Haitians fish down food chain

Dwindling fish

Haiti’s coral reefs are the most overfished in the world, according to initial survey results released by Reef Check, a nonprofit that keeps tabs on reefs around the world.

A team working to compile the first complete survey of Haiti’s 600 miles of coastal reefs focused their first round of research near La Gonave, a large island near Haiti’s mainland. There, researchers found almost no signs of food fish (fish eaten by humans) of reproductive age or plant-eating fish, a sign that fishermen are “fishing down the food chain”—going after smaller, forage fish.

Without plant-eating fish, algae and sponges have overgrown and now occupy more than 50 percent of the reefs, while living coral occupies less than 10 percent. Researchers also reported seeing fish traps, nets and other fishing tools strewn about the area.

Haiti’s coastal reefs are supposed to be home to a diverse population of Caribbean fish and invertebrate species. After the rest of Haiti’s reefs are surveyed, a full report will be submitted to Haiti’s minister of environment, along with a suggested plan of how to create a network of marine protected areas and establish the concept of reef conservation among Haitians.