by JADA CHAMBERS
Fish enthusiast, John Renton is shining a new light on the fishing industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as he presents a project, “An Inventory of the Fresh and Brackishwater Fish of St. Vincent.”
This project was introduced during a workshop held on Thursday, February, 9, at the conference room of the Forestry Division in Campden Park. The workshop was attended by forestry officers, and volunteers who will be participating in the field survey about the project and the methodology to be used.
Renton, a retired educator, who is the project’s lead researcher and programme manager spoke with SEARCHLIGHT on his aim of expanding and updating the study, and increasing awareness of the fresh water biodiversity of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Not many people really know about what fish and crayfish we have in the river, and I’m trying to increase public awareness about them so that we could conserve them because we don’t have a knowledge of what we actually have in the river, the fish is sort of invisible…”.
Renton also noted that very little is published about St Vincent’s freshwater fish and hopes appropriate conservation measures would be put in place to protect the island’s freshwater ecosystems which are under increasing threat.
“So far I have identified 17 fish species in 12 families from fresh and brackish waters in St Vincent. These include the economically important Sicydium gobies (tri tri), and the American eel which is considered endangered by the The International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN).”
In this project, participants will conduct a field survey to make the first complete inventory of the fresh and brackish water fish of St Vincent.
The results would then be published in an open access peer reviewed journal, and the public would be educated about St Vincent’s freshwater biodiversity by a plastic fish identification card that will be produced and distributed to assist students and the public to identify freshwater fish.
In addition there will be outreach activities that will be conducted with students through lectures and field trips.
The survey will include 14 river systems as well as rivers from all catchments in St Vincent.
The seine net survey will take place at 48 stations which are intended to represent all river types classified by Harrison and Rankin who were two scientists that did research on fish in St Vincent in 1975. However, their research was incomplete due to the lack of proper equipment. Renton said that he hopes to continue what they started, and improve on it.
In fact, field work has already begun, and attendees at the workshop were able to practice seine survey methods and were informed about the many types of fish that can be found in waters of St Vincent.
Participants also took a field trip to the Buccament Bay River and the Dalaway River in Vermont to execute what they learnt.
The project is being done in collaboration with the Forestry Division and the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority.
Renton was able to pursue this project as a result of a grant awarded to him by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund (SVGEF). He hopes to work along with five fishing experts in their own right, including Shem Gaymes who demonstrated his own ways of catching fish learnt from personal experiences.
These activities will be conducted throughout the year, with field work slated for January to April.
Analysis and draft publication will take place between May and August, and delivery of outreach from September to December.
Representative from the SVGEF and project coordinator, Stephan Hornsey said he is very excited about the project and working along with Renton to introduce this phenomenon to the fishing industry.
“When John brought this to our attention, we thought it was incredibly interesting. He brought not only the project to our attention, but also the lack of information on this very culturally relevant project as it relates to what’s in the rivers, and how people interact with the rivers, and even to the point with what we know in a scientific way and what we know in a cultural way and what those differences are,” Hornsey related.
“ I think what’s really fascinating is how he’s going to bring all these worlds together, the science world and the cultural world, to make a fascinating report that he will write to students, to people in the science realm as well as throughout St Vincent to learn about what’s happening in St. Vincent’s rivers.”