Fishing Regulations & my impressions of their impact

The Vauxhall Reef is one of 8 Fringing Reefs in the Folkestone MPA. Fishing is banned within the MPA, but still occurs to a limited extent.

This year (Jan 12-Mar 28, 2024) I have seen one and been told of another spear-fisher fishing in the nearshore MPA (0ne tourist, one local resident); I spoke to one of them, he said fishing is banned only in the vicinity of The Wreck; I am told that the other spear-fisher said he was fishing only for Lion Fish.

Bajans keep a look-out for spear-fishers in the MPA: as I was bobbing up and down taking photos one day with a net bag on my back of the sort often used by spearfishers, a jet skier approached me and told me that spear-fishing is not allowed. (I showed him my camera and we had a laugh about it.)

Reads the sign on wall at left: “NO FISHING by order of Management. Maximum Penalty of $1000 ir 6 months imprisonment or both” The sign was apparently posted in mod-2023.

Line- or Rod-fishing from shore was common  when I was in Barbados in the  2015-2023 interval,  but I have seen none this year. UPDATE Apr 13, 2024: Subsequently and up to Apr 10, 2024,  I observed 3 line-fishers, all in the vicinity of Reefs 33 and 32; all were tourists. I spoke to two of them, they said they were told that it was not allowed in the area of Surfside where they were fishing previously but was Ok further south  (headland in Reef 33 area). I told them about the sign (right) but they kept on fishing.

Fish Traps
I have not seen any fish traps within the MPA in contrast to the earlier days (1960s) when they were numerous.

Video of fish close to breaking waves on a degraded reef

Now and in ‘The Old Days’
There were very few larger fish in those earlier days (mid 1960s into the 1970s) especially parrotfish which are common today. In general, outside of the MPA larger fish are much fewer in my perception. Within the MPA, fish populations & diversity vary considerably spatially and over time. While it is my impression  that fish numbers, sizes, diversity are highest  at Vauxhall, especially on the Seaward Slope compared to other fringing reefs within the MPA,  there can be large aggregations of fish on highly degraded reefs e.g., close the reef crest when waves are breaking there, and around some but notably not all  breakwaters. There are concentrations of fish in areas where they are fed (for benefit of tourists) such as  over  some wrecks, and in the turtle-feeding area just north of Surfside. In these fish-feeding areas, the species diversity tends to be low.

Differences Barbados & Carriacou
Very striking to me are differences I have observed over time between Carriacou (Grenada) and Barbados. In earlier days (1968/9) fish were large and plentiful in nearshore waters of Carriaco, while they were perhaps plentiful but mostly small in Barbados. In 2016 when I returned to Carriacou, I was shocked by the extreme sparsity of fish of any size in nearshore waters – in sharp contrast with what I was seeing on the Vauxhall Reef. I believe the decline at Carriacou is attributable to both reef degradation and overfishing.

So overall, my impression is that fish populations within the MPA and at Vauxhall in particular, although still far from what they would be in a pristine state, are in better shape than elsewhere in the nearshore and to some extent are better than they were in the 1960s, and that this is attributable to management. This is hardly unexpected – there is scientific evidence for the benefits of the Barbados MPA on fish populations (Chapman and Kramer, 1999).