They call it the Emerald Island, and you can see why, with dense green vegetation on the slopes climbing straight out of the Caribbean waters. Narrow roads wind up along the steep streams, through neighborhoods sprawling through the northwest part of the island. Now home to fewer than 5,000 residents, Montserrat once had a bustling center in the southwest, now abandoned in the shadow of a smoking caldera. The volcano blew in 1995, sending mud and pyroclastic flows through the city, displacing the majority of Montserrat’s residents.
This is a special place to support ocean zoning, as many residents enjoy recreational fishing, if they are not commercial fishers themselves. They take pride in the natural beauty of the beaches, and the Tourism office is sure to promote the coast. More than once in our most recent trip, locals told us about the sea turtles that come to beaches across the west side of the island to lay eggs at night, and we even saw a Green making the trek up the sand.
The Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative has kicked off with a Listening Tour, working with local government and other partners to collect opinions, perception and priorities related to the use of ocean space and reef health over time. We brought SeaSketch along to capture spatial data and provide reference maps during these interviews. Speaking with a local restauranteur and recreational fisher, we were told about fish populations and fishing spots with reference to ‘before the volcano’ and ‘since the volcano’. Our conversations with others ranged from learning about the construction of fish pots used by fishers who have been at work for over four decades, to learning about enforcement priorities from the Marine Division police that patrol Montserrat’s waters. This was already Will’s third trip, and we can’t wait to get back.
You can check out publicly available maps, including nautical charts from before the eruption, at montserrat.seasketch.org.
If you are a Montserratian and would like to contribute to the Listening Tour, please email Robin Ramdeen, the Waitt Institute’s Site Manager [firstname.lastname@example.org].