|Address by the Minister of Agriculture at the Launch of the Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project|
|Written by Mark Byer|
|Friday, 02 July 2010 09:48|
Address by Senator the Honourable Haynesley Benn
Minister of Agriculture at the Launch of the
Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project on March 6, 2009
Mr. Chairman, the Honourable John Boyce, Minister of Transport and Works and representative for this constituency; Directors and Senior Officials of the Barbados Marine Trust (BMT); Officials of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), officials of the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage; Specially Invited Guests; members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted and honoured to be offered the privilege to address you at this Launch of the Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project: A solution to coral depletion and community livelihoods in Oistins, Barbados.
This initiative of the BMT supported by the UNDP through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, particularly through the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) and other private sector donors has been implemented with two (2) main focal points in mind: enhancing our environment and improving our community livelihoods.
The Trust has identified five (5) major objectives which are in keeping with Government’s development strategies.
The Reef Balls Garden function to protect fingerlings, that is to say baby fish, from predators and provide them with a secure environment in which they can live and further develop.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you will observe from the model on display, and I must mention here that there is actually an authentic model located to the southern side of the Southern Plaza Shopping Complex, the reef balls consist of small holes that the fingerlings can swim into in order to escape from predators. In other words, the garden serves as an undersea fish kindergarten and habitat.
Traditionally, those of you who are familiar with the marine industry would know that the baby fish would make use of the roots of the mangrove plants and corals to escape, but these habitats have themselves been destroyed by predators.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without a doubt the Oistins area has evolved into one of our leading entertainment centres. Nightly, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, hundred of patrons including locals and visitors alike, flock to this area to participate in the fish fry and other local delicacies.
The culinary delights offered along with the melodious back-in-time music combine to make an enjoyable and delightful evening and indeed offer visitors to our shores a unique and enjoyable experience.
The Oistins Fish Fry has now become so popular; it is now rated as the second highest attraction in the island, preceded only by the Harrison’s Cave. I must point out however, that this cultural activity stands to be in danger, if there’s no longer any fish to be caught.
As you all well know, the fish industry is of great economic and social importance to a large sector of our population. During the past sixty (60) years, the fishing industry has made tremendous strides to become an area of significant economic activity out of which several type of vibrant small businesses have evolved. These include – fish processing, fish retailing and wholesaling, fish exporting and distribution, and of course the means for fishing such as boat building.
It is widely recognized that small businesses play a substantial role in a country’s economy.
The small businesses derived from the fishing industry provide employment and income for an estimated 6,000 persons both directly and indirectly, many of whom are self-employed. Every encouragement must therefore be given to these persons to develop a spirit of self-reliance and enterprise.
Historically, the fishing industry also provides an avenue for earning vital foreign exchange through fish exports, in addition to being a major contributor to local food security.
Barbados, as a small island developing country continues to explore various avenues which could lead to economic growth and further employment for its citizen. Once established, it is anticipated that this project will create additional job opportunities, especially for the fisherfolk of the Oistins community; primarily the fishers in the off-season, as well as the retired fishermen.
I am told that over the next two (2) years, various activities will be initiated with this project, these include:
It is recognized that in Oistins Bay and around Barbados generally, many all the coral reefs are dead. The cumulative impacts of these factors overtime have meant that many coral reefs can no longer adequately support fish life, thereby resulting in declining fish stock.
The reef balls can combat some of these issues pertaining to the marine life populations in the immediate area; it can also promote the regeneration of coral and overall assist in improving the quality of the environment. The Ministry of Agriculture is cognizant of the need to rehabitate the island’s damaged reef ecosystems and to rebuild the island’s depleted reef fish stocks. We therefore pledge our full support to the Barbados Marine Trust in implementing this project, and recognize this initiative as a viable avenue for improving our reef fish stocks and in so doing, contributing to the promotion of the islands’ economy and to the attainment of food security.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot over emphasize the importance of the environment and in this case the marine environment to our economic development and the quality of life of our people. In this regard I wish to acknowledge the excellent work being done by the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) in restoring our reef systems and coastal areas around the island. In fact, the Board Walk which was recently opened along the south coast provides a very calming and relaxing atmosphere for users. I have observed that people of all generations, young, not so young, families and tourists alike are enjoying this wonderful experience of walking the Board Walk. I would also wish to thank the CZMU in advance for moving towards St. Peter in the area of Six Men’s and provide a similar type of reclamation and restoration to that area. This would also enhance the livelihood of the people in that area.
I wish to commend the BMT, a charitable organization for its vision and commitment to preserving the marine environment and providing alternative employment opportunities for members of our society, particularly the fisherfolk. This venture will also enhance our tourism product and complement the activities taking place here at the Bay Gardens.
I also wish to thank the other partners who have contributed in making this Project a reality. This is evidence that the social partnership is working and that together we can make this country a beacon for the rest of the world to follow.
I therefore on behalf of my Ministry and on my own behalf offer you our sincere congratulations on the launch of this Reef Ball Gardens Project.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.