For Love of the Sea
By Sharon Philogene
It appears that there has been a drive to reclaim land from the sea in the Lalay Coco area between Castle Comfort and Loubiere and little attention is being paid to the impact that such is having on the sea.
When I was a child, I remember climbing a promontory to look down on the sea and navigating huge rocks to move from one part of the bay to the other. When hurricane David hit Dominica, I woke up and the promontory had disappeared. I later learned that this had been a man-made feature not a natural one. The promontory had been created from material extracted from the site for the then, Murray Block Plant. Fast forward to today and the dumping of material from construction sites has become a habit in the Lalay Coco area. As fast as the ocean swallows the dirt, plastic pipes, galvanize, steel, cement slabs, broken toilets and the like, as fast as it is replaced. It appears that there is nowhere else in need of dirt, stones and other types of materials than the sea. The sea which fringes our shores provides immense pleasure, sustenance and adds aesthetic value to our lands. It is, therefore, our responsibility to understand its value in our lives and care for and respect it.
My motive for this piece might seem selfish to many, but not to those who love and understand the value of the sea. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the sea. I do not remember exactly when I first inched my toes, my feet, my legs, my torso and eventually submerged my head into the briny blue, but it must have been my baptism into the aqueous delight. I can vividly recall Sunday afternoon swims with my family after church and before lunch and the negotiating of sea time during the summer holidays. I know I was taught to swim but I did not know then, the difference between a front crawl and a breast stroke; what I knew was how to keep my head above the water, use my arms and legs to get about and in the process, smile and laugh and have a good time. Years later, as a teenager, I joined the "Aquatic Club" and learned all the fancy strokes that made swimming even more fun and gratifying. It is because of this immense pleasure that being submerged in the briny blue brings me that I ensured that the all children in my immediate family who came after me experienced like baptism.
The sea was also a major source of sustenance for my family as I am sure it was and still is for many. My dad had fish pots and he loved spear fishing, so most meals consisted of fish, but Saturday nights in those days were special because those were the days when we often had Octopus "Shatou" stew and Conch "Lambi" and the like. I hated cleaning the pounds and pounds of fish that was often the family lot, but I am the better for it. Today, I avoid the cleaning as much as I can and luckily fish can be bought cleaned at the fish market in Roseau, but should I be tasked with it, I can rise to the occasion. I can't speak of fishing from the rocks, but I am certain that my brother and cousins can and many young boys around the island whose holidays involved a relationship with the sea can, and many will add that this activity culminated with a bubbling pot set on stones on the beach, young boys enjoying fish water and in the absence of a pot, roasted fish.
As I write this, I am sitting on my back porch with the sea in my direct line of vision, and it has been like this for much of my life. I often wonder if I would be happy with merely a view of the vast blue expanse in the distance, necessitating more than a 10-minute drive for physical connection. Every day, except for days when I am away, I wake and doze to the rhythm of its breathing. On most days it is calming, but on others, it grates the nerves. So, like in any relationship, there are times when I do have problems with the sea, when it instils fear in me, when I hope that it controls its anger and respects the little piece of the rock that my family has laid claim to. So far, we have been able to coexist, and though at times it makes life difficult, like after hurricane Maria when I was faced with what seemed an insurmountable task of cleaning all what the sea had regurgitated onto the shore to the back of my home, I have learned to be thankful for the good days. Good days like those after Maria when the blue sky cast its shadow over the vast aqueous expanse, and the sun's rays and slight winds shimmered the surface and sparkled invitingly as if promising relief and cleansing at the end of those days of endless cleaning. It has been the second summer that I have had to travel away from home to enjoy the sea because the dirt and all else being dumped into there has left it murky and unappealing. I am not sure who to call because last summer my calls were in vain.
I can only hope that the conscience of those involved in the reckless dumping into the sea would be pricked, would understand the harm being doing to the marine ecosystem, would understand that they are devaluing our tourism product, would understand that they are stealing pleasure from those of us who love the sea, would understand that what we put in will determine what we get out, and would realize that we are hurting the livelihood and means of sustenance of many. There must be an awakening of the conscience of the people of this nature island as far the environment is concerned, but for now, I am begging all to RESPECT THE SEA.