Governor deJongh and his spineless DPNR commissioner just don't get it! The gill net ban is not the solution to St. Croix's overfishing problems, spearfishermen can easily harvest the fish that will not be harvested by the nets. The solution to the problem is management and the gill net fishermen were set the institute the first case of serious fishery management in the Virgin Islands. Management of fishery resources will not come from environmental groups pressuring weak government officials. It will only come from cooperating with the fishermen to develop programs that all can live with.
The Governor is too good a business man not to understand that management of fisheries just like any business takes constant management and adjustment. St. Croix's division of fish and wildlife, more specifically Toby Tobias have been in position to manage resources for a quarter of a century and yet have done nothing, choosing instead to concentrate on punishing a small group of local Virgin Islands fishermen who were willing to cooperate with management. The supposed $55,000 "buy out" is a sham replacement for a fishery which grossed $1.4 million last year.
St. Croix's DFW has ignored landings reports that fishermen are required to submit which indicated a developing problem for decades. In the case of conch, St. Croix landings have been above sustainable levels since 1991 and yet it was only in 2007 when I became Director (and landings were 8 times sustainable levels) was any action taken. Even then Toby and that anti fisherman talk shop he operates in St. Croix (the Fishery Advisory Committee) prevented me from getting management regulations promulgated before I finally resigned in frustration.
Now Federal regulations will be forthcoming for conch and all of the remainder of St. Croix's fisheries. They will in place in 2010 and Toby and his anti fisherman friends will be dancing in the streets while hard working Virgin Islands fishermen and local consumers will be paying the price.
Mathes laid it all out "there is no room for fishermen" because the fishery policy of the deJongh/Francis administration is the same as every other administration. Rather than supporting and enhancing a vital food production industry, noone is held accountable for their failures and the local Virgin Islands community must pay the price for incompetence, and prejudice against local fishermen.
David A. Olsen, Ph.D.
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