Categorized | Local, News

John Jeffers Elevates the MBE Award

By Claude Gerald

Governor Davis toasts John Jeffers at his MBE Investiture ceremony

Governor Davis toasts John Jeffers at his MBE Investiture ceremony

John Jeffers has distinguished and dignified the Member of British Empire (MBE) award that has been accorded to him recently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

In a time when such awards are freely given for nebulous reasons or purposes, including personal and political patronage, to individuals undeserving generally, citing John Jeffers, the veritable name linked with marine resource management for over 30 years on Montserrat, is welcome news.

Jeffers has given meaning to the MBE and thus has made that age-old honour, linked to the former colonial power’s dominance in world affairs, respectable again.

That John Jeffers worked in the public sector as a paid servant and should hardly qualify is an attractive argument to make. However it was his singular and sterling dedication to a consistently high standard, including to a beyond-the call attitude, as he provided yeoman service; that uplifted, educated, transformed and impacted our collective consciousness to coastal zone issues and their interconnections with basic survival instincts on Montserrat. These stand tall in his contribution to national life.

John Jeffers on the cusp of retirement has become, by reason of his ability and personality, an institution worthy of reference, and a legend of much humility in his chosen field of endeavour.

John Jeffers receives his MBE medal

John Jeffers receives his MBE medal

His career focused on building, improving and sustaining the fisheries stock in our waters by creating capacity in every linked crucial area. John Jeffers embodied a special single minded attention to detail that made him a one man army, filled with knowledge, theoretical and practical, which empowered him to successfully wrestle with a bureaucracy, not always conducive to guiding productivity.

Jumping off from the then Montserrat Technical College, where he majored in auto-mechanics and later  spent 4 months at International Seafood Ltd, Barbados, to master diesel engines, Jeffers did not foreshadow his defining role in our food systems, when joining the Fisheries Section of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1979, to work on boat engines.

He quickly became the official face of fisheries and manned operations like a veteran as he absorbed training courses from diverse sources. With the assistance of the Regional Fisheries Advisor (1979-1981) A. I. George, he developed the bye-laws for the Montserrat Fisheries Cooperative, one which is yet alive due to Jeffers’s energy and commitment; despite dormant periods related to nearly 20 years of social disruption. The Cooperative was registered in 1981 and this impetus attracted regional and international attention to the sector. This helped to serve the economic needs of many fisher folk on Montserrat.

Montserrat’s efforts in successful fisheries legislation outpaced other territories in the region. Jeffers’s worth and value climbed disproportionately to his experience and so did the respect of his regional colleagues for him. Key to this was the fact that our Fisheries Legislation became the corner stone for the development of the OECS harmonized fisheries’ legislation, given the foundation that was secured by the trail blazing and enterprising nature of John Jeffers.

John’s training in Fisheries statistics allowed others to be trained to man the collection of data across the many landing sites on island. As fishing entered a more organized phase, John’s training became more diversified. He acquired skills in using technology that provided for different simultaneous gear use to increase catch; he pursued the mastery of long-line purse seine nets that allowed escape of young fish to sustain the next generation.

Real development of people for Jeffers translates into being positively creative. In 1982 he led the construction of an Artificial Reef off Bransby Point to act as a feeding ground for an assortment of fish. Made of old cars stored outside the cotton ginnery, Plymouth, abandoned steel and concrete chunks, and used tires with foam in them, the reef was placed 60 ft deep beyond the breaking point of swells. Each constituent of this reef when suitably placed served different purposes depending on feeding habits of the population of fish.

Cars functioned for example as a protection for the demersals and juveniles that feed at the bottom of the sea. At mid water height, the tires anchored and foamed, attracted ocean pellagics, like king fish and wahoo, whereas the concrete held the attention of lobsters and their kind.

The reef lasted up to the eruption and significantly impacted fish population. Over 40 different species of fish lived on the reef within 6 months after construction whilst living corals grew to over 10 feet. It became a major tourist attraction and a model for the region. Fishermen prospered; apart from increased sizes of fish catch they saved time and fuel as the reef was convenient to reach. Construction centrally involved Jeffers himself, and James ‘the Great’ Cabey, who passed recently at Glendon Hospital. An underwater video of the construction still exists for posterity.

It is no small task to adequately cover John Jeffers’s career of service on Montserrat. Much of it is voluntary given his overall generous spirit. His turtle monitoring and conservation interests were entirely by accident and not part of his duties. Watching over them was recreational and a good way of enjoying nature. He and James ‘the Great’ Cabey, given that turtles are endangered, monitored our beaches 7 days per week during the closed season, recording times, types and landing sites for many years.

Some fishermen reportedly became aligned to the conservation ideas and ceased turtle catching altogether.

Jeffers used the Milky Way, a dim flowing band of invisible stars to track turtles to our beaches with pin point accuracy. Turtles do not like visible light, though the Hawksbill is more tolerant than the Greenback and the Loggerhead species. The Leatherback is the largest, with one weighing over 1000 pounds, recorded at Foxes Bay.

Turtles love vegetation and find comfort in nesting in the thickness. Development at Carrs and Little Bay mean these creatures are further imperiled.

International academic institutions were attracted and used the data collected by Jeffers.  Tagging of turtles with transmitters to determine their movement became fashionable. Jeffers’s work defied the myth that turtles returned to nest at their hatching sites, since our turtles were found nesting in the Federation of St. Kitts Nevis and as far away as Costa Rica in Central America.

Jeffers is no academician: society’s standard for acceptance in a world of distorted values and pretenses. He could be if he so chose. But John Jeffers is admirably intelligent and adaptably smart, confident and assured. His oratory is always clear and distinct and he plays the part with much aplomb when it really matters. Reliability and commitment are his watchwords.

A book is judged by its contents. John Jeffers, the simple styled villager of Mars Hill, St. Peters, Montserrat, is worth his weight in gold, when his total contribution to the real life of all life forms is considered. He brings strength to the worldwide movement to preserve earth’s declining natural assets, making meaningful the true essence of our existence on planet earth.

Montserrat is fortunate to own his type and his gifts. The documenters of our history can do no less than to chapter this unassuming citizen’s place in this period of our evolution.

John Jeffers is a national treasure fit for conservation, preservation and emulation.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator. He lives and enjoys life on Montserrat. Ceegee15@hotmail.com

 

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Claude Gerald

Governor Davis toasts John Jeffers at his MBE Investiture ceremony

Governor Davis toasts John Jeffers at his MBE Investiture ceremony

John Jeffers has distinguished and dignified the Member of British Empire (MBE) award that has been accorded to him recently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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In a time when such awards are freely given for nebulous reasons or purposes, including personal and political patronage, to individuals undeserving generally, citing John Jeffers, the veritable name linked with marine resource management for over 30 years on Montserrat, is welcome news.

Jeffers has given meaning to the MBE and thus has made that age-old honour, linked to the former colonial power’s dominance in world affairs, respectable again.

That John Jeffers worked in the public sector as a paid servant and should hardly qualify is an attractive argument to make. However it was his singular and sterling dedication to a consistently high standard, including to a beyond-the call attitude, as he provided yeoman service; that uplifted, educated, transformed and impacted our collective consciousness to coastal zone issues and their interconnections with basic survival instincts on Montserrat. These stand tall in his contribution to national life.

John Jeffers on the cusp of retirement has become, by reason of his ability and personality, an institution worthy of reference, and a legend of much humility in his chosen field of endeavour.

John Jeffers receives his MBE medal

John Jeffers receives his MBE medal

His career focused on building, improving and sustaining the fisheries stock in our waters by creating capacity in every linked crucial area. John Jeffers embodied a special single minded attention to detail that made him a one man army, filled with knowledge, theoretical and practical, which empowered him to successfully wrestle with a bureaucracy, not always conducive to guiding productivity.

Jumping off from the then Montserrat Technical College, where he majored in auto-mechanics and later  spent 4 months at International Seafood Ltd, Barbados, to master diesel engines, Jeffers did not foreshadow his defining role in our food systems, when joining the Fisheries Section of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1979, to work on boat engines.

He quickly became the official face of fisheries and manned operations like a veteran as he absorbed training courses from diverse sources. With the assistance of the Regional Fisheries Advisor (1979-1981) A. I. George, he developed the bye-laws for the Montserrat Fisheries Cooperative, one which is yet alive due to Jeffers’s energy and commitment; despite dormant periods related to nearly 20 years of social disruption. The Cooperative was registered in 1981 and this impetus attracted regional and international attention to the sector. This helped to serve the economic needs of many fisher folk on Montserrat.

Montserrat’s efforts in successful fisheries legislation outpaced other territories in the region. Jeffers’s worth and value climbed disproportionately to his experience and so did the respect of his regional colleagues for him. Key to this was the fact that our Fisheries Legislation became the corner stone for the development of the OECS harmonized fisheries’ legislation, given the foundation that was secured by the trail blazing and enterprising nature of John Jeffers.

John’s training in Fisheries statistics allowed others to be trained to man the collection of data across the many landing sites on island. As fishing entered a more organized phase, John’s training became more diversified. He acquired skills in using technology that provided for different simultaneous gear use to increase catch; he pursued the mastery of long-line purse seine nets that allowed escape of young fish to sustain the next generation.

Real development of people for Jeffers translates into being positively creative. In 1982 he led the construction of an Artificial Reef off Bransby Point to act as a feeding ground for an assortment of fish. Made of old cars stored outside the cotton ginnery, Plymouth, abandoned steel and concrete chunks, and used tires with foam in them, the reef was placed 60 ft deep beyond the breaking point of swells. Each constituent of this reef when suitably placed served different purposes depending on feeding habits of the population of fish.

Cars functioned for example as a protection for the demersals and juveniles that feed at the bottom of the sea. At mid water height, the tires anchored and foamed, attracted ocean pellagics, like king fish and wahoo, whereas the concrete held the attention of lobsters and their kind.

The reef lasted up to the eruption and significantly impacted fish population. Over 40 different species of fish lived on the reef within 6 months after construction whilst living corals grew to over 10 feet. It became a major tourist attraction and a model for the region. Fishermen prospered; apart from increased sizes of fish catch they saved time and fuel as the reef was convenient to reach. Construction centrally involved Jeffers himself, and James ‘the Great’ Cabey, who passed recently at Glendon Hospital. An underwater video of the construction still exists for posterity.

It is no small task to adequately cover John Jeffers’s career of service on Montserrat. Much of it is voluntary given his overall generous spirit. His turtle monitoring and conservation interests were entirely by accident and not part of his duties. Watching over them was recreational and a good way of enjoying nature. He and James ‘the Great’ Cabey, given that turtles are endangered, monitored our beaches 7 days per week during the closed season, recording times, types and landing sites for many years.

Some fishermen reportedly became aligned to the conservation ideas and ceased turtle catching altogether.

Jeffers used the Milky Way, a dim flowing band of invisible stars to track turtles to our beaches with pin point accuracy. Turtles do not like visible light, though the Hawksbill is more tolerant than the Greenback and the Loggerhead species. The Leatherback is the largest, with one weighing over 1000 pounds, recorded at Foxes Bay.

Turtles love vegetation and find comfort in nesting in the thickness. Development at Carrs and Little Bay mean these creatures are further imperiled.

International academic institutions were attracted and used the data collected by Jeffers.  Tagging of turtles with transmitters to determine their movement became fashionable. Jeffers’s work defied the myth that turtles returned to nest at their hatching sites, since our turtles were found nesting in the Federation of St. Kitts Nevis and as far away as Costa Rica in Central America.

Jeffers is no academician: society’s standard for acceptance in a world of distorted values and pretenses. He could be if he so chose. But John Jeffers is admirably intelligent and adaptably smart, confident and assured. His oratory is always clear and distinct and he plays the part with much aplomb when it really matters. Reliability and commitment are his watchwords.

A book is judged by its contents. John Jeffers, the simple styled villager of Mars Hill, St. Peters, Montserrat, is worth his weight in gold, when his total contribution to the real life of all life forms is considered. He brings strength to the worldwide movement to preserve earth’s declining natural assets, making meaningful the true essence of our existence on planet earth.

Montserrat is fortunate to own his type and his gifts. The documenters of our history can do no less than to chapter this unassuming citizen’s place in this period of our evolution.

John Jeffers is a national treasure fit for conservation, preservation and emulation.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator. He lives and enjoys life on Montserrat. Ceegee15@hotmail.com