CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition running here on the blog. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on Wednesday 22nd September 2021 in the Daily Observer:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
For CREATIVE SPACE #19 and #20 of 2021, the focus is two remarkable women working in marine spaces, speaking about their journey and the culture around the sea in Antigua and Barbuda, what needs to change, how they are a part of changing things, and how more people can dip their toe in the water.
CREATIVE SPACE #20 OF 2021 – MARINE CULTURE 2 OF 2: FINITE RESOURCES, OCEAN LAW, AND COMMUNITY ACTION, WITH TRICIA LOVELL
(Click for CREATIVE SPACE #19 OF 2021 – MARINE CULTURE 1 OF 2: FEAR OF SWIMMING, WITH CHRISTAL CLASHING O’REILLY)
Tricia Lovell is currently in Sweden pursuing a doctoral degree at the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden. She’s investigating specifically derelict fishing gear in the context of small scale fisheries. She explained: “What I have been doing so far is really looking at what legislation and policies currently exist; where the gaps in our legislation may lie. So, for instance, looking at the fisheries laws specifically in the OECS, do they need to be strengthened? … e.g. does your legislation necessitate fishermen reporting if gear is lost?”
It’s early days yet but the fisheries officer comes to this largely socio-economic research with a well-established track record in marine management and ocean governance – work which has landed her on almost every continent, usually for training, with a healthy side of adventure. On a training in Australia on reef management, she visited the Great Barrier Reef; in Cancun, Mexico, a course on wildlife crimes (like the poaching of sea turtles), included “simulation exercises like doing a stakeout on the beach.”
Her work takes her often to the water, which is not what she herself might have expected, considering that, “when I was growing up I was terrified of the sea.” Coming from the land-locked, island-urban community of Ottos, beach visits were rare. She credits the public library summer programme, library chief Mrs. Phyllis Mayers in particular – “she really got us out and you got to see a different side of Antigua” – and teachers “passionate about environmental issues” like Mrs. Cleo Cooper, at Christ the King High School, who would take her class on field trips.
“The things I loved about school were the activities that took me out doors,” Tricia said, and that began the process of fine-tuning her career destination. “I knew I didn’t want to be anything in an office.”
That said, it was neither a conscious nor quick decision. Her first degree is in Mathematics and Biology and she taught primary school for a year before going on to Dalhousie in Canada to pursue a Masters in Marine Management. That’s when she was exposed to the larger issues – issues related to international ocean governance – that led her to her work with the government at Fisheries.
“We are responsible for management of the fishing sector, the orderly management of the fishing sector, so that means that we’re looking at licensing and regulating fishing activity but more broadly we are responsible for management of the marine space; that means not just the fish but also the environment and the ecology. So your reef systems need to be healthy and what are the roles that Fisheries play in doing that – monitoring the management of these spaces, declaring areas that might be critical habitats, and, of course collaborating with other agencies. A lot of the work that we have been doing in Fisheries has been through cooperation with government agencies but also non-governmental agencies as well.”
This has included lending technical support to conservation projects like the Offshore Islands Conservation Programme, which started out as the Antigua Racer Snake Project, and the Redonda project, which saw the wholesale revival of a barren offshore island.
The thing that’s most misunderstood about the marine environment is, Tricia said, “grounded in some of the traditional view of the world… ‘fish cyaan done’, ‘ah God sea water’, so it should be a free for all because ‘it don’t belong to anybody’, but if it doesn’t belong to anybody then it also means that nobody’s responsible for taking care of it. Obviously we know that that’s not the case.”
We know, too, at this point, or should, that the maritime world, rich though it is, is not a never ending source of resources – the damage to the coral reefs and mangroves, the littering of the seas and oceans with plastics, which are harmful to marine life, and other waste, the depletion of fish stocks, etc., have all been so well documented you don’t have to have read those documents to be aware of these setbacks.
One of the ways those responsible for maritime management, Fisheries in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, tries to reverse the setbacks and get us closer to a ‘Blue Economy’ (i.e. sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihood), is through closed fishing seasons – which means those periods in which it is illegal to not only fish for protected denizens of the sea (e.g. conch or parrotfish) but illegal to hoard and/or consume them. And, no, these dates can’t be moved wily nily.
“These dates are not arbitrary dates,” Tricia said. “They relate primarily to the biology of the animal. So what you’re trying to protect with the closed season is spawning activity. Basically, what we’re saying to people ‘you like to have lobster, you want to be able to have lobster?’ Going forward you have to allow the animals to naturally do what they’re going to do.”
Spawning is when the females release eggs and the males release sperm to fertilize the eggs, their version of mating season – without which the species will not continue.
Tricia said the livelihoods of fisher folk were taken in to account, accounting for our shorter closed seasons, two months, relative to some other places in the region.
“It doesn’t mean that in the future, if the resource requires it…(that it won’t be lengthened)…it all comes back to the biology of the animal, what is happening with the stock,” she said. That’s the future? What of the present?
“It’s getting better,” Tricia said, noting that with fisheries management “everything is ever changing…and there are other pressures that are acting on the resource that are outside of fisheries; climate change, tourism activities, the health of your reef, your marine debris, run off from land, all of these pressures, and trying to balance that with what the fishermen are doing; it’s is a unique problem …the complexity of managing marine space is, I think, people need to understand, a significantly more complex activity than people who are dealing with terrestrial systems.”
One example of this complexity, a species protected in one area can move through the fluid borders in to an area where it is unprotected – emphasizing the need for treaties across these borders to protect them.
The most critical issue, though, is “all the external pressures…climate change, it’s a big one, existential threat.” Development (typically tourism) projects that disregard or destroy the marine environment (e.g. mangroves which bring stability by, among other things, preventing erosion and serving as a buffer against storm surges) is another big one.
An obvious question is do the people in the field, like Tricia, have the buy-in of the government they work under; in response, Tricia chooses to emphasize people-power. “A lot of times, the politicians may not listen to us as technicians but they do listen to the voters, so communities need to stand up for what it is that they want, that’s going to be critical going forward. And the other thing is you also have to have developers with an open mind.”
See the video at Antiguanwriter on YouTube for a discussion of some of the projects where stakeholders intervened for a more environmentally-friendly outcome. “Basically what we do is we look at the small wins…that’s all you can do, otherwise you’re going to go crazy.”
A lot has been lost in terms of the marine and coastal environment, Tricia noted, but all has not been lost. And, trite though it may sound, where there’s life, there’s hope.
“For me, I think what is critical is for us to recognize as individuals (is) that the smallest act you do as an individual affects wider systems….our role may seem small but it is impactful.” The simple choice, individually, of how to discard our waste for instance, and the decision to go outside. “If people connect with nature, they will hopefully, my view is they will take ownership of it and try to be positive in the way they deal with nature,” Tricia said. “Nature can’t be seen as this existential thing, we have to be a part of it.”
From the interview –
Tricia on development projects: “You have businesses that build their whole brand around eco-tourism within the marine environment. You have kayaking tours and snorkeling tours and diving tours, and all these things are eco-tourism. The problem is a lot of times the thinking is you’ve got to go big to have a big economic impact, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of times the development projects that we’re seeing as a country and a government or particular agencies within government, we have to be able to say, ‘there is another way, your model is not necessarily the best one… you don’t need to build a five rise hotel 10 feet from the beach, you can do eco lodges, charge twice as much or three times as much and have the same economic return.”
“You need to go outside,” Tricia urged. Which, as we discussed, is a theme of my latest children’s picture book The Jungle Outside.
Highlights of the interview with Tricia Lovell.
Additional background/research –
On Tricia –
An interview with Tricia Lovell on becoming a leader in marine management in the region.
On Marine/Sea/Ocean issues –
Closed seasons in Antigua and Barbuda (Source Antigua Nice)
‘Closed Seasons for Queen Conch: Why are they Necessary’ – EAG Talk, Environmental Awareness Group in the Daily Observer
“allowing reproductive activity to proceed unhindered is crucial to ensuring the survival of fisheries stocks.” – Queen conch because of how it reproduces and its slow moving/sedentary nature is more vulnerable to stock collapse – no stockpiling allowed – as this would put pressure on the stock prior to the closed season.
‘Large Scale Coral Restoration Project Enters Decisive Phase’ by Orville Williams in the Daily Observer
– Elkhorn Marine Conservancy will be focused on planting primarily elkhorn coral in the eastern area of the island close to offshore islands Green and York, where the coral has been severely damaged over the years due to a mixture of human impact, disease outbreaks, and climate events. The live coral will be planted on to dead coral – the main nursery, also a demonstration site will be at Ten Pound Bay on Green Island – hoping Green Island’s popularity will boost awareness of the project – “Also [we’ll be] getting a lot of input from the local fishermen in terms of how they use the area, how they want to be involved and how this project could potentially benefit the fisheries in the area as well.”
‘The High Seas Treaty: For Life Beyond the Law’ by Britney Hay, High Seas Youth Ambassador, in EAG Talk in The Daily Observer
“The high seas generate most of the world’s oxygen, is one of the largest havens of biodiversity on the planet, and is critical to our fight against climate change.”. Per the article, which discusses an international treaty under discussion at the UN, threats to marine life include pollution, climate change, and overfishing.
Antigua and Barbuda’s premiere environmental advocacy group – foundation of the OICP and other projects – is the Environmental Awareness Group.
The OECS project to reduce marine pollution in the Eastern Caribbean is supporting initiatives in several countries. This includes, in Antigua and Barbuda, Sound Land Based Waste Management Technologies. The project’s aim is to “implement a Community Based Waste Management System leading towards the reduction of marine debris (including Plastic).”
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