Staff from the Department of Environmental Protection are troubled to report a serious poaching incident which took place on the morning of Wednesday, July 1st when Fisheries wardens on patrol observed a person snorkeling in the vicinity of Cooper’s Island (adjacent to Nonsuch Island) and acting in a suspicious manner.
The snorkeler refused to respond to enquiries and would not show his face, but simply showed his empty hands and then swam off. The wardens retraced his path and found a spear and a string with 42 recently speared fish on the seabed in shallow water, plus another recently speared fish floating on the surface.
As members of the public are likely to be aware, anyone wishing to spear fish in Bermuda requires a licence from the Department of Environmental Protection, and spear fishing is not allowed within 1 nautical mile of the shore. Further, of the dead fish recovered, 41 were parrotfish, a family of fishes that have been protected under Bermuda law since 1993 and which may not be taken or harmed.
Parrotfish are protected because they play an important role in coral reef habitats, keeping seaweed under control and also contributing to the formation of sand. The Fisheries Act, 1972, provides for a fine of up to $50,000 for violations involving species included under the Fisheries (Protected Species) Order 1978.
The fisheries wardens said, “Given the quantity of fish involved, it seems likely that these fish were intended for sale. The public and restauranteurs are reminded that purchasing fish, particularly speared fish, from anyone who is not a registered fisherman is an offence under the Fisheries Act, and that simply being in possession of dead parrotfish puts them in violation of the Fisheries (Protected Species) Order as well.”
Anyone who might have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact the fisheries wardens on 7053474 or 2935600, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, anyone witnessing a fisheries offence should call the FISHTIPS hotline (7053474) or the police immediately.
Please share for our collective disgust, and those who know who it is, name and shame...
One of the problems is that parrotfish are very social and territorial so this whole section of coastline has now been wiped out.