Seeking the regional management of Caribbean billfish resources: a step closer to sustainability

18 April 2017

Christ Church, Barbados, 6 April 2017 - 35 experts from 26 organizations spanning 17 countries convened in Barbados on 4 April for the 3rd Regional Workshop on Caribbean Billfish Management and Conservation.

This three-day conference focused upon resolving declining trends in billfish (blue and white marlin, sailfish and spearfishes) stocks across the Western Central Atlantic, and sought to address ongoing challenges to sustainably manage billfish harvests in the region. Participants recognized the value of billfish species to the marine ecosystem, as well as their socio-economic importance to both commercial and recreational fisheries sectors of nations in the Caribbean Sea and broader Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) area. The contribution of billfish capturing fisheries to employment, tourism, food security and coastal livelihoods was also acknowledged. These dynamic values and sometimes conflicting uses for shared billfish stocks creates a complicated fisheries management sphere, within which management has largely been ineffective to date.

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© Roy Bealey and Leah Baumwell

The workshop also acted as the 5th meeting of the joint WECAFC/CRFM/OSPESCA/CFMC Working Group on Recreational Fisheries. The regional expert Working Group members were updated on the latest scientific information available for billfish resources before management and conservation measures were collectively discussed among participants.

A draft Caribbean Billfish Management and Conservation Plan was reviewed, with its' objectives and anticipated outputs agreed upon. The details of the plan will be further discussed and reviewed by Working Group members in coming months. It's foreseen that this plan will undergo a review and endorsement process through the Interim Coordination Mechanism for Sustainable Fisheries, a joint collaboration between WECAFC, CRFM and OSPESCA. The Interim Coordination Mechanism was established in 2016 to synergize the partnership of these three Regional Fishery Bodies in the ongoing process towards establishment of a Regional Fishery Management Organization in the WECAFC area.

The CRFM proposed Sub-Regional Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Management Plan was also presented to improve fishery management within the context of FADs expanding regional use, which promotes billfish harvests. Opportunities to increase the effectiveness of ICCAT recommendations for billfish within the Caribbean were also investigated, while mechanisms to promote their effective implementation in the region were considered.

A WECAFC recommendation document was drafted to support the implementation of various ICCAT recommendations in the WECAFC area, which will be reviewed and endorsed by the WECAFC in 2018. The Working Group also updated its' Terms of References and Workplan.

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Roy Bealey - FAO Project Coordinator © Roy
Bealey and Leah Baumwell
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Susan Singh-Renton - CRFM FAD Management
Plan © Roy Bealey and Leah Baumwell
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Nelson Ehrhardt - University of Miami © Roy
Bealey and Leah Baumwell

This workshop was supported by the Caribbean Billfish Project, which is a component of the GEF-funded, World Bank implemented, project P128437: Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation Models for Innovation and Reform Project of the Common Oceans ABNJ Program, 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).

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