Have you ever noticed that if you live in a country you don’t tend to visit any of the “tourist” sites because they’ll always be there and as a born and bred member of the country you have all the time in the world. Well, over Christmas because we had a friend from Sweden visiting us my family and I did do the tourist thing. In particular we went to Negril which I had never been to before (I know, that’s really bad but better late than never) and then we stayed at Boscobel for awhile.
We did other things mind you but these are the only pertinent parts of the story. We were only in Negril for the day but I was amazed at how beautiful it actually was there. Rick’s Cafe and the Pickled Parrot were amazing and if I had been brave enough I too would have jumped from heights that only the truly brave or the truly stupid would have. The water was so blue though and inviting that, as is the case with Portland, confirmed that even though I’ve traveled to places all over the world Jamaica is truly the most beautiful that I’ve seen. This is the problem. After having confirmed that, the reality of what is happening to Jamaica is sad.
After Negril we went to Boscobel where I sailed for the first time and also capsized for the first time. Believe me seeing the boat come crashing down close to your head is something that can be missed but it was OK, it was that extra foot from my friend Kalle that didn’t miss me but at least it wasn’t the boat. Before we went sailing I noticed some men on surfboards in the water with conch shells they were calling to the tourists and selling them to them. They were also collecting sea urchins and sand dollars from the coral reefs, cutting them up and bleaching them for sale. For one thing, this is illegal but what bothered me the most was that when I spoke to the men they didn’t realise that what they were doing was eventually going to completely deplete the resource and ruin the habitat that was causing the tourists to come here in the first place. Due to dynamite fishing and pollution Jamaica’s environment is already declining but actually seeing it being done with the hotel not doing anything to stop it made me mad and I told them this. I won’t tell you what the fishermen told me in return but you get the idea. Another incident confirmed that these weren’t isolated events and if they continue Jamaica will no longer be a tourist spot but an area that scientists can point to and use an example of what should not happen in a country.
This summer I worked for an environmental organization and spent a day in Cockpit Country where a project is going on on yellow and black billed parrots. They are endemic to Jamaica and endangered. That didn’t stop me from hearing that over Christmas there was a man on Washington Boulevard selling them for $1500 Jamaican is extremely poor condition. This goes on on a regular basis and if it isn’t stopped Jamaica is going to be in even worse condition than it is now and what makes this country so special, its diversity, will no longer exist. While I understand that Jamaica’s a poor country but the policing of these things and the implementation of programs to provide people with alternatives should be important to people in Jamaica because if they’re ignored then Jamaica’s number one industry, tourism, will also deteriorate and the economy will be even worse than it is now. My rant has come to an end but I hope someone reads this in power somewhere that can help us end this or even just a tourist who then decides not to buy a conch shell because once the market disappears so does the problem…Christine.