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Residents voice illegal fishing concerns

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Telltale signs: fragments of protected West Indian Tops and lobsters caught out of season litter the shore just outside Dockyard (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Rampant illegal fishing, including the poaching of protected species along with lobster out of season, has been exposed by concerned residents at the West End.

Alleging that sea creatures are being hauled ashore and eaten by staff disembarking from Dockyard cruise ships, the residents spoke out after repeatedly attempting to contact authorities.

Remains of parrot fish and West Indian Tops, both of which are protected, are left on the shore with the shells of spiny lobster, which at present are out of season.

So frustrated are locals at the state of the fishing hole, marred by cooking fires and litter, that the words “keep clean” have been scratched into the rocks. The site lies near a jutting formation known as Pulpit Rock, on the ocean-facing shore just outside the entrance to Dockyard.

On a visit four days ago by The Royal Gazette, the freshly cooked leavings of poached marine life lay with bottle caps and cigarette butts around a cooking fire.

Photographs provided by the diving aficionados show that the shoreline gatherings are not a one-off event. The group, asking not to be identified, said they had initially contacted the Port Authority, and were referred to government fishing wardens — but their calls were seldom answered, and a complaint given a month ago did not appear to have deterred continued poaching.

However, the group reported getting a response last Thursday — and were hopeful it would get traction.

“It kills me to see stuff like this,” said one man. “When I first came down here two years ago to clean up, we took away 22 trash bags, but now it’s all being undone.”

Asked if cruise ship crews from other countries might not understand Bermuda’s fishing rules, he replied: “My friend asked them what they were bringing in, and he was told ‘just snapper’. It’s almost like they know.”

Sorry state: a firepit used to cook illegally caught fish. Local people are upset by the condition of the fishing area (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
Constant litter at a West End fishing hole prompted this message scratched into the rocks (Photograph supplied)
Scattered debris: a West End swimming spot where residents allege poaching is regularly carried out (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
Eyesore scene: trash is regularly tossed along the shore at this illegal fishing site (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)