OPINION PIECE

Written by on September 28, 2014

CARRIACOU MPA IN SHAMBLES

Numerous complaints by yacht and boating enthusiasts about conditions in the Carriacou MPA, perked the writer’s curiosity. Upon investigation and a phone call to a former chairman of Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area, it became apparent that there were no warden patrols for months, no moorings, no management leadership, and the MPA office in his words, “kept like a garbage dump.”

 

After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area (SIOBMPA), the public should be outraged – particularly, the fisher folks in villages of Tyrell and L’esterre bays – who are restricted from fishing in their ancestral fishing grounds – while Dive Operators are having a bonanza with unrestricted access.

 

The writer urges the public to visit the MPA office at Market Street, Hillsborough, to observe (see with your own eyes) conditions inside — wardens have been seen sitting outside, the former chairman said, “waiting on instructions from an absent overpaid manager.”

 

The writer is supportive of any venture that brings revenue to Carriacou, Dive Operators are no exception, though recent and foreign owned. However, local fishers who have for eons been dependent on traditional fishing banks ( from which their great, great grandparents all their lives supported families and generations of off springs)  have now been displaced by the official designation of Sandy Island and Oyster Bed areas as a Marine Protected Area in 2010.

 

Recent SIOBMPA history has been turbulent; the impact has negatively affected sustainable livelihoods in the area, with no prospect of relief.

 

The writer has been reliably informed that the legally elected stakeholder Board of Directors was abruptly disbanded, on October 22nd 2013, after its first board meeting,by the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs – no reason given! Arbitrary and capricious decisions have no place in democratic governance.

 

What was the protocol followed? The writer’s investigate research yielded the following:

“The Grenada Fisheries (Marine Protected Areas) Order, 2001 (SRO No 77 of 2001) regulations section (4) provides for a Management Committee for MPA. This Committee which was appointed by Cabinet in 2010 has the legal responsibility for the management of all MPA’s in the tri-island state.

 

The MPA Management Committee has the mandate to delegate responsibility for the management of a particular MPA to a stakeholder Board or stakeholder Committee; the SIOBMPA Management Board  shall be  authorized by the MPA Management Committee to carrying out management responsibilities for the SIOBMPA.”

 

After several attempts over many months of haggling, the break-away SIOBMPA selected its own Board without the knowledge and approval of the “Statuary National MPA Authority.” The Carriacou MPA has become an authority unto itself.

 

Since then, absolutely nothing has been put in place, with the exception of a non -functional manager, who the writer understands as a matter of public record, is salaried at more than EC$3,000.00 per month through a grant from an NGO. The manager allegedly still collects a monthly salary from a civil service position in government and also sits on the SIOBMPA Board of Directors.  It appears to be a conflict of interest since the manager must report to the Board.  He reports to his colleagues and himself?  Quite a nifty arrangement!

 

While the manager’s pocket is lined from the coffers of the MPA, pittance goes to the people most affected by the MPA.  The question may be asked, “Who benefits most from the MPA?”  The writer and any reasonable and rational person may conclude that the fishers are at the short end of the stick.

 

SIOBMPA has a new EC$85,000.00, twenty five foot boat armed with two new (out of the box) seventy five (75) Horse Power engines launched with much fanfare weeks ago, but yet to be put into service. As of this writing, yachts report – no moorings or patrols! Where is the management?  After months of no patrols and thousands lost in revenue waiting for a new boat, why the delay? Certainly, that would have given any “competent” manager enough lead-time to plan properly? 

 

This raises another important question, at EC$3,000.00, would it not have been – in these hard economic times with high unemployment – less controversial and relatively easy to attract a suitably qualified manager through the normal transparent advertising process with selection from a qualified pool by an independent panel?  Absent of that process, how can SIOBMPA be assured that it has hired the best and most suitable candidate? From the evidence thus far, it is clear that it has not.

 

What was the selection process and who made the final decision?  Until those questions are answered, the hiring of the present SIOBMPA manager will remain a phantom process.

 

Of interest to note, the manager hired – by the disbanded SIOBMPA board – under the co-management agreement with the National MPA Board – underwent the strict due diligence and transparency process with competitive hiring through public media advertising.

 

The performance of the present management thus far should raise eyebrows and cast a dark shadow over the manager’s performance.  Since tax payers have, over the four years of the park’s operation, borne a heavy and unstainable financial burden, doling out thousands of dollars with no social or economic benefit to vulnerable fishers in the affected areas, the writer is calling upon the tax payers of this country and the government to pay closer attention to the operation of SIOBMPA and the stress from that financial and emotional drain saddling hard working tax payers, particularly Carriacouans.

 

The writer thinks that these sorts of practices that quietly slip through the cracks may not be isolated and urge the authorities, in the strongest terms, to condemn and root out such practices wherever they exist. The message from Prime Minister Mitchell is unambiguous, activities that threaten to tarnish his legacy and the image of Grenada will not be tolerated – maybe, like everything else, it’s slow in reaching Carriacou.

 

When concerned citizens put on notice both the wider public and the government, corrective measures will follow. The conundrum is that we frequently profess that we are the government, and that real power resides in the people, us, but disavow that claim when we must turn to action, back off, and charge elected officials.

 

Strange!!

 


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