Save Macqueripe from spearguns
The beach at Macqueripe is small but quite popular with bathers especially on weekends. Apart from persons lazing around on the sand and others frolicking in the shallow water, lots of others are also swimming further out and across the bay.
The place therefore becomes fairly crowded on weekends and more so on public holidays.
One worrying and highly undesirable trend that seems to be increasing, however, is the growing number of spear fishermen who are all over the bay hunting for fish particularly on weekends. There are two concerns with this activity. One is that these spear fishermen are endangering others who are using the area for bathing, swimming or snorkelling. The poor water visibility increases the risk of an accident which can be fatal.
Apart from injury to persons, there is the matter of shooting any and everything that swims or crawls. Since there are usually no game fish in the bay, the graceful and slow-swimming angel fishes become the main targets, and they are very easy targets. Our members have personally seen spear fishermen with strings of angel fish that they had shot in the bay.
The T&T Eco-Divers Club is particularly incensed by this since this bay is unique not only on the north coast but perhaps in all of Trinidad. For one, it is easily accessible by road, with normally quite calm waters, but most importantly it is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. It is one of the few, if not only place in Trinidad where you can simply swim out from the beach and see exotic fish species including angel fish, parrot fish, eels, eagle rays, porcupine fish and dozens of other fish species. Also seen are soft corals, stony corals, octocorals, sponges, sea urchins, flame clams, the occasional turtle, several algal species and a host of other invertebrate species too numerous to list here.
Members of the T&T Eco-Divers Club have been so impressed with the diversity of species that are found here that they plan to lobby the authorities to have the bay declared a protected area. The intention is that you can still swim, snorkel or dive, but the only additional equipment you would be allowed to carry is a camera. Certainly not a spear gun!
The Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) is the landlord of the area and has placed a sign at the top of the stairs leading down to the beach which clearly states that spear fishing is prohibited. The CDA should therefore insist that the "no spear gun" rule is observed at all times. While the CDA may claim that it has no jurisdiction in the water, it certainly has jurisdiction in the car park, steps and beach itself. It can and should therefore seize any spear gun found on its property before it is taken into the water.
Marine species are under threat all over the world. Coral reefs are declining, mangrove swamps are in retreat, sea grass beds are disappearing and world fish stocks are in crisis. So let us cherish and protect what we have remaining in our country, so that not only the present generation but future generations could also see, enjoy and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the creatures that live in the seas around us. They deserve no less. Unique marine communities in places like Macqueripe Bay must therefore be protected and treated with care, love and respect.
T&T Eco-Divers Club