Last year, we shared the sad truth that Jamaica’s coral reefs—due to overfishing, coastal pollution and climate change—may disappear within the next 20 years, and the story of one organization working to prevent that outcome. The Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary partnered with a local fishing cooperative to create a no-fishing zone and replenish the coral reefs of Oracabessa Bay. The sanctuary paid off, with over 2,000 new corals harboring twice as many fish in the bay since the no-fish zone launched in 2011. Also, a recent finding from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has shown an increase of 1,700 percent in biomass at Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary.
Recently, Outpostings caught up with Inilek Wilmot, manager of the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary, for an update on the efforts of the fish sanctuary.
Is The Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary the next environmental authority in Jamaica?
“The lessons we learned in Oracabessa, we can now apply them elsewhere,” Wilmot says, highlighting examples including the neighboring Boscobel Fish Sanctuary and White River Fish Sanctuary in Ocho Rios. The Oracabessa model means engaging with the community to make sure efforts are in sync, sharing power and building trust. Boscobel Fish Sanctuary has increased its fish biomass by an astonishing 500 percent, Wilmot tells Outpostings. “Everybody who makes a living from the sea, generally wants the same things: a healthy ocean,” Wilmot said, “They want to enjoy the ocean, and they want their children to enjoy it. That is our common ground.”
The Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary has exciting, new plans for the future.
In an effort to rely less on grants and become self-funding, the sanctuary hopes to expand and open a scuba shop. While the plans are still in the early stages, Oracabessa could be a world-class dive destination by 2025. “We want to make the sanctuary financially independent,” says Wilmot, “that is our goal.” The sanctuary has projected another 8,000 pieces of coral to ensure the continued growth of the reefs and its place as one of the best reefs to explore in the world.
The Sanctuary wants to build an epic underwater sculpture.
Inspired by innovative underwater sculptures in places like Grenada and Mexico, Wilmot hopes that the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary can construct one of its own. The sculptures act as artificial reefs and promote algae growth, supporting continued reef growth and protecting more fish. “We want to create something iconic,” Wilmot declares with a beaming smile.
We think the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary has already accomplished that, but we’re excited for what comes next.
To keep up with the continued efforts of the Orcabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary, visit http://www.oracabessafishsanctuary.org