I worry about Barbuda.
Not more so than other islands in the Caribbean, mind you. (Certainly not more than the best one.. ?)
Still, I do worry.
Well, Barbuda is small. A mere 1,600 people call its scant 62 square miles home. And, if memories of BBC Caribbean News Service radio reports at the time of Antigua and Barbuda’s independence from the UK in 1981 serve me, the tiny island never wanted to be paired with its larger neighbor to the south in the first place.
Small, disenfranchised in the minds of many local Barbudans, and absolutely brimming in pristine, undeveloped beaches and other natural wonders, Barbuda has long appeared ripe for exploitation, the island an easy mark for the type of reckless mass market tourism development at all costs (environment be damned!) bullying that has made tourist traps (or worse) of various tropical destinations around the world.
Recent news of a planned large resort development spearheaded in part by Robert De Niro only heightens my worry, and no doubt that of many residents of Barbuda.
Our isolated island communities need jobs. Tourism provides an ideal avenue for spurring economic growth. I’ve worked in the Caribbean tourism industry for more than 20 years – I get it.
I also worry.
Will Barbuda’s charms and natural treasures survive?
I’m leaning toward yes. Barbuda Blue Halo gives me hope.
The initiative, launched a few years ago, aims to safeguard fishing grounds around Barbuda. Working in concert with local authorities and, more importantly, local fisherman who ply Barbuda’s waters for a living, conservationists from the Waitt Institute developed a series of sanctuaries and marine zones limiting anchoring, net fishing, and other marine activities to give fish populations and marine ecosystems a chance to revitalize themselves and continue to meet Barbuda’s needs on a sustainable basis.
Will it work?
Time will tell, but I, for one, am hopeful that programs like this can work to make sure that the Barbuda of today remains in place for us to enjoy well into the future.