LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Overfishing and species endangerment

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Overfishing and species endangerment

Dear Editor, 

Hello! My name is Asia Butler, a 17-year-old graduate of Harbour Island All Age School, Harbour Island, Eleuthera and one of the BREEF Bahamas Environmental Steward scholars for 2022-2023. 

Overfishing and the illegal catch of juvenile fish have been ongoing issues for the past decade, forcing the Bahamian government to put a much-needed closed season on certain culturally vital marine species such as the Nassau Grouper and Spiny Lobster (crawfish).

Unfortunately, even after this law was passed, quite a number of fishermen continue to disregard fisheries regulations and continue to fish during these closed seasons. As a result, the populations of these species are rapidly declining. 

Sadly even our Queen Conch is suffering the same fate. Many fishermen still harvest juvenile conchs for sale, simply because it is difficult to find any legal conchs due to the decline in population as a result of juvenile overfishing. Many Bahamian fishermen still harvest conch based on the size of the shell rather than the correct methodology, which measures lip thickness to indicate sexual maturity. With this rapid population decline, fishermen can only find very few juvenile conches. Ultimately the reality is that fishermen would prefer to harvest the juvenile conchs to avoid a waste of their time and resources. 

Moving forward, if fisheries regulations were properly followed and enforced, I believe that the population of the Queen Conch, the Nassau Grouper, and Spiny Lobster (crawfish) would start to be replenished and fishermen would see an increase in their catch as long as they are harvesting sustainably. Coupled with the expansion of protected areas where these species frequently breed, these populations of key species may have a chance of survival. In this way, they would have ample opportunity to reproduce and rebuild a steady population to sustain not only themselves but a future for the culture and heritage of The Bahamas.

Asia Butler