Bermuda’s Fishponds: Conserving a cultural emblem of sustainable fishing
As introduced in my previous blog post, this series will explore the connection between environmental conservation and cultural conservation. Our first foray delves into a sustainable tradition that used to characterize Bermuda’s landscape.
The islands of Bermuda were once dotted with hundreds of fishponds, where fishermen stored their catch after a day out at sea. Some carved the ponds out of the rocky coast, whilst others simply used the natural caves and depressions found around the island. Although groupers were the primary occupants of most of the island’s ponds, they also stocked parrotfish, angelfish, turtles, and a variety of colorful reef fish, making them beautiful as well as pragmatic. You can still find an example of a turtle pond at Admiralty Park, which utilized a beautifully curving natural cave on the side of the beach.
The porous nature of Bermuda’s limestone meant fishermen were able to create self-maintaining ponds, as water percolated through the rock and steadily flowed in and out. Since the fisherman were able to leave their catch in the ponds for long periods, they didn’t have to disrupt important spawning seasons and instead sold the fish already stored. So not only were fishponds an iconic example of adaptation and innovation, but they also showed conscious thought being put into establishing a sustainable practice in a land with limited resources.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of more modern methods and refrigeration, this practice began to disappear, and many of the ponds were abandoned or destroyed. Some were kept for their aesthetic value, but the practice was mostly forgotten; a phenomenon I hope to help revert. If you go out looking for cuts in the coast that seem too regular to be anything but manmade, you’ll begin to see remnants of the ponds everywhere.
We welcome your help in building up our record of Bermuda’s fishponds! Please record the location of any ponds you find, take a photo, and send your picture and notes to us via BUEI’s Instagram, @bueibermuda.
Bermuda was built on a culture of sustainability that we need to recapture, and fishponds are one of the tools that can enable us to do so.