This post is also available in: Spanish
By Ilene Little
Two businessmen who have known each other for 25 years booked a spearfishing trip from Bermuda to Contadora in 2006 and have been residents of Las Perlas Archipelago ever since.
“John Musson never left the island,” said Kim Carter, recounting the story of how he and John both came to call Las Perlas home. Musson, Carter and another partner own the Welcome Center where visitors can pop in for local knowledge, use a computer and get ice cream. They cater to people from all over the world who come to Las Perlas to spearfish from places like Brazil or Europe.
“Within meters of any of the islands, you can just jump in the water and go spearfishing without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on sport fishing boats, captains and gas,” said Musson.
“Our friend Eric from France comes here every year just for the spearfishing,” he said. This year he was shore diving off Playa Galeon and Playa Sueca on Contadora and off Isla Bartolomé. “He was getting lots of big snappers, amberjack and corvina right off the shore next to The Point Hotel.”
“There are a lot of strong currents in Las Perlas,” said Carter. “If you go off shore diving, as Eric was doing, you need to be aware that often the currents are too strong to swim against. We know where the dangerous spots are just from experience and local knowledge.”
Off shore diving
“What John and I sometimes do is to hire an experienced ‘panga’ driver who knows the currents and good fishing spots and can watch you while you’re in the water,” said Carter. A panga is a modest-sized, open, outboard-powered fishing boat popular as a safe and stable dinghy or for inter-island transportation. “The driver always has his eyes on you, and if you get caught in the current, he picks you up.”
Local knowledge on spearfishing northern Las Perlas
“If you’re wanting to learn spearfishing or if you haven’t got your own boat and are looking to talk to someone who knows the area and the sport, then the Welcome Center on Contadora, right where the ferry lands, is where to go,” said Carter.
“We’ve got all the equipment, including safety equipment. We know the panga drivers to use and can tell you when it’s a good time to go out spearfishing, which is during a high, slack tide, because that’s when the big fish come in, and at one hour on either side of the high tide, you are minimizing the risk of any strong currents. There are great spots that we go to regularly. The other day, I went around Saboga on my kayak. I saw lots of fish, speared one, came back and had dinner.”
Musson and Carter are advocates for responsible spearfishing. “The problem is the islands attract a lot of spear fishermen who have more of an ego than spearfishing sustainability sense,” explained Musson. “We want to encourage people to only shoot fish that they’re going to throw on the menu; no more than two fish per species per person per day.”
“We’ve seen people shooting parrotfish,” said Carter. Parrotfish actually help create white sand beaches. Each parrotfish generates 100 kilos of sand per year, a process involving the crunching of coral. “Parrotfish are essential for cleaning the reefs to keep them in good condition. If you wipe them out, you wipe out the ecosystem. We definitely want to discourage anybody from shooting them.”