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 Fisheries are regulated through outdated fisheries regulations.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.