Going out to sea with Captain Dennis Abrahams is an experience everyone on earth should have. He was born and raised here in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, and started fishing these waters 27 years ago, and now gives popular tours of the same waters. Though he’s been on this happy boat he built himself countless times, it never fails to thrill him. “Coming out here is the highlight of my life,” he says, “I’ve never seen the same day—a cloud, the water, the people. It’s such a healthy environment to be involved with. I couldn’t have a better job.” At that, he abruptly stops the engine and points, with a huge smile. All around us are dolphins, their slick fins gliding gloriously in and out of the turquoise water. Dennis offers to stand at the bow and shoot with my camera, because his balance on the rollicking boat is obviously unwavering. And he takes shot after brilliant shot.
Then he sits down and explains with the patience of a great teacher: “There are 12 miles of coastline from here to the Black River, and it’s beautiful and unspoiled—but the area is overfished.” Captain Dennis is singlehandedly doing something about it.
“I asked the Nature Conservancy to go on an exchange program to Belize.” Through that organization, in partnership with Breds, Treasure Beach’s incredible non-profit at which he’s a director—Dennis got to go. “I thought fishing in Jamaica didn’t have a chance of coming back, but then I saw Belize and thought ‘yes it can.’” Upon his return, Breds immediately sent a proposal to the Jamaican government about a pristine, 2+-mile stretch of beach, and they agreed it was well worth protecting. Then they requested that Dennis himself volunteer to manage the site. Happily, he obliged.
“We are educating the fishermen on why they can’t fish there, why dropping an anchor or revving a motor can destroy the habitat. We can’t just push them aside—we must let them carry the success of this project, too,” he says. In these waters, fish are allowed to grow and prosper untouched, and once they grow big, they naturally swim beyond the Sanctuary’s boundaries. After just one year, Treasure Beach is beginning to gain back what it lost. The turtles are coming back, the birds are coming for baitfish—and Dennis says he just talked to a spear fisher who was thrilled to get a bonito fish. Dennis takes my camera again to take perfect pictures of the buoys that say “no fishing,” and then we’re off to the Black River, where the mangrove trees cast gorgeous reflections on the dark surface and crocodiles slink slyly at the shores.
The final stop of the day is the famous Floyd’s Pelican Bar—a sexy wooden shack built on stilts on a far-out sandbar. We climb inside, kick back, and Dennis says, “I just want the younger generation to feel it the way I always have out here—and really understand that saving the environment is the same as saving the community.”
Digging Jamaica? Visit the 100m Shop and get your jerk-reggae-patois-sunshine fix. (Sunscreen recommended.)