At its core, the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary is a very simple thing: a no-fishing zone which bans fishing of any kind within its bounded area. Over time this no-fishing zone helps to regenerate the fish population. Ultimately, the increase in fish stocks spills over outside of the sanctuary boundaries and provides an increasing catch and improved livelihoods for local fishermen. This is the sanctuary in a nutshell.
Yes we are planting coral in an effort to improve reef health and coverage. Yes a whole heap of sea turtles hatch off Gibraltar Beach. Yes we are planting mangroves. Yes we are doing many other things. However, at the end of the day the core purpose of the fish sanctuary is to improve fish stocks and in turn improve fisherman livelihoods.
Is it working? Interesting question. From a scientific standpoint things are definitely trending in the right direction with the Sanctuary boasting some of the best results in the Caribbean. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) conducted our baseline survey in April 2011 and has returned each year to monitor our progress. Between 2011 and 2014 we have seen:
Maybe more important than the scientific evidence is the anecdotal evidence provided by fishermen themselves. Most fishermen will say they can already see more fish around the docks of the GoldenEye development and near the coral nurseries. They are also catching more pounds of fish from outside the boundaries of the Sanctuary than they were when they were fishing within the middle of the Bay. Is that enough evidence to say the sanctuary is a success? Of course not, but it is the perception of the fishermen that will ultimately determine whether the sanctuary survives and it is looking good so far!