Event aims to renew interest in St. Croix's fishing industry

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ST. CROIX - Residents are being encouraged to be part of the initiative "Don't Stop Talking Fish," a concert and cultural event Saturday that is geared toward opening up new opportunities between the community and the vast areas of the fishing industry on and around the island.

Lia Ortiz, a consultant with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coral reef conservation program, organized the initiative during the last three years and said it focuses on reviving the dying arts in the fisheries.

"When we look around, we don't have younger people pursuing careers in the fishing industry, and we wanted to bring some awareness to that and promote the many viable and profitable areas," she said.

Ortiz said the people involved in the initiative want to showcase the many people and businesses that have been contributing to the industry on a daily basis and expose opportunities to get into the fishing industry in the manner where it can be done sustainably.

"More important than just getting people interested in fishing is ensuring that we show them how they can do so and remain in compliance with all the rules and regulations so that our resources are maintained for future generations," she said.

Ortiz said the "Don't Stop Talking Fish" initiative is a cultural event that will be at Great Pond on Saturday and will include activities to engage families in interactive and creative ways to teach them about essential fish habitat, fish species and the significance of sustaining local fisheries from an eco-heritage and cultural aspect.

She said a mini film festival showcasing sustainable fisheries management and community practices throughout the world and premiering the "Don't Stop Talking Fish" film, will highlight historical and current aspects of the fisheries; interviews with young and old fishermen; interviews with restaurant owners and cooks; and interviews with initiative partners.

As part of the day's event, there will be an educational and entertaining component showcasing local artists addressing ecology and culture as themes in their songs and a "Fish Chant" contest with reggae songs about essential fish habitats, fisheries and fishers relevant to Virgin Islands eco-heritage and culture written by students in grades 5 through 9.

There will also be an expo and exhibits from agencies that have been playing a major role in marine and fisheries management and conservation as well as talks and exhibits that tell the story of a day in the life of a fisher.

One of the major highlights of the event is an energetic line-up of some of the territory's biggest names on the entertainment scene, who will entertain the crowd until midnight with live performances and DJ music during a concert hosted by MC Rashidi.

Food and drinks will be on sale all day long, and a free shuttle service will be available from D.C. Canegata Ballpark to Great Pond starting at 1:30 p.m. and running every hour on the hour, with the last shuttle leaving Great Pond at midnight.

Ortiz said the territory has a long history of being interdependent with the environment, and for centuries, residents have been sustained from dependence on the sea for its resources.

She said over time, the level of dependence has changed, although people still are deeply connected with the sea and its fish resources, which support local consumption and livelihoods.

"So now is the time for us to capture, document, showcase and celebrate our fisheries, heritage and culture to ensure generations to come understand and appreciate the significance of fisheries, resources and habitats," she said.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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