Fishing management plan needed for islands

The Neth­erlands World Wildlife Fund WWF-NL and the Good Fish Foundation recommend implementing a comprehensive fisheries management plan for Bo­naire, Saba and St. Eusta­tius.

The nature organisations stated this in a recently pub­lished advisory report titled “Analysis of the seafood supply chain in Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius”. WWF-NL and Good Fish researched the status of the fisheries industry on the three islands, and carried out more than 350 inter­views with fishermen, con­sumers, supermarkets and restaurants.

One of the conclusions was that there is little to no in­formation available about the import and export of fish as well as the fish stocks. As a result, there is a greater risk of over-fishing local species.

The current impact of lo­cal fisheries in the Carib­bean Netherlands on the marine ecosystem is largely unknown, but is expected to be prevalent. Fisher­ies are regulated through outdated fisheries regula­tions. Fisheries monitoring in Saba and St. Eustatius is limited to landings only. In Bonaire, no monitoring is carried out.

Very limited information on fish stock health is avail­able and no studies into the seafood market structure have been performed. For the Caribbean Netherlands, no reliable information is available on the import and export of seafood, seafood sales, or consumption sta­tistics.

There is also an issue with transparency in the local market: consumers have little to no knowledge of where the fish they buy or consume comes from, or how it is caught. The re­search showed that many local restaurants and su­permarkets support the in­troduction of a sustainable fishing quality label.

In the report, it was sug­gested to increase the vis­ibility of the fisheries on the islands through a visibil­ity and awareness campaign targeting consumers, res­taurants and other seafood buyers and resellers. This will improve the ability of consumers to find and rec­ognise local fish and make sustainable choices, as well as becoming aware of the impact and role these fish­eries have. Awareness of sustainability in the fisher­ies sector should include advice on which species to choose and which to avoid.

To stimulate sustainable practices, supermarkets and restaurants in Bonaire and Saba would consider promoting local sustain­able species, boycotting less sustainable species, and/or would consider implement­ing an eco-label. Boycotting less sustainable species is not a preferred option ac­cording to restaurants and supermarkets on St. Eusta­tius.

Fishermen in Saba mainly fish for lobster and redfish. Almost all lobster is ex­ported to St. Maarten, part of which is shipped onwards to Hong Kong. Some fisher­men also sell part of their catch to local restaurants and consumers. During the research, all restaurants in Saba said they serve local seafood, while 40 per cent of the supermarkets sell lo­cal seafood.

In St. Eustatius, fishermen primarily catch lobster and reef fish, though in much smaller numbers, and in­dicated that they sell their catch to local consumers and restaurants or transport it to St. Barths. A large part of the lobster catch is also exported to St. Maarten/St. Martin. Of the interviewed restaurants, 58 per cent serve local fish and only 22 per cent of the supermar­kets sell local seafood in Saba.

The report recommended drafting and implementing a fisheries management plan. This plan should in­clude a monitoring scheme in which at least the total landings per species, the bycatch levels, fishing gear, number of fishermen and fishing trips are monitored and registered for each is­land.

With this information, fish stock assessments can be carried out, which will pro­vide insights into the effects of fishing activities on the fish stocks. This monitoring must be structural, and will provide information to eval­uate and adapt the manage­ment system when neces­sary. The fisheries manage­ment plan should also in­clude mandatory fisherman registration, improved data collection on seafood trade flows — including the import and export of seafood — and a traceability system.

In the past, both national and local fisheries regula­tions have been developed and implemented without participation of fishermen. This has resulted in a lack of clarity about the respon­sibility of legislation, as well as unfamiliarity with, lack of support for and non­compliance with the law.

Fishermen, the local gov­ernment and national park authorities should work together in updating and implementing marine park regulations when these affect or concern fisher­ies. This will increase in­volvement, understanding and compliance and will improve collaboration be­tween these stakeholders.

The Daily Herald.

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