Martha is a lionfish hunter in Antigua Barbuda.
Martha Watkins Gilkes has been a leader in the diving community for nearly 40 years, since 1985. She has been involved in and has supported many different sectors of the diving industry including dive resort and retail operation, dive training and education, writing and photojournalism, historic shipwreck exploration and marine conservation.
Martha received her BS degree in Science from Mississippi State University and a Masters of Agriculture (MA) from Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi. She became a diving instructor in 1979 and for the last 20 years has been based in Antigua. She has been an outspoken force for conservation in the governments of the Eastern Caribbean nations. She established herself as a leading diver/explorer of the Eastern Caribbean, having explored and documented shipwrecks on 14 Caribbean Islands as well as other shipwrecks worldwide.
Martha has logged over 10,000 dives worldwide in tropical as well as cold marine environments, freshwater lakes, caves and caverns. She has dived in Belize, Curacao, Saba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Red Sea, Hawaii, English Channel (Lulworth Cove), British Virgin Islands, Venezuela and surrounding islands, Eastern Caribbean Islands including: Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Grenadines, Tobago, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Truck Lagoon, Micronesia, Cocos Island,
Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Galapagos Islands, FIJI, YAP and Tahiti.
Martha has published numerous articles and photographs and is the author of DIVING GUIDE TO THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN and SHIPWRECKS OF THE CARIBBEAN, both published by McMillian.
From 1984 to 1994, Martha served as President of The Barbados based Eastern Caribbean Safe Diving Association. She is currently a Member of the Historical Diving Society, the American Society of Media Photographers, the Explorers Club. She has been awarded the Platinum Pro 5000 Hour Diver Award. She is a member and a past President of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and serves as the Fundraising Chair.
Martha has worked for 15 years in marine conservation. She is a major player in local, regional and international conferences on dolphin and whale exploitation. Having dived with wild dolphins world wide she developed an aversion to dolphins in captivity and became very involved in the issue when her home base of Antigua opened such a facility in 2001 which was forced to close down after a series of traumatic events. She is the Executive Director of the HAMA produced documentary DOLPHIN DILEMMA, The Antigua Story released in May 2918. It is the story of the events that lead to the closure of the dolphin facility in 2004. Having met with great success on the launching the production team has secured funding to begin a sequel, DOLPHIN DILEMMA, The Caribbean Story. Martha was most recently appointed as OCEAN AMBASSADOR for LionFish University in California.
Her latest environmental project is on the board of the ELKHORN Marine Conservatory.
https://www.emcantigua.org The organization is doing coral restoration on the island of Antigua.
What Martha likes about lionfish hunting?
Lionfish hunting is a big adventure. I am a mega conservationist and do not like taking any endangered species of marine life which includes so many of the fish out there. But LIONFISH HUNTING is the OPPOSITE in that one is helping the Marine environment when you go LIONFISH HUNTING. It is an exciting outing to go on the hunt in the hope of not only bringing home a tasty meal but helping rid the reefs of these invasive fish.
How many years have you been lionfish hunting? Since 2006
What do you like about the lionfish community?
THE LIONFISH community is an awesome one… like a big “brother/sisterhood” of like minded people who are passionate about the marine environment and protection of the reefs. WE are all committed to doing whatever is needed to fight the lionfish problem that has become an epidemic far and wide. I have loved meeting new adventuresome people who are involved in LIONFISH hunting.