By Ayana Elizabeth, Shah Selbe
Ayana: Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Caribbean governments and stakeholders about potential ways to restore and sustainably manage their oceans. I speak about how marine reserves increase the number and size of fish, and restore ecosystems. How protecting key herbivores (parrotfish, surgeonfish, and urchins) can reduce the algae that has overgrown many of the region’s reefs, allowing corals to recover. How a comprehensive zoning paired with appropriate fisheries regulations can re-build depleted reefs and fisheries. The response is usually something along the lines of: “Sounds great in theory, but how do we enforce it? We don’t need help making laws we can’t enforce.”
It certainly wouldn’t feel like an accomplishment to me or to the Waitt Institute if we helped to create a fancy plan to sustainably manage a country’s ocean resources, and then it collected dust. I’m allergic to dust. Luckily, about this time I met Shah Selbe, a crackerjack marine enforcement technologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer.
Shah: I am an engineer and conservation technologist focused on identifying how technology can be used to monitor and protect our oceans. I work with passionate conservation organizations and fishing communities worldwide. The great work people are doing to set up marine sanctuaries and utilize zoning to restore our ocean ecosystems is inspiring.
However, once protected areas are established, they must be monitored and enforced. Unfortunately, the traditional enforcement methods we have always relied on are very resource-intensive and out of the reach of the communities that need them most. This is where our recent advances in technology can help. My work revolves around bringing low-cost technology solutions to coastal communities. I am collaborating with the Waitt Institute to identify how Barbudans can best protect the coastal waters around Barbuda.
Ayana: Shah came down to Barbuda, where I am working with the fishermen, local government, and community to facilitate and enable the creation of a Sustainable Coastal Policy. We toured the island by land and sea, to figure out what the most promising enforcement approaches would be. This may seem like putting the cart before the horse, to develop an enforcement plan before the new laws and regulations are finalized, but we wanted to start discussing enforcement options with the government and community sooner than later. The “but how do we enforce it question?” certainly isn’t going away, and the need to be able to patrol the entirety of the coastal waters isn’t either.
So we used the draft coastal zoning plan as a guide and scoped out some options. We spent a week discussing and surveying with the insightful folks at Barbuda Fisheries and Codrington Lagoon Park. Knowing the island like the back of their hand, they have a lot of good ideas about what might work and what won’t. The local knowledge they shared about where there is no cell phone service, where illegal fishing is concentrated, and what roads are impassable certain times of the year are valuable for developing an enforcement plan. More....