Fish Reef Project Helps Halt Dynamiting of Fish

Captain’s Log: Fish Reef Project Helps Halt Dynamiting of Fish at South Pacific Island

There are rare and wonderful moments when actions have such monumental conservation impacts that it warms my heart and I must share the story.

One such story just came to fruition and may serve as a viable and readily accepted methodology for achieving great strides in conservation gains throughout the oceans of the world.

In 2016, Fish Reef Project surveyed the seafloor and met with tribal elders on a small island off the capital of Papua New Guinea called Fisherman’s Island.

More than 5,000 men and women live on the island and fish to feed themselves and supply fish to the capital. Some years back, they began to use dynamite to stun and catch fish, a practice common in the South Pacific region. The result is often fish depletion, dead coral and occasional loss of human life.

Fish Reef Project signed an agreement with the tribal elders of Fisherman’s Island whereby the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit promised to make them new reefs if they halted the use of dynamite.

“Three years later we kept our word and to our pleasant surprise, so did the fishermen. We deployed new reefs around the island to give coral and fish new places to thrive,” said Chris Goldblatt, Fish Reef Profject founder and executive director.

For the first time in history, an effective tool to stop dynamite fishing has been put into practice, but it requires working with fishermen rather than demonizing them.

It requires accepting them as they are and embracing the fact that they just want to go to work, and feed themselves and their families, and it is only with their help that can we achieve ocean health.

“Fish Reef Project is a rare bridge between all sides, as our only focus is a healthier ocean that we can all access for our own organic, local and sustainable supply of marine protein,” Goldblatt said.

My feeling is, this kind of agreement with fisherfolk worldwide, where specialized reefing is developed and deployed to enhance overall marine life, in exchange for commitments to practice sustainable fisheries, is something we can all support for the good of the world and the good of the hungry people of the world.

Contact Fish Reef Project through its website www.fishreef.org to offer your support for worldwide and local projects.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Captain’s Log: Cachuma Lake Critters Get a Boost

Local Girl Scouts dive right into Fish Reef Project

Fis Reef Project and Girl Scouts at Goleta Lemon Festival. Click to view larger

Fish Reef Project and Girl Scouts at Goleta Lemon Festival. (Courtesy photo)

A boost for wildlife was deployed in Cachuma Lake over the weekend by Fish Reef Project (FRP), after a permitting process that involved the state of California, Santa Barbara County and the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Two large Fish Reef units were deployed in an area where fish tend to congregate, and lake visitors like to go wet a line and enjoy the gorgeous county park. Trust me, if you are not a regular visitor to Cachuma Lake, you should be.

The project was a focus of a Fish Reef Project booth at the Goleta Lemon Festival recently, and a local Girl Scout troop provided the energy, enthusiasm and all-around support for the fish reef in Cachuma Lake and for a project to build a kelp restoration reef on the outer edge of Goleta Bay to restore a kelp forest that has been lost because of man’s activities, to provide Fish Reef unit habitat and homes for tonnage of fish, crustaceans and other sea life.

The reef unit that went into Cachuma Lake was quietly named Kaiden Vague Memorial Reef, after a local special-needs boy who lost his life in an accident earlier this year on his 16th birthday which he shared with his mom Tiffany.

Regulations preclude a plaque or other onsite memorialization, however the community knows the reef’s name.

The Girl Scouts were a collective bundle of positive enthusiasm, and the leadership of Paula Cassin and troop leader Lydia Swanson was amazing.

“I’m glad that we chose to help the Fish Reef project because the idea of putting something so useful in the water is great,” said Girl Scout Lilly Cassin, an eighth-grader at Goleta Valley Junior High.

Now that the fish reef is deployed, lake critters including fish will find it and benefit from it. This multi-agency cooperation with a nonprofit entity is heartening to see.

“The permitting process went smoothly, and I look forward to continued collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation, the state of California and the county of Santa Barbara,” said Chris Goldblatt, Fish Reef project founder and executive director.

The other project (still in planning) that the Girl Scout Troop and much of the community supports is FRP’s Goleta Kelp Reef Project.

It is designed to restore a historical natural kelp bed, provide habitat for mega bio-tonnage of new sea life, help Goleta Beach with sand accretion and retention, and provide UCSB with 100 years of study opportunities and related funding.

Paula Cassin said she was happy she saw the public service announcement on TV and contacted Goldblatt at FRP because the project to restore the kelp forest, which no longer regenerated naturally, off Goleta Beach is a great example of an intervention that helps both nature and people.

Lilly Cassin said, “For our Girl Scout Silver Project we have to help the community in a way that is sustainable. It has to last. The Fish Reef units last hundreds of years.”

Another Girl Scout, Annika Wagner, an eighth-grader at Marymount of Santa Barbara said, “It’s a win-win project for everyone in our community.

“This reef means more kelp which will attract more fish and the reef will also help stop beach erosion. It will still be in place hundreds of years from now, which is pretty cool.”

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. The opinions expressed are his own.

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