Minister of Agriculture, Sen. Haynesley Benn, on a recent tour of the Oistins Fish Market (FP)

Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn, has given Government’s Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project the “thumbs up”.

Speaking at the official launch this morning at the Oistins Bay Gardens Complex, the Agriculture Minister heaped “praise” on the initiative which was spearheaded by the Barbados Marine Trust, and supported by the United Nations Development Programme through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, specifically through the Coastal Zone Management Unit.

Aimed at enhancing the environment and improving community livelihoods, the Reef Balls Gardens Project was designed to assist in the restoration of coral and fish life.  It also seeks to increase public awareness among children and young adults about the importance of a healthy marine environment, as well as work with the Oistins fishing community to explore alternative fishing community enterprises, in order to reduce some of the stresses on fish stocks and to build capacity in these areas.

Senator Benn told the gathering: “The Reef Balls Garden’s function was to protect fingerlings, i.e. baby fish, from predators and provide them with a secure environment in which they can live and further develop.

 “Traditionally, those of you who are familiar with the marine industry would know that the baby fish would make use of the roots of the mangrove plants and corals to escape, but these habitats have themselves been destroyed by predators,” he emphasised.

Pointing out that the Oistins area had evolved into one of this country’s leading entertainment areas, Minister Benn said: “Oistins Fish Fry had now become so popular, it was now rated as the second highest attraction on the island, preceded only by Harrison’s Cave.”

However, the Minister cautioned that this cultural activity would be in danger, if there were no longer any fish to be caught.

“…The fish industry is of great economic and social importance to a large sector of our population.  During the past 60 years, the fishing industry has made tremendous strides to become an area of significant economic activity out of which several types of small businesses have evolved,” he surmised.

Acknowledging that these businesses include fish processing, fish retailing and wholesa ling, fish exporting and distribution, along with boat building, he added that small enterprises play a substantial role in a country’s economy.

“Historically, the fishing industry also provides an avenue for earning vital foreign exchange through fish exports, in addition to being a major contributor to local food security,” he underscored.

Over the next two years, various activities will be initiated with the Reef Ball Project. These include: traditional fishing boat tours to the Reef Ball Gardens in Oistins Bay; Marine Environmental viewing tours in Oistins to be conducted by local fisherfolk; as well as the installation of Reef Balls in underwater garden clusters, employing the use of local divers in the Christ Church facility.

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