There would be limited re-entry of sea urchins (sea eggs) in the hunting season this July and August as the authorities in collaboration with fishermen in Grenada prepare to embark upon a series of studies on the specie, according to Chief Fisheries Officer in the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Justin Rennie.
The sea urchin is a preferred delicacy for visitors and locals alike.
However, in 1996, due to severe depletion of the species due to over fishing to meet increasing demands regionally and in the local tourism industry, a moratorium was enacted to allow for its resuscitation and a closed season became effective from January 1to December 31 each year.
According to Chief Fisheries Officer a study would be conducted this year “to ensure that we can have limited re-entry of the reopening” of the hunting season for the sea urchin.
“We are looking at July, August,” he told THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Rennie said the season was reopened for two months about two years ago to allow for the monitoring of the species and for some studies to be conducted.
However, he said things did not go as planned as “it was not successful” and “we had to close the season again.”
He stated that this time around the Fisheries Division would be working along with the fishermen to ensure proper monitoring of the species.
“We have had a number of studies taking place to ensure that the stock is of such a level that we can reopen the fishery,“ Rennie said, while pointing out that it is important that the fishermen understand what is happening, as this would aid with the success of the study.
“We are hearing from them (the fishermen) that there are a lot of sea urchins, but there could be a lot in certain areas and in other areas they are basically non-existent. So the issue has to be the entire status of the stock,” he added.
“It would not be a total open season for everyone,” Rennie said as he announced that “licenses would be issued” to ensure that the fishermen cooperate and provide the Division with the relevant information as it relates to the monitoring aspects of the species.
Meanwhile, the closed season for lobsters and turtles commenced May 1st and ends August 31st.
As a conservation measure, during the closed season the hunting, fishing, sale or trade of certain marine species is prohibited in order to ensure their recuperation.
Under the law, persons, fishermen and commercial houses could face up to two years in prison or be fined EC$5, 000 or both if caught with these specific species in their possession during the closed season.
The Chief Fisheries Officer explained that “for the commercial houses such as restaurants and hotels that offer those species for sale…they have already been contacted to ensure that they declare their stock and that these species should not be offered for sale during the closed season.”
“We would give them two weeks into the closed season to ensure that they get rid of their stock…if they do not get rid of it then they have to stop the sale of it until the season reopens again,” he added.
Rennie dubbed the conservation period as a “critical” measure explaining that “because those species are very vulnerable in terms of how they are hunted,” hence “a period of rest” is required in terms of preservation to “allow them to increase their population and for the little ones to grow properly.”
“It’s for the benefit and the good of the industry…because if you are going to fish a particular animal to extinction, it makes no sense so that is why we are ensuring that the conservation is such that the animals should be protected during the close season”, he remarked.