Portland, Jamaica is one of the most breath-taking and spectacular areas on the island and is the pride of each and every member of the community. The coast is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Jamaica, due to its dramatic coastline at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, its tropical low land rainforest habitat, its rich mangroves, wetlands, pristine beaches and great snorkelling and diving locations. Portland’s diverse habitats also include numerous mineral springs, waterfalls, and the world famous 180ft deep Blue Lagoon, an area of outstanding natural beauty and national importance.
For the past two years, the Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy, Austria, has been collaborating with the University of the West Indies, Portland Environment Protection Association and the Alligator Head Marine Laboratory, Portland to establish a Fish Sanctuary in East Portland, Jamaica.
The Mission – To revitalize natural systems and restore marine life.
Strong international and local partnership saw Jamaica’s top marine scientists committing their expertise for 5-years in the first instance, to conduct sound marine scientific research to guide policy and legislation to build a strong case for the protection of this critical coastline. (AHML Baseline Assessment, 2015).
Community participation has been key to project success. Local fisherfolk have been engaged from the outset and involved throughout the decision making process. Over 40 Public consultations and workshops were held at various fishing beaches, schools, community centres and community events in partnership with CARIBSAVE and PEPA (PEPA SFCA Report, 2015) between Hope Bay (West) and Manchioneal (East), Portland. The Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico; a UNESCO World Heritage Site and internationally renowned model of community-lead participatory management has been sharing its best practice solutions and guiding discussions.
In July 2016, The East Portland Special Fishery Conservation Area, was officially gazetted under the Jamaican Fishing Industry Act. After extensive research, focussed lobbying efforts and hard work this critical coastline has now received the much needed attention it deserved. The Fish Sanctuary represents the first major step in our ocean conservation initiatives. The international recognition of this protected area as a Mission Blue Hope Spot and the recent inscription of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site marks the beginning of a rising wave of appreciation for Portland’s natural wonder and marks out intentions of establishing Portland’s second UNECSO World Heritage Site by 2025.
Our efforts also extend to the local people. To support this project and the communities most affected by the Fish Sanctuary, the Alligator Head Foundation has been established to deliver research, education, outreach and training to enable communities to adopt the tools needed to build a thriving, sustainable relationship with the sea. Through collective action and targeted restoration, we aim to restore productivity, environmental sustainability and create thriving communities.