Listen to Your Elders: Words From Barbudan Fisherman Larkin Webber

Barbuan elder, fisherman Larkin Webber, discussed the past and future of fisheries with me one evening near the Codrington town pier.

I was putting up posters in Barbuda for an upcoming community consultation meeting about Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative, when I had the pleasure of meeting Larkin Webber. Mr. Webber, now 75 years old, has fished in Barbuda’s waters his entire life. He became a full-time fisherman in 1976. He raised seven children on fishing. He has seen dramatic changes in the way people fish and in the catches people are bringing in.

The Barbuda local government and community, with support from the Waitt Institute, is considering putting new management measures in place for the coastal waters and is soliciting community feedback. Mr. Webber and I discussed some of these proposed policies. Here are some of his words:

  • When I started fishing and used to set fish pots I would get a lot of fish. When you pulled them  up they were packed – loaded! – with fish, full of lobster. But now it’s starting to get scarce. It really started to get scarce around 2005 when more and more people started coming to fish in Barbuda’s waters. People from outside catch up their fish where they live then come to Barbuda to take ours. Now scarcity is rapidly happening.
  • Something has got to be done. Things are out of hand where fishing is concerned.
  • It’s good to close Goat Island Flash to fishing because there are a lot of baby fish in there. It’s a breeding ground. But people go in with nets with small mesh and break the breeding. So they are catching them before the small ones get a chance to make babies themselves. That cannot end well.
  • I am worried about the taking of chub fish [i.e., parrotfish] because they clean the reef. Now people are specializing in catching parrotfish and that’s a problem. Parrotfish should be protected.
  • No nets should be used on the reef. On the seagrass is okay, but not on the reef — that’s no good at all.
  • I’ve been following the Blue Halo project. You’re doing a good job. Don’t give up. These regulations should have happened 40 or 50 years ago. It’s overdue.


Mr. Webber retired from fishing three years ago, in part because his vision started to go. The reflection of the sun off the water can do serious damage to the eyes over the years, and he has particular trouble seeing at night now. But his mind is still sharp, and he is very concerned with the direction things have been going with fisheries.

Previously, I shared words form Josiah Deazle, Barbuda’s oldest active fisherman. And I look forward to sharing more thoughts from the Barbuda community. The stories and ideas of people who have spent decades out on the water are invaluable. So, as I described in a previous post the most important part of my job in working to develop sustainable ocean policies is to ask: What are your concerns? What would you like your ocean to look like? How do we get there? And then listen.

I look forward to continuing to share what I’m hearing.

Kids on the town pier in Codrington Lagoon.
Kids on the town pier in Codrington Lagoon.

You can can find out more about the Barbuda Initiative on our website, and follow along for updates on Facebook or Twitter (@BarbudaBlueHalo).

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for ocean conservation strategies grounded in social justice. She teaches at New York University as an adjunct professor, and was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science. As executive director of the Waitt Institute, Ayana co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative and led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort. Previously, she worked on ocean policy at the EPA and NOAA, and was recently a TED resident and Aspen Institute fellow. She envisions and works toward a healthy ocean that supports food security, economies, and cultures. Find her @ayanaeliza.