A Tribute To Colin Callender

EDITOR, The Tribune

I learned, with regret and deep sadness, of the death of Colin Callender today. He was truly a remarkable Bahamian and I was privileged to know him in a unique and special capacity. I would like to share a special and particular encounter, in testament to his rich legacy of stewardship to his beloved homeland.

It was 1997. I had been elected in March of that year and appointed Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. My first time at both jobs, I was still finding my way around when in December of that year, Colin Callender and Nicholas Nuttall came to see me to petition – dare I say, invite me – to close the season for Nassau Grouper. They presented compelling arguments. The idea was not new, and the groupers could use the rest and the time to reproduce.

All over the Caribbean, Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations had been fished to extinction. The only problem was they wanted me to close the season the following month. Bahamians were busy planning their New Year’s Boil. Not being suicidal, I suggested we wait a year and get some science to guide the monumental decision.

In the ensuing year we gathered data on locations, numbers and mobilised the necessary protocols for the closure. Dr Carlton Ray, Casuarina McKinney Lambert and a team of scientists (no doubt funded and prodded by these two venerable men) worked with Colin Higgs, my Under Secretary and The Department of Fisheries. Director Michael Braynnen and Fisheries Officer were key elements on the public education side. The following year (1999), The Bahamas became the first nation in the world to close Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations from commercial fishing.

This legacy of protecting Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations is in its 16th year in The Bahamas, but it owes its beginning to the urging of two men who have passed on to eternity. The legacy of protection has become standardised. But Colin, Nicholas and Earl shared that first encounter, which remains seared in my memory.

I am proud of their courage and grateful for the foresight of the Rt Honourable Hubert Ingraham and my colleagues, who supported my somewhat unilateral action at the time. Today, The Bahamas and the wider western Atlantic owe the enjoyment of Nassau Grouper, in large part to that fateful meeting in December of 1998. Colin and Nicholas will forever share the heritage of saving what is left of our Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregations in The Bahamas. They are both gone, but the bountiful gift keeps giving and Bahamians cherish and enjoy this iconic fish, as a result of foresight, courage and stewardship, especially of Colin and Nicholas.

Goodbye my friend. Your life’s work has been rewarded in uncounted ways. A grateful nation mourns its loss, but rejoices in the generous bounty of your stewardship. My family joins me in offering our deepest condolence to your family.



December 8, 2015.


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