World Oceans Day 2021: Dwayne ‘Tall Boy’ Bastian

June 3rd, 2021; This interview was conducted via email and edited for clarity.

Since 2018, WildAid Marine has been working alongside The Nature Conservancy, The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, and other Bahamian government agencies to strengthen the capacity of local marine enforcement agencies. To understand the importance of this work, we invite you to join us on a virtual trip to The Bahamas. We’ll meet community members, fishers, and ocean advocates who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods and whose stories highlight the need for strong enforcement and smart marine resource management. In honor of World Oceans Day, please join us in raising critical funds to support the implementation of the Marine Action Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries in The Bahamas.

My name is Dwayne ‘Tall Boy’ Bastian and I’ve been a commercial conch diver and restaurant owner for my entire life. I live and operate my business out of Potter’s Cay, New Providence, Bahamas.

How did you get started with this work?
Fishing for me started from my father and family lineage in South Andros, The Bahamas. I learned the trade of selling and serving conch and fish from my family. 

What do you love most about your job?
I love going out and exploring the ocean, not just making money. I love the science behind fisheries and I actively seek to learn and gain knowledge about the marine environment on which I depend. I’m fascinated by conch reproduction trends, as well as watching fluctuations in abundance and population of different species of fish. For me, it brings such joy to see healthy fishing grounds, full of many species. 

What is one of the most challenging parts of your job?
As a commercial diver, the most challenging part is sharks. It is so dangerous to spearfish and dive. Sharks have become more abundant and now appear in places they never used to be, especially when someone is spearing fish. In many places, sharks are also getting more aggressive.  

Poaching of conch grounds has really hurt the population and I have seen many areas devastated over the years. It is also a big problem when people take fish and lobster out of season.  

Bad weather also makes it hard to get conch and fish, both as a diver and as a purchaser for my restaurant. I have an interest in aquaculture but the lack of conch aquaculture in The Bahamas means that there is too much dependence on wild supply which is subject to the challenges posed by weather. 

What does the ocean mean to you?
The ocean means everything to me. It’s how we make our living and we have to take care of it. We don’t deserve to have it if we can’t take care of it. The way forward is for fishers and tourists to respect the laws for taking the right size of fish or other species. Respecting the sea is key. We need more education for fishers to protect the sea for future generations. We also have to keep plastics and garbage out of the sea. 

What worries you most about the future of our oceans?
Poachers worry me the most. They don’t respect our waters and they take whatever they can to survive. Whether it’s to stop poachers from the USA, Dominican Republic, Cuba, or here locally, we need more law enforcement and patrols. We can’t afford to deplete our fisheries resources, so we have to respect the laws. 

What gives you hope for the future of our oceans?
What brings me hope is the good work being done by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Though their capacity is limited, they are doing a good job and, without them, we’d be in trouble. We have to work together as a team to share resources and empower ourselves through common initiatives.

Header Image Credit: Shane Gross for The Nature Conservancy