By BRENT McDONALD
CÔTES DES ARCADINS, Haiti
Haiti has the second-longest coastline of all the Caribbean countries, yet it is the only one that has not established marine protected areas where fishing is restricted or off-limits, according to the United Nations Environment Program. So Reef Check decided to survey the reefs and propose that the Haitian government create marine parks where fish can feed, grow and reproduce.
“It’s an unusual situation to come into a country where there are no marine ecologists with respect to coral reefs and no marine biology programs in universities,” Mr. Hodgson said. “We’re starting from square one.”
Pierre Guy LaFontant, Haiti’s director general of fisheries, acknowledged that overfishing was a problem and said that officials were receptive to the idea of establishing protected waters. But if the government cannot enforce its existing fishing regulations, can fishermen be persuaded to abide by an invisible line in the water?
“That would be my deepest dream,” Mr. LaFontant said, “but the reality is totally different. For fishermen, there are no alternatives. Poverty is the law.”
Under Reef Check’s guidance, once volunteers demonstrate proficiency in swimming and snorkeling, they will eventually be taught to scuba dive, map the reefs foot by foot and count crucial species of fish, urchins and lobsters — basically, anything people like to eat.