Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
colbartn.gif (4535 octets)

FISHER TO FISHER
A grass-roots approach to improved fishery management

Executive summary

From 24 August to 4 September 1998, an interesting ‘people-to-people’ initiative was taken within the framework of UNESCO's CSI platform endeavour. An encounter was arranged which brought Haitian and Jamaican fisherfolk together in each others countries to learn about and from each other. A visit was arranged for 17 Jamaicans to travel to Haiti, and for 14 Haitians to effect a return visit to Jamaica, thus enabling each group to meet and see first hand how the others fared in their milieu and how they conducted their daily work.

The exchange visit was organized, with UNESCO (CSI) funding, by the Foundation for the Protection of Biological Biodiversity (FoProBiM, for the French: Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine) in Haiti, and by the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (CCAM) Foundation in Jamaica. Those primarily responsible for the organization, coordination and liaison were: Peter Espeut of CCAM and Jean Wiener of FoProBiM.

The experience was judged very successful and worthwhile by the participants and organizers. It offered a unique opportunity for face-to-face exchanges with people of the same profession in another country, in living and working situations that are in some ways similar and in others different. The desired result indeed came about: cross-cultural learning plus fruitful exchanges of views, and some effective suggestions on how to approach and alleviate one's problems.

Following are two different accounts, written in spontaneous style by Messrs. Wiener and Espeut, of the venture. Here the reader obtains, in the first text especially, by J. Wiener, a summary of the achievements of the activity, plus a glimpse at some of the similarities and differences of the life-styles and working conditions of fishing populations on these two Caribbean Island countries – separated from each other by only a hundred miles or so. The more expanded, day-by-day narrative by P. Espeut provides interesting details on the participants, their interactions and their life experiences.

Gary Wright,
Consulting editor, CSI

***********************

Haitian fishers look outwards

Report of the Haiti-Jamaica Fishers exchange

Background

In December of 1996, UNESCO, through its unit on Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI), organized a seminar in Haiti with the goal of gathering local information and support for promoting the protection and sustainable use of Haiti's coastal and marine resources. One of the recommendations at the end of this meeting was that there be an exchange of ideas among Haitian and Jamaican fishermen in order to share thoughts on ‘wise-practices’ being developed in each country.

Two counterpart organizations were chosen due to their previous activities with fishers groups to help execute this programme. These organizations were the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM) in Jamaica, and the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM) in Haiti.

With the technical and financial support of UNESCO (CSI Unit in Headquarters, Paris, and the Organization's Office in Haiti) and the assistance of the Haitian National Commission to UNESCO, the marine transportation provided by the Jamaican Coast Guard, fuel provided by Jamaican fuel companies, and the unflagging efforts of CCAM and FoProBiM, the exchange was finally set to take place from 25 August to 5 September 1998.

The UNESCO Office (Haiti) as well as the Haitian National Commission to UNESCO aided in channeling the request to obtain official government approval from the relevant ministries for the entry into Haitian territorial waters of a foreign military vessel. It was later determined that this permission was not needed due to the fact that Haiti and Jamaica have an accord concerning this type of activity. Arrangements were made with Haitian immigration officials and the Port Authority to meet the Coast Guard vessel upon its arrival at the destination, Wahoo Bay Beach Hotel, located a few kilometers north of the village of Luly, as well as for the departure from Haiti, and the return of the Haitians one week later. The Jamaican consul agreed to help speed things along with the preparation of visas at the appropriate time, and indeed all visas were delivered within thirty minutes.

All the Haitian villages that participated were located in the Gulf of la Gonâve and included: Grand Goâve, Léogane, and Janti along the southern coast, and Mitan, Cont, and Luly on the northern coast. Each of these villages is represented in COOPECHE, the departmental fishing federation, and each provided at least one participant. Along with representatives of these fishing communities the Director of Fisheries and the Director of the Natural Resources Division of the Ministry of Agriculture were asked to participate, but due to prior engagements they were not available.

Map # 26AHA26181 from: 20th Edition (27 May 1995); Defense
Mapping Agency, Hydrographic and Topographic Agency, USA

Objective of the exchange

The exchange was organized to provide first hand opportunities, for the fishers and those engaged in activities directly related to fishing, to exchange ideas on practices which may be of value to their island neighbours. This was also done in order to help stem continued resource destruction and degradation. Hence, the basic function was an exchange of ‘wise-practices’.

Activities

List of Haitian participants

who visited Jamaica from 30 August – 4 September 1998:

Haitian reaction to the exchange

The Haitians who participated in the exchange were of the universal opinion that this type of activity was extremely valuable in terms of the exchange of ideas, methods, and the formulation of friendships for possible future activities. They felt that they had much to learn from the Jamaicans in terms of the management of coastal and marine resources, and improving fishing methods.

The conversation centred particularly around the differences, in the two countries, in government involvement regarding resource management and protection. In Jamaica it was noted that there is active participation by a large variety of private and public sector institutions including the National Resource Conservation Authority (NRCA) and the Jamaica Co-operative Union. The NRCA, at least, has taken its role in regulation and management of marine resources seriously. On the other hand, most Haitian institutions, be they public or private (especially in the public sector), have, as some of the Haitian fishers liked to put it, ‘resigned their role as functioning bodies’. In other words, the Haitian fisher feels that he or she has been abandoned by the government bodies which should be in the forefront of coastal and marine management activities. Therefore the Haitian fishers feel that it is up to them to organize themselves into bodies which will look out for their own needs and play the regulatory role neglected by the government.

Traditional methods – a way
of life for Haitian fishers.
Photo M. Steyaert
Luly villagers with traditional
fishing gear.
Photo M. Steyaert

The Jamaicans found many of the Haitian fishing methods archaic, including the fact that most Haitians still have to row (scull) or sail to fishing spots whereas almost every Jamaican fisher has access to at least one outboard engine. One technique which almost brought out anger on the part of the Jamaicans was how Haitians use nets. The fact that sometimes nets are laid out for up to three days in Haiti was thought to be almost criminal by the Jamaicans; who usually lay out their nets for no more than three hours. The waste caused by the Haitian method is often significant whereas with the Jamaican method it is reduced to a minimum. The Haitians were very impressed with the size of the Jamaican mangrove areas visited. They began to understand the true impact of Haitian pollution on other countries with the discovery of Haitian trash on several beaches in Jamaica.

The fishpots observed were quite similar to those made in Haiti except that the traps in Haiti are made almost entirely of bamboo, while those in Jamaica are structured in wood but are covered with chicken wire.

One factor that particularly interested the Haitians was the NRCA's choice of fishers themselves to be game wardens; their job to manage and protect the fisheries. The Haitians were very interested in having this type of activity in Haiti; but with serious institutional weaknesses in both the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, and in the Ministry of Environment, engaging in this type of activity in Haiti will remain a remote possibility for the foreseeable future. The Haitian fishermen did comment on such things as having all fishermen registered with the Ministry of Agriculture. This is already required by law but has never been enforced.

The Haitians were impressed by the style and capabilities of the Jamaican fishing boats, and are interested in acquiring one for trials in Haiti.

Many of the cooperatives or associations in Haiti participate in several different types of activities in their local communities such as in schools, churches, and providing loans. Unlike the cooperatives or associations in Haiti, the Jamaican cooperatives do not get involved in the marketing of fish; they concentrate on the sale of fishing materials. The Haitians took note of the possibility of having the Haitian cooperatives concentrate their efforts more on one activity (fishing).

A Jamaican fishers insurance programme was discussed at the meeting, held in the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC). Considerable interest was shown by the Haitian fishers regarding the possibility of having a similar type of programme designed in Haiti. However, this programme is still in the stage of having ‘its bugs worked out’ in Jamaica, where this type of activity is much more advanced than it is in Haiti. Hence, it is believed to be wiser to wait until a properly functioning programme is developed in Jamaica from which the Haitians may then modify to their own needs.

Recommendations/follow-up actions

Jean W. Wiener
Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine,
P.O. Box 642, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. e-mail: jwiener@compa.net

***********************

Jamaican fishers ‘au revoir’

Report on the Jamaican-Haitian exchange of fishers

Phase 1: Jamaicans to Haiti: August 24 to August 30, 1998

Pickups began at 9:00am on Monday, 24 August 1998 as Caribbean Coastal Area Management (CCAM) Foundation staff collected the Jamaican participants and delivered them to HMJS Cagway, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard base at Port Royal. The vessel was scheduled to depart at noon, but did not leave until 4:30 p.m. due to delays with immigration. The passports had to be taken to the Norman Manley International Airport to be processed, which took some time.

The participants piled aboard the Jamaican Coast Guard cutter HMJS Paul Bogle (P8), for the 480-mile round trip to Haiti. The vessel was ably commanded by Lt. Commander Kenneth Douglas, and had a crew complement of three officers and fifteen ratings. We stayed on the flying bridge until nightfall, watching the Jamaican mountains slip by on the port side until after sunset. When the Morant Point Lighthouse was finally behind us we knew we were out on the open sea in the dark of night, for not a light was in sight. Even the lighthouse on Navassa Island was dark. The sea, however, was unusually calm, which surprised even the coast guardsmen, who were used to the pitching and rolling sea.

Not many berths were available, but in any case, most passengers preferred to sleep on the flying bridge on the sponge mattresses provided. Several persons chose to stay awake all night playing dominoes. We made better time than expected, and had to turn around and steam back out to sea. At daybreak (circa 5:30 a.m.) on Tuesday, 25 August, we entered the port of St. Marc.

We patrolled back and forth searching the coast for a friendly face while announcing ourselves to the port authorities on the radio. We were expected at 8:00 a.m., and it was not until 8:15 a.m. that our radio call was answered by Mr. Jean Wiener of FoProBiM, our Haitian host. In quick time he awakened the Haitian immigration and customs officers, and brought them to the Paul Bogle where the Jamaicans were processed. After they departed, we then weighed anchor and sailed south to the Wahoo Bay Resort Hotel near to Luly where we were to stay. Everyone on board was struck by the hillsides deforested to the bare soil, except for the odd tree which only served to add stark contrast to emphasize the destruction. Many Jamaicans were heard to remark that Jamaican hillsides were clearly headed that way, and that we should work to ensure that it didn’t happen. For this lesson alone the trip was worth the effort and the money.

Deforested and drying
watershed on the south
coast of Haiti, between
Côte de Fer and Grosse
Caye.
Photo J. Ottenwalder
Charcoal is a major
energy source in Haiti.
Extracted from the
dwindling forests, it is
stacked by the road-side
and sold in markets.
Photo M. Steyaert

Upon arrival at Wahoo Bay we were again met by Mr. Wiener, and we were ferried ashore by boats from the hotel and the cutter. On arrival we were assigned our rooms, and we settled in. After a welcome dinner, we entertained ourselves by swimming in the pool or playing billiards. Some of the Jamaicans were taught to swim for the first time.

The next day (Wednesday, 26 August), the formal meetings began, and they continued through the following day. FoProBiM had assembled a large number of fishers and other persons related to the fisheries sector from as far away as Jeremie in the southwest. To start off, the Haitian and Jamaican participants introduced themselves in English and in Creole, interpretation ably performed by Mr. Wiener. Then followed more profound introductions, where each set of participants shared their fishing lore and culture.

It became clear that even though Jamaica and Haiti were only 100 miles apart, their physical environments are quite different, which has led to quite different fishing practices. In Portland Bight, Jamaica, the island shelf is quite wide: some eleven nautical miles from shore the water is still only 30 metres deep; which means that spear-fishing and an extensive trap fishery catching reef demersal fish is possible. In Haiti, the water is hundreds of metres deep a short distance from the beach, which means that line-and-net fishing, catching coastal and deep-slope pelagics is predominant. Because of the efforts of the Jamaican government as far back as the 1950s (in the form of a ‘loan’ scheme), many Jamaican fishers have access to outboard engines and fibreglass boats, and can travel far distances to fish (even to the 100-mile distant Pedro Banks). Haitian fishers still mostly use dugout or wooden canoes powered by oars or sail, and Haitian fishers tend not to travel great distances from home to fish.

Some Haitian fishers organizations expressed great interest in that fact that some Jamaican fishing co-operatives and the Jamaica Co-operative Union (JCU) operated gear stores, selling boats, engines and fishing tackle. Relationships were immediately established, and the JCU agreed to assist those Haitian fishers’ organizations that wished to set up gear stores. It was agreed that during the visit to Jamaica, a visit to the JCU would be arranged.

The fishers questioned each other concerning fishing methods and techniques, and there was some transfer of knowledge. Jamaican net fishers set their nets at night, and after about two hours soak time, pull them in, harvest the fish, store them in ice, and reset their nets; this may happen as many as three times per night. Haitian fishers soak their nets for as long as three days at a time, so that when they pull them in, some fish have been dead for as long as three days and have begun to rot; they do not usually use ice. It was agreed that this method wastes good fish, which have to be thrown away instead of being sold. The Jamaican net fishers offered advice on how the Haitian net fishers could improve their saleable catch: by using ice, and by not soaking their nets for longer than two hours without harvesting.

The Jamaican fishers explained about the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC) and the suite of fishery management strategies they had agreed upon, which would come into effect when the Portland Bight Sustainable Development Area (PBSDA) was declared by the Jamaican government. These included minimum mesh size limits in nets and traps, a licensing and limited entry system, and a ban on the use of scuba equipment and hooks for fishing. The Haitian fishers were interested in how this was to be enforced. The Jamaican fishers explained that fifty of them had been appointed ‘Honorary Game Wardens’ and ‘Fishery Inspectors’ by the Governor-General, Jamaica’s Head of State, and they had powers of arrest and search without warrant. Individual wardens gave accounts from their own personal experience of how they had exercised their authority by warning offenders, seizing lobster and conch during the closed season, and making arrests. One Jamaican warden explained how he had prosecuted one of his fellow fishers, taken him to court and won the case, the offender being fined J$2,000. Mostly, the wardens explained that they used moral persuasion to convince their fellows of the error of their ways, and threats to family and friends of impending prosecution if they broke the law (to protect the reputation of the game warden and not to be accused of favouritism). This game warden/fisheries inspector programme was put forward as an instance of genuine empowerment of the fishers to manage their fishery, although at the moment they were only enforcing existing fisheries laws and not the special regulations for Portland Bight they had drafted and ratified. Many of the Jamaican participants had their Game Warden Identification Cards which they were able to display to their Haitian confreres. It was further explained that, upon the declaration of the PBSDA, CCAM would hire Rangers to enforce the laws. They would be appointed as policemen (special district constables), and they would carry out the wishes of the PBFMC.

An important issue raised by the Haitians was the marketing of their catch. The Haitian fishers explained that they were being disadvantaged by middlemen who purchased their catch dirt cheap and sold it at a much higher price to consumers in inland towns quite some distance away. They explained their plans to cut out the middlemen by taking their catch to market themselves in their own vehicles. They intended to build refrigerated sheds to store the fish until it was ready for market. Because of this, their fishers organizations were large, strong and vibrant, since there was direct, substantial and visible economic benefit to be derived. The Jamaican fishers explained that their situation was different for several reasons: first, demand for fish far exceeded supply in Jamaica, and so the public came to them (a much smaller country) on the beach to buy fish, so they were easily able to sell some of their catch retail for a higher price; second, because of the demand, they were usually able to sell off all their catch within minutes of touching the shore with their boats; third, they did sell to middlemen in Jamaica (called higglers), usually relatives, so that the commercial profit stayed in the family. A marketing co-operative in Jamaica would therefore pose no advantage to Jamaican fishers. The Jamaicans nevertheless encouraged their Haitian counterparts to persevere in their plans.

The PBFMC chairman pointed out how strong the Haitian fishers organizations were, and how the members committed time to building them up. He urged the Jamaicans to engage their Haitian counterparts in conversation to learn how to make the Jamaican fishers’ organizations strong too.

The Jamaican fishers noted the cheap price at which fish was sold in Haiti, even after exchange rate conversion. It was pointed out to them that since Jamaica was seriously overfished, the law of supply and demand made Jamaican fish dear.

There were many other issues raised by both sides, and many were not fully explored in the time allowed. The discussions would continue in Jamaica.

On Friday, 28 August 1998, a bus was provided to take the Jamaicans on a tour of Luly and Port-au-Prince. At Luly, a nearby fishing village, the fishers visited the offices of the fishers organization and were impressed at the concrete structure erected by the fishers with their own efforts. They also got a chance to observe fishing boats and gear up close. Bamboo fish traps with very small mesh apertures were observed. Also observed was a shed used to preserve fish by drying. Some interest in this was expressed by the Jamaicans.

The Jamaicans were taken on a tour of the rum distillery at Pétionville, and were able to purchase bottles to take home. In Port-au-Prince a visit was paid to the centre of town to view the Presidential Palace, and there was also ample opportunity to purchase Haitian clothing, art, and recorded music. On the return journey, the bus passed on the outskirts of Cité Soleil, the largest and most appalling ghetto in the Caribbean.

Despite the language barrier, the Jamaican fishers made many friends at the hotel and among the Haitian fishers. Some left the hotel regularly, visiting nearby villages and a museum, and several nightspots. The nightlife at the hotel was entertaining, and there was opportunity for the Jamaicans to sing some of their folk songs.

The last day, Saturday 29 August 1998, was spent enjoying the beach and the swimming pool and doing last-minute shopping. The customs and immigration officers came to the hotel to process the travellers, so we did not have to sail to the Port of St. Marc. Right on time, the HMJS Paul Bogle appeared on the horizon and quickly anchored in the bay. The crew were given some liberty to swim on the hotel beach with the Haitians and Jamaicans. The Captain, Lt. Commander Kenneth Douglas, joined the two delegations for lunch. Then with not a few tears, the Jamaicans and Haitians were ferried to the cutter with their baggage, and we sailed for Jamaica at 4:00 p.m.

As before, we stayed on the now crowded flying bridge until nightfall, this time watching the Haitian mountains slip by on the starboard side. The extremely favourable sea conditions persisted, and we had a calm passage to Jamaica. Most passengers again preferred to sleep on the flying bridge on the sponge mattresses provided, and several persons again stayed awake all night playing dominoes. At daybreak (circa 5:30 a.m.) on Sunday, 30 August, we docked at HMJS Cagway in Port Royal, Jamaica.

Phase 2: Haitians to Jamaica – 29 August to 4 September, 1998

The HMJS Paul Bogle arrived at its home port at Port Royal in the early morning of Sunday, 30 August 1998. The ship carried both the Jamaican delegation of seventeen from the PBFMC and CCAM led by Peter Espeut, and the Haitian delegation of fourteen fishers and FOPROBIM staff led by Mr. Jean Wiener. After breakfast, and processing by customs and immigration, the Haitians were taken from the base at HMJS Cagway (Port Royal) by JDF truck to the Monymusk Gun Rod and Tiller Club (MGRTC) clubhouse and marina in Salt River, Clarendon some thirty miles away, where they would be staying for the duration of their visit.

Conditions at the clubhouse were not as well appointed as at the Wahoo Bay Resort Hotel in Haiti. Accommodations were basic, with bunk-beds and communal washrooms. Because most of the CCAM staff were in Haiti, many last-minute arrangements had to be made; e.g., the water tanks had to be filled.

On Monday, 31 August 1998, the visitors were taken on a boat tour of the western part of Portland Bight. They were collected from the docks at the MGRTC in three fibreglass fishing canoes and taken through channels and waterways in the West Harbour mangroves. This wetland is part of the largest continuous mangrove stand remaining in Jamaica, and the Haitians were impressed by its size and great beauty. They commented that they do not have any comparable resources left in Haiti; their mangroves are very small and scattered and cannot perform the substantial fish nursery functions provided by the West Harbour mangal. They visited the Barmouth fishing beach in the community of Portland Cottage which is at the end of a mangrove channel. They were given a short tour of the beach and an explanation of the various activities carried out there.

After leaving Barmouth they left the West Harbour mangrove system and went to Big Half Moon Cay just off the southern tip of Jamaica. There they had a short swim and explored the island which is one of several small coral cays forested with mangroves and other large trees in Portland Bight. These cays are important for wildlife in Portland Bight as large numbers of seabirds nest and breed there, hawksbill sea turtles nest on their sandy beaches. They were then taken back to the MGRTC for dinner and socializing with several local fishers who accompanied them on this and subsequent excursions. Some Jamaican fishers spent a few nights with the Haitian fishers at the MGRTC, enabling everybody to get to know each other better.

Portland Bight
Portland Bight on the south coast of
Jamaica

On Tuesday, 1 September 1998, the Haitians were taken overland to the Old Harbour Bay fishing beach to meet with fishers there. They paid a visit to the Old Harbour Bay Fishermen’s Co-operative gear store and were given a talk on the history of the co-operative – the oldest in Jamaica – and the different ventures in which they were involved.

The Haitians displayed particular interest in the operation of the co-operative. They explained that in Haiti in recent times they have organized themselves into fishers associations on various beaches, and their members are expected to sell at least a portion of their catch to the association directly. The association would in turn retail the fish on their behalf and the fishers would get a higher price for their catch. They further explained that previously they sold their fish to traders (middlemen). They complained that the traders would pay very little for the fish, while reaping substantial profits. The fishers felt that they were being treated unfairly, and when the political dictatorship in Haiti was overthrown and they were free to unite and form themselves into associations, they did so to protect their own interests.

They were surprised to learn that in Jamaica the co-operatives were not involved in selling the catch of its members, but operated as a business selling fishing supplies, gear, equipment and ice, and providing services to the fishers such as engine and boat repairs. The Haitians explained that they did not have engine repair facilities because engines were too expensive for most fishers to obtain or operate. Their island shelf was usually so narrow that they could effectively use oars or small sails to power their boats to their fishing grounds. The short travel times meant that they did not feel it necessary to put ice on their catch until they returned to port.

The Haitian fishers asked many questions about the marketing of fish in Jamaica and whether Jamaican fishers felt they were getting a fair deal. They were told that Jamaican fishers were free to market their own catch to the public if they wished, as many members of the public came to the beach to buy; but it was pointed out that many fishers do not in fact own the boats from which they fish; many work as captain and crew for boats owned by others – often fish vendors – who sell the catch on or off the beach and pay the fishers a portion. (Many vendors have backward links, investing in boats and fishing gear in order to ensure themselves a steady supply of fish to sell). And so the catch often does not belong to the fishers, since the boat and gear does not. Many fishers are not own-account operators but hired hands.

Jamaican waters are severely overfished and the overall numbers and sizes of fish have fallen. Some high value species such as groupers and snappers are rarely seen. The Haitians also complained that they are experiencing similar problems caused by overfishing.

The visitors were then taken on a tour of the beach where they could examine the boats on the shore. They were able to see boats being cleaned and repaired, and walked around the beach in smaller groups speaking to local fishers who were very curious and asked questions about their life in Haiti and the reasons for their visit. Finally, they were taken to a local restaurant for a typical Old Harbour lunch of fried fish and rice, after which they returned to the MGRTC.

After breakfast on Wednesday, 2 August, the group was taken to the Rocky Point fishing beach, beginning with the offices and store of the Rocky Point Fishermans’ Co-operative. They were taken around the store and shown the equipment and gear offered for sale. They were again particularly interested in the operations of the co-operative. They were interested in cementing the business operations of their own associations in Haiti by examining the feasibility of offering other goods and services to their members. They explained that at present the Association at Luly has its own office building and storeroom on the beach. The association owns a few small outboard engines which they rent to the fishers. They also operate a fish drying house; many fishers resort to drying their fish as a means of preservation, whereas in Jamaica the fish is usually kept on ice until it can be sold or deep frozen. They broke up into small groups with both Haitian and Jamaican fishers, and walked about the community speaking with the locals to get a feel for life in this large Jamaican fishing community. As in Old Harbour Bay, lunch was provided at a local seafood restaurant.

Thursday, 4 August, was the date of the monthly Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC) meeting, rescheduled from the previous week in order to allow the visitors to attend and see how Council meetings were conducted. The meeting was held at the nearby Welcome fishing beach, so many persons simply walked down to the beach from the MGRTC. PBFMC Chairman Peter Espeut was unable to attend this meeting, so Rowell Myrie from Rocky Point was asked to chair the proceedings. After introductions and a brief explanation of the role and activities of the PBFMC and the CCAM foundation in Portland Bight for the benefit of the visitors, the Council went on to attend to its regular business. The meeting paused frequently to allow Mr. Wiener to translate the proceedings for the other Haitians. The proceedings were halted intermittently to field various questions from fishers at Welcome who were very interested in the activities of the exchange programme. The Haitians listened intently to the proceedings and asked questions through Mr. Wiener who either answered them directly or referred them to the relevant person. During the meeting the chairman announced that persons who had been appointed as Honorary Game Wardens for the up-coming year were to be presented with their official letters of appointment from the Governor-General, and Mr. Bernard Blue, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority representative on the Council, made the presentations.

At this point, one of the Welcome fishers interrupted the proceedings, raising strong objections to some of the Game Warden appointees. The Council meeting was adjourned quickly thereafter as approaching clouds threatened to wash out the proceedings, which were not being held indoors. Lunch was quickly served, and the rains came; the tarpaulin covering the meeting area could scarcely accommodate the unusually large crowd seeking to shelter there.

After the rains an altercation developed between the afore-mentioned Welcome fisher and another Welcome fisher/game warden which escalated to the point where the warden was stabbed with a knife. It turned out that the disruptive fisher was a recent deportee from the USA who was already wanted by the police on a number of charges. He is now on the run, and has not been seen in the area since. This unfortunate event as well as the rains put a damper on the rest of the evening. Everyone felt compelled to leave without the further opportunity to speak with the visitors.

Friday, 5 August, began with torrential showers which had continued intermittently from the previous afternoon. The JDF truck was expected to arrive after breakfast to take the Haitians to the Hellshire fishing beach for a short visit, but because of the rains the truck arrived very late. With the threat of continued rains, it was decided not to visit Hellshire beach, so they proceeded directly to the Jamaica Co-operative Union (JCU) offices in Kingston. There they viewed the facilities and were given an explanation of the role of the JCU as the umbrella for all fishermen’s co-operatives in Jamaica. They were shown the warehouses where the fishing gear is kept prior to distribution to the various co-operative stores, as well as the fibreglass boat-making facilities. After the tour, they were taken through Kingston for lunch at McDonalds, and then at their request, to the Bob Marley Museum. Then they were taken to the Constant Spring malls where they shopped for souvenirs and gifts before heading back to HMJS Cagway to catch the ship back to Haiti. They experienced lengthy delays as customs and immigration officials had to be brought from the nearby airport to inspect their travel documents and luggage. After long and sorrowful good-byes between the Haitian and Jamaicans, now good friends, the visitors boarded the HMJS Paul Bogle (now with a different captain and crew) and left port at approximately 10:00 p.m. with the prospects of rough seas ahead.

Final comments

Overall, the exchange must be deemed a success, although there could have been improvements in the organization, particularly on the Jamaican side. The full benefits to accrue from this exchange are best assessed a year or two from now. The efforts of FoProBiM and CCAM are to be congratulated, and their respective staffs commended. UNESCO-CSI is to be commended for its initiative in providing substantial financial support for this effort. Without the caring and professional assistance of the Coast Guard of the Jamaica Defence Force – especially the officers and ratings of the HMJS Paul Bogle – the exchange would never have been possible. Diesel fuel for the trips was kindly donated by PetroJam (3,000 gallons) and Esso Standard Oil (2,000 gallons). Our profound appreciation is herewith expressed to all these entities.

The whole exchange was captured on digital video, and support will be sought to produce a video documentary of the exercise.

The Jamaican participants were:

Peter A. Espeut
Executive Director, Caribbean Coastal Area Management (CCAM) Foundation,
7 Lloyds Close, Kingston 8, Jamaica, W.I.
Fax: (876) 978 76 41, E-mail:
pespeut@infochan.com

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