the projected cost of adapting to climate change can range from a low of US$ 92.3 million to a high of US$ 993.8 million (2011 dollars).