Until 1991, MoBay’s offshore reefs remained open to attack from plunderers, spear fishers, divers, boat anchors and industrial pollution. In an attempt to stem the destruction, Montego Bay Marine Park was created, Jamaica’s first national park with environmental regulations enforced by rangers. Running west from Sangster Airport to Great River, just past Reading, the park comprises fourteen square kilometres of coral reef, sea-grass and mangrove, divided into watersports, fishing and fish nursery zones. Within the park, it’s illegal to mine sand, damage or move coral, shells and seaweed, fish without a permit, spear-fish – and drop litter, too. Other initiatives have included the introduction of buoys along the major reefs, so that pleasure-cruise snorkelling stops don’t result in damaged coral, the replacement of small mesh used for fish and lobster traps with larger mesh to allow young specimens a chance to reach maturity, and annual reef fish counts, to assess conservation success. Though funding, staff shortages and lack of policing resources make it difficult to run the permit system effectively, patrols and education projects aimed at educating fishermen (and their children) on alternative means of income do take place, alongside numerous restriction signs. Tours with park rangers are available (phone the number above), and donations in cash or kind (particularly depth gauges) are gratefully accepted. If you’d like to learn more, visit the Resource Centre on the top floor of the row of shops and offices adjacent to the Pier One restaurant and night club.

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