Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Caribbean scientists review status of main fish stocks in region

Published:Thursday | November 16, 2017 | 11:45 AM

Top fisheries scientists in a review of the main fish stock in the region have reported uncertainty of stock status of different species due to the lack of formal assessments for most of the Caribbean.

The scientists who attended a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), in Mexico earlier this month also noted there has been some improvement in coverage of species/species groups assessed and also on the status of resources, in comparison to the last assessment in 2013.

However, they found that 54 per cent of species or species groups were considered over fished or over-to-fully fished.

During the two-day event, the regional scientists reviewed the main fish stocks and provided scientific advice to WECAFC and its Working Groups.

The experts also gave specific attention to a review of a range of fisheries management recommendations and resolutions that have been prepared by working groups of WECAFC and partner agencies.

Recommendations reviewed focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, billfish fisheries management and conservation, sharks and rays fisheries management and conservation and the sustainable use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).

Resolutions included the Interim Coordination Mechanism for Sustainable Fisheries, which is a formalised collaboration between the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA) and WECAFC.

Another key resolution focused on the institutionalisation within WECAFC, of the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+) Project reporting mechanism titled “State of the Marine Ecosystems and associated Economies in the Caribbean and north Brazil shelf large marine ecosystems (SOMEE)”.

This resolution supports ongoing efforts to strengthen data collection in WECAFC countries through the creation of a regional database which will allow countries to share their information, a requirement to improve the assessment of fish stocks status and management of the related fisheries.

The review and endorsement by the SAG presents a scientific clearance to forward these recommendations and resolutions to the 17th session of WECAFC, scheduled to be held in United States next year for region-wide approval and implementation by the 34 member states of WECAFC.

Their eventual adoption by the Commission would represent a significant step towards the creation of a Regional Fishery Management Organization.

The SAG also reviewed the Terms of References of the eleven joint working groups and advised on inclusion of emerging issues and priorities in their work plans for the coming years. The SAG meeting benefited from the participation of key partner agencies, such as CRFM, OSPESCA, CLME+ project, the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GFCI), the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organizations, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).