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Canouan residents hold beach picnic to protest restrictions

Canouan residents hold beach picnic to protest restrictions

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The establishment of no-achoring zones on the east and west coasts of Canouan has come in for strong criticism by some residents of that southern Grenadine isle.

To demonstrate their displeasure at the establishment of these zones and to show investors that they have a right{{more}} to access all beaches on the island, last Sunday, more than 200 residents of Canouan journeyed by sea to L’ance Guyac Bay on the west coast of the island,{{more}} and held a picnic there.

Early last month, investors placed in the water at L’ance Guyac Bay, buoys preventing boats from entering the bay. The buoys were quickly removed after residents raised the alarm, but on February 2, 2016, director for maritime administration David Robin issued a notice to mariners establishing different zones around the island, in exercise of powers conferred by section 149 of the Shipping Act, Cap 363 of the Revised Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 2009.

According to the ‘Notice to Mariners SVG 001/16,’ on the East Coast of Canouan, no anchoring or kite surfing is permitted in all that area of the sea on the east coast of Canouan between latitudes 12 degrees 41.6 minutes N and 12 degrees 43.2 degrees N and between longitudes 61 degrees 18.65 minutes W and 61 degrees 19.5 minutes West. (See Map 1)

At L’ance Guyac Bay, on the west coast of Canouan, no-anchoring and swim zones have been established.

The no-anchoring zone is all that area of the sea including the L’ance Guyac Bay which has as its seaward boundary a straight line drawn from L’ance Guyac Point to the headland immediately to the north of it and its landward boundary the low water mark of the coast line in the area of L’ance Guyac Bay between L’ance Guyac Point and the headland immeditely to the north of it. (See Map 2).

The swim zone is all that area of the sea in L’ance Guyac Bay which has as its seaward boundary a parrallel line at a distance of 120 metres from a straight line drawn from L’ance Guyac Point to the headland immediately to the north of it and as its landward boundary the low water mark of the coast line in the area of L’ance Guyac Bay between a parallel line at a distance of 120 metres from a straight line drawn from L’ance Guyac Point to the headland immediately to the north of it. (see Map 3).

The notice also states that “All that area of sea within L’ance Guyac Bay seawards of the swim zone remains accessible to local fishing vessels for fishing and related activities in accordance with the provisions of the Fisheries Act and Fisheries Regulations (Cap 59). (See Map 3)”

Canouan resident and social activist Terry Bynoe told the media on Sunday that in the past, residents stayed away from the bay, because it was used to bring in tugs and barges with stone, sand and heavy equipment.

However, Bynoe said just before Christmas residents observed the construction on the beach front, in less than six weeks, of a restaurant. According to Bynoe, the restaurant was built by a Barbadian company and allowed the investor to have exclusivity to using the beach for his friends and family only.

“Then we hear that the beach belongs to him – we not allowed to come,” Bynoe said.

The activist said in addition to staging the picnic, the group may attempt to access the beach by road.

“We also looking for access by road, because the elderly won’t be able to come by boat; some children who cannot swim, their parents wouldn’t want them to take the chance, so we have to make sure that we have access to these areas,” Bynoe stated.

According to Bynoe, the idea is not for residents to be able to “rush through” the investors’ property.

He said he would have no problem if there is a gate or boom where people wanting to access the beach could be stopped and checked and asked where they are going.

“You tell them where you’re off to with your family and they say ‘Okay have a nice day, enjoy your swim’ and we go about that like that,” the activist said.

Bynoe also suggests that the Government and the investors meet with the people of the island to discuss “how we going forward to have a win-win situation for both parties on this matter.”

He then added they would continue their efforts until someone meets with them.

“It’s a right to all citizens to have access to all beaches in this country,” Bynoe stated.

While at the picnic, SEARCHLIGHT observed the SVG coast-guard asking a catamaran that was anchored in the no-anchoring zone to leave the area.

Bynoe commented on this stating, “We sell our island, you understand, to the tourist because the local people really benefit from the passing guest tourism by yacht.”

He added that if the yachts are sent away, the people who work with the yachties on a daily basis would be jobless.

“The yachties would walk through the village and buy something because whatever they come with on their yachts don’t last them for the duration of their trip. They have to stop and buy something,” Bynoe said, stating that the Government also benefits because of the US$10 per head charged when yachties enter the island.

“So, we can’t say yachties don’t contribute much to the economy. We advertise St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Tobago Cays, as one of the most beautiful sailing waters in the world. So who are we advertising to sail in the waters? Private jet? Private jet can’t sail in the waters; it has to be yachties so whether it’s catamaran, single hull… they’re all yachties they’re all welcomed.”

Hudson deRoche, a local shop owner, also weighed in, stating that since the establishment of the marine parks from the Tobago Cays to Union Island, people visit the bay to fish.

“If you run the yachtie, we dead…. It’s the yachts that spend money by us,” he reiterated.

Additionally, deRoche said although the resort pays lots of taxes, those taxes go to the consolidated fund, but residents have not seen the benefit of this in terms of infrastructure on the island, such as roads.

He said for years, the yachties have been going to L’ance Guyac Bay for shelter, snorkelling and to spend some time before sailing to the village.

According to deRoche, the place where the no-anchoring zones were placed is not where the yachties normally overnight.

DeRoche, who has been in the supplies and rental business for 20 years, said that this year, there were many yachties on the streets, which benefited them financially “but if you stop that, we gone through.”

Butlin “Southie” Clarke, a mainlander who has been residing in Canouan for 14 years, also expressed concerns stating that they do not have a problem with foreign investors because they are needed for employment.

However, “we also need proper delivery from our governments and by extension we need when people come here from abroad to do any kind of business that they live here; that they respect our laws and they respect us. In turn we must also do likewise, we must have a balance.”

Clarke disclosed that residents intend to form themselves in a ‘reputable’ group to seek their interest and would like to meet with the Government and the investors.

“We don’t want war, we want dialogue and a peaceful and amicable settlement,” he said.

Stating that the swimming, fishing and no-anchoring zones were “not in accordance with our laws,” deRoche called on the people to “uphold our laws and to fight for what is due to us.”

He then made an appeal to the political directorate to stand up and take notice that the people are aware of what is going on

and it must not continue in the “negative way that it is going on.”(AS)

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