Over 30 experts from 12 Caribbean countries and various organizations have convened in Nassau, Bahamas for the first Regional Workshop on Recreational Fisheries Data and Statistics.
The three-day workshop will focus on capacity building to increase the collection of recreational fisheries data in the region. Such data can help inform sustainable fisheries management in all fishery sectors at national and regional scales.
Recreational fisheries make significant contributions to employment, tourism, food security and coastal livelihoods in the Caribbean.
A recent study into the economic impact of recreational fishing in The Bahamas estimated that the recreational and sport fisheries subsector of the fisheries sector contributes an estimated US$500 million annually to the national economy through related expenditures by tourists, and provides employment for some 18,000 Bahamians.
Recreational fisheries provide opportunities for valuable eco-tourism while incurring minimal environmental effects. Catch and release practices effectively multiply the high values recreational fishers assign to targeted game fishes, such as marlin, sailfish, tarpon and bonefish.
In general, recreational fishers respect and contribute to the protection of the pristine aquatic environments within which they conduct their sport.
This can provide opportunities to recreational fishers and local communities alike, but the concurrent opportunity for accurate data capture to inform fisheries management on a regional scale has been largely overlooked to date.
Declining stock trends in many fish species targeted by recreational fisheries across the Western Central Atlantic highlight the need to not only include recreational fisheries data within stock assessments, but to also encourage recreational fishers to provide their accurate catch data that’s less likely to be commercially influenced.
This workshop is the 6th meeting of the joint WECAFC/CRFM/OSPESCA/CFMC Working Group on Recreational Fisheries. All participants, including members of this regional expert Working Group, will be updated on other recreational fishery data collection efforts, successes of citizen science initiatives from other regions and the latest regional developments in digital data capture from fisheries.
An informed participatory approach will then guide the expected future implementation of digital data capture methodologies in recreational and other fishery sectors of the Caribbean.
Recommendations and other technical documents resulting from this workshop will help to inform finalization and effective implementation of the Caribbean Billfish Management and Conservation Plan, while also improving adherence to regulations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
The influences that Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) have upon data, fishery models and ultimate fishery management will also be discussed. This should improve the capacity for effective fishery management within the context of rapidly increasing FAD use in the Caribbean, and guide ongoing development of the CRFM proposed Sub-Regional Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Management Plan.
This workshop was supported by the Caribbean Billfish Project, which is a component of the GEF-funded, World Bank implemented, Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation Models for Innovation and Reform (ABNJ) Project, and is being executed by the Secretariat of WECAFC at the Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government of the Bahamas’ Government has kindly assisted facilitation of this workshop, which is being held at the Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation.