Photos: Spearfishing in Jamaica under the moonlit sea in eerie silence

Spearfishing at night in Jamaica is illegal, especially in the sanctuaries set up to protect the island country's endangered coral reefs and replenish fish stocks. Such restrictions, while necessary, have taken a toll on many Jamaicans' livelihoods, in a place where jobs can be scarce. At Boscobel Fish Sanctuary, one such sanctuary, men who once learnt to swim in the ocean waters now dive under the cover of darkness to spearfish along the sanctuary’s boundaries, skirting the jellyfish and sharks underneath and the watch of the patrol above them.

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST 12 Photos
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Nicholas Bingham stands at the water’s edge before jumping in to go spearfishing. The warm tropical air gently pushes waves against the concrete steps leading down a cliff and into the ocean — the jumping-off point tonight for night spearfishermen in the small village of Stewart Town on Jamaica’s north shore. Down those same steps is where some of these men learned to swim as young boys. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham stands at the water’s edge before jumping in to go spearfishing. The warm tropical air gently pushes waves against the concrete steps leading down a cliff and into the ocean — the jumping-off point tonight for night spearfishermen in the small village of Stewart Town on Jamaica’s north shore. Down those same steps is where some of these men learned to swim as young boys. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Nicholas Bingham (L), grabs his speargun while leaving to go spearfishing. Bingham and Delroy Gooden put on their flippers, masks and snorkels, then wrapped their faces to protect against stinging jellyfish. But that’s not the only threat lurking in the water: In addition to sharks, wardens are patrolling, scouting for illegal fishing in protected fish sanctuaries. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham (L), grabs his speargun while leaving to go spearfishing. Bingham and Delroy Gooden put on their flippers, masks and snorkels, then wrapped their faces to protect against stinging jellyfish. But that’s not the only threat lurking in the water: In addition to sharks, wardens are patrolling, scouting for illegal fishing in protected fish sanctuaries. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Nicholas Bingham stands at the water’s edge before jumping in. Spearfishing at night in Jamaica is illegal, especially in the sanctuaries set up to protect the island country’s endangered coral reefs and replenish fish stocks. The restrictions have taken a toll on many Jamaicans’ livelihoods, in a place where jobs can be scarce. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham stands at the water’s edge before jumping in. Spearfishing at night in Jamaica is illegal, especially in the sanctuaries set up to protect the island country’s endangered coral reefs and replenish fish stocks. The restrictions have taken a toll on many Jamaicans’ livelihoods, in a place where jobs can be scarce. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Nicholas Bingham spearfishes at night. “From the time I was born, fishing is all I do. It’s my bread and butter,” Bingham said. “There’s not many other jobs to do.” Since fish and other sea creatures sleep in the reefs at night, they are much easier to catch than during the day. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham spearfishes at night. “From the time I was born, fishing is all I do. It’s my bread and butter,” Bingham said. “There’s not many other jobs to do.” Since fish and other sea creatures sleep in the reefs at night, they are much easier to catch than during the day. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Nicholas Bingham during a five. Using only handheld waterproof flashlights under a moonlit sky as they skirted the boundary of the Boscobel Fish Sanctuary, Bingham and Gooden swam over the reef and seagrass meadows, diving down to shoot lobsters along the way. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham during a five. Using only handheld waterproof flashlights under a moonlit sky as they skirted the boundary of the Boscobel Fish Sanctuary, Bingham and Gooden swam over the reef and seagrass meadows, diving down to shoot lobsters along the way. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Nicholas Bingham catches a fish. The eerie silence beneath the surface was punctured only by a clanking sound as their spears made an impact. It’s impossible for them to see anything but what’s illuminated right in front of them, and the distant lights from land are the only way to gauge how far out they’ve swum. (David Goldman / AP)

Nicholas Bingham catches a fish. The eerie silence beneath the surface was punctured only by a clanking sound as their spears made an impact. It’s impossible for them to see anything but what’s illuminated right in front of them, and the distant lights from land are the only way to gauge how far out they’ve swum. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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White River Fish Sanctuary warden Mark Lobban shines a spotlight on the protected reef while patrolling the no-take zone for illegal fishermen. That night, two other flashlights scanned the water — but these were searching for people illegally fishing in the White River Fish Sanctuary, about 9 kilometers away. (David Goldman / AP)

White River Fish Sanctuary warden Mark Lobban shines a spotlight on the protected reef while patrolling the no-take zone for illegal fishermen. That night, two other flashlights scanned the water — but these were searching for people illegally fishing in the White River Fish Sanctuary, about 9 kilometers away. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Wardens Mark Lobban and Donald Anderson (pictured) take their boat — appropriately called the Interceptor — up and down the coast. The patrols carry no weapons, so they must master the art of persuasion. And they often meet resistance. “They threaten us and they give you trouble in the reef,” Anderson said. (David Goldman / AP)

Wardens Mark Lobban and Donald Anderson (pictured) take their boat — appropriately called the Interceptor — up and down the coast. The patrols carry no weapons, so they must master the art of persuasion. And they often meet resistance. “They threaten us and they give you trouble in the reef,” Anderson said. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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A boat heads out to sea at dawn from the fishing village of White River. Two years ago, fishermen joined with local businesses to form a marine association and negotiate the boundaries for a no-fishing zone stretching two miles along the coast. A simple line in the water is hardly a deterrent, however — for a boundary to be meaningful, it must be enforced. (David Goldman / AP)

A boat heads out to sea at dawn from the fishing village of White River. Two years ago, fishermen joined with local businesses to form a marine association and negotiate the boundaries for a no-fishing zone stretching two miles along the coast. A simple line in the water is hardly a deterrent, however — for a boundary to be meaningful, it must be enforced. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Fisherman Damian Brown helps his daughter Mishaunda, with her homework as other children watch television in their home. Brown, 33, has been caught twice. He’s been fined, had his equipment taken away and almost went to jail. He fears a third time could bring a fine he can’t afford to pay, plus jail time. He sees the benefit of the sanctuaries, but argues the boundaries extend too far. (David Goldman / AP)

Fisherman Damian Brown helps his daughter Mishaunda, with her homework as other children watch television in their home. Brown, 33, has been caught twice. He’s been fined, had his equipment taken away and almost went to jail. He fears a third time could bring a fine he can’t afford to pay, plus jail time. He sees the benefit of the sanctuaries, but argues the boundaries extend too far. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Jerlene Layne, manager of the Boscobel Marine Sanctuary, patrols on foot through the community. Layne, who has apprehended Brown before, landed in the hospital with a bruised leg after being attacked by another man she had reprimanded for fishing illegally. Layne said she believes her work would be safer with more formal support from the police, but that she isn’t going to stop. (David Goldman / AP)

Jerlene Layne, manager of the Boscobel Marine Sanctuary, patrols on foot through the community. Layne, who has apprehended Brown before, landed in the hospital with a bruised leg after being attacked by another man she had reprimanded for fishing illegally. Layne said she believes her work would be safer with more formal support from the police, but that she isn’t going to stop. (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST
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Jerlene Layne (L), talks with Damian Brown while patrolling. “We used to make good money. If they could just come in with the marker a little more, we can dive behind the marker — it could work,” Brown said, noting that the buoys’ current placement mean the water is too deep to dive in without a tank. “If I back down on this, what kind of message does that send?” she said. “You have to stand for something.” (David Goldman / AP)

Jerlene Layne (L), talks with Damian Brown while patrolling. “We used to make good money. If they could just come in with the marker a little more, we can dive behind the marker — it could work,” Brown said, noting that the buoys’ current placement mean the water is too deep to dive in without a tank. “If I back down on this, what kind of message does that send?” she said. “You have to stand for something.” (David Goldman / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 12:22 PM IST

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