The White River Fish Sanctuary

Seascape Caribbean was contracted by the Oracabessa Foundation in 2017 to develop and implement a coral garden programme for the newly fisher-initiated White River Fish Sanctuary in the high-tourism Ocho Rios area of Jamaica.

PROJECT GOALS

  • Improved (fish and shellfish) catches and fisher incomes as well as tourism product enhancements through improved ecosystem function and tourist draw.
  • Reduce fishing pressure on the local reefs through engagement and reemployment to gardening roles.
  • Kindling ownership and stewardship within the fishing community for both fish and habitat elements.
  • Kindling activism within the community related to poaching, litter, unsustainable development and identity. 

PROGRAM CHALLENGES

  • The coastal ecosystems of Ocho Rios have been heavily impacted by coastal development, dredging and reclamation decades.  
  • The corals of Ocho Rios were heavily impacted by Hurricanes Alan (1980) and Gilbert (1988), in particular the branching corals. 
  • The corals of Ocho Rios were heavily impacted by disease through the 1980s, as was most of the Caribbean. Again, the worst to suffer were the branching corals.
  • The local reefs are heavily fished by spear, net and fish trap and fish are small.
  • The ecosystem is out of balance and coral diseases persist, often facilitated by corallivorous fish and elevated summer temperatures. Corallivorous snails and worms are also common.
  • Current reef system is dominated by microalgae, representing a stable-state disallowing a resurgence of coral. Reefs are the green-brown of algae rather than the bright golds and greens of healthy coral.
  • Algae is a poor fish or lobster nursery habitat as compared to coral, thus fisheries have been relatively unproductive.

SOLUTIONS

  • Propagate and plant 1000 branching Acroporid corals per year into target areas for maximized recruitment of juvenile fish and shellfish. To date, 1000 staghorn coral fragments are growing nursery culture.
  • Train fishers to maintain coral nurseries and out-planted corals, and to tend (garden) the surrounding reef. Three such gardeners have been trained through the support of Sandals Resorts and the World Bank's PPCR programme.