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August 10, 2010


Simon Wickens

In Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, American journalist Paul Greenberg offers 4 principles to rebuild the sea:

1. A profound reduction in fishing effort. This includes a move away from large, heavily subsidized fishing fleets that don't employ many people, and a move toward artisanal fishermen-herders who will "steward the species."

2. The conversion of significant portions of ocean ecosystems to no-catch areas. Key fish breeding grounds and nursery habitat must be reserved as safe havens for over-exploited fish populations.

3. The global protection of unmanageable species. This is about species that straddle multiple nations or live in international waters. Certain species, like the Atlantic bluefin tuna, should be elevated to untouchable status like tigers, lions and whales.

4. The protection of the bottom of the food chain. Small forage fish (like anchovies, sardines and herring) are being used to feed fish farms and animals like pigs and chickens. Some of them, and their habitats, must be protected.

larry smith

The UNs 'Green Economy' advice is to reduce global fishing effort to a 'maximum sustainable yield'. Current fishing capacity is 1.8 to 2.8 times what is needed.

"These reductions could be achieved through careful targeting of the most ecologically damaging surplus capacity, so that the livelihoods of those that are artisanal and poor are treated equitably."

Incentives for the fisheries sector in the Caribbean typically include subsidized fuel, duty concessions on equipment, boats and engines, and soft loans to fishermen through special credit schemes.

Eliminating government subsidies is the most effective strategy towards significantly reducing pressure on vulnerable global fish stocks.

Without subsidies, most large-scale fishing operations will be economically un-viable, experts say. Small-scale fishers will have a better chance of thriving in local markets, and global fish stocks will have an opportunity to rebound.

Fisheries account for less than 8% of GDP in regional states. But that does not include the contribution of recreational fisheries, which are closely linked to tourism. The Bahamas, for example, estimates that recreational fishing generates about $100 million a year.

Rick Lowe

Some food for thought on saving fisheries: http://www.perc.org/pdf/saving_fisheries.pdf

Jane Beales

Great article Larry, let's hope it's widely read! Everyone should also read 'The End of the Line' by Charles Clover - difficult to eat any fish after doing so!

larry smith

From Clover's introduction:

"A perception-changing moment has arrived. It comes with the realisation that in a single human lifetime we have inflicted a crisis on the ocean greater than any yet caused by pollution...Fishing with modern technology is the most destructive activity on Earth. It is no exaggeration to say that overfishing is changing the world."


And Turtle and year round fresh Crawfish is still on the menu on many Islands.
If we are forced back into subsistence living, we are in for a shock!!
Like everything else, no policing, no penalties, no rule of law demanding respect.

Gregg Waugh

Larry - excellent article. When I was a child we could jump off the Esso dock in West End and fill a sack with conchs before getting to the telecommunications station. Now you have to go past Sandy Key to find conch. No doubt we need to have closed areas/MPAs but there is a new menace that must be addressed - LIONFISH. If not removed, they will settle in our MPAs and eat everything that is "protected". Our company has a unique, patented polspear system to harvest lionfish as safely as possible. I would urge your readers to check us out at www.safespear.com. We have products and information to address lionfish.
Keep up the good work.
Gregg, President SafeSpear LLC

larry smith

Please see these relevant articles on this site:



Lee Dettor

I would like to commend you on this interesting and timely article. Disseminating and reaching a sizeable group of readers with this kind of information is vital to the future of our fisheries. I have forwarded the piece to a number of others.

Our family has owned property and enjoyed the island of Bimini for over 60 years. We were delighted 10 years ago when a significant segment of Bimini’s rich wetlands was named worthy of protection. In fact North Bimini topped the list of proposed MPA’s – the Bahamas #1 priority.

Eight years after the initial declaration of the MPA I attended a Town Hall Meeting in Bimini during which Earl Deveaux, the Minister for the Environment, again declared the island’s MPA a reality. Once more the people of Bimini were delighted and relieved that their vital ecosystem would, after all these years, at last be preserved.

It has now been close to two years since that meeting on January 14, 2009. As far as I, and the people of Bimini know, nothing concrete has been done to make the MPA a reality.

Declaring it not once, but twice, and then not implementing it renders Bimini’s MPA a travesty of sorts. What’s up? Is it real or isn’t it?

Other MPA’s in the Bahamas ranked below Bimini in importance are now up and running. Any information you might have or be able to obtain on the matter would be most appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for shining a bright light on the critical importance of preserving our precious marine resources.

Nick Higgs

Conch is actually listed on appendix II of CITES but you'd never know it in the Bahamas. The decline in availability in my short lifetime is frightening.

Percival Miller

A thorough and sobering article, considering the fragility of this crucial sector in the historical context and its future outlook.

Many of us grew up when, for the average person, fish and fishing was both sustaining and recreational rather than for high level export.

In recent times when crawfish boats come in, the sizes of these animals compared with the past seems a warning that, in understatement, suggests all is not well.

Other land creatures, if highly targeted for local trade or for export, are also vulnerable; which suggests that we seriously need to know and to follow safe limits. This also hints at larger pressures that you indicate.

Dr David Campbell's book, The Ephemeral Islands, details how trade in marine resources as a major economic alternative drove the monk seal to extinction, and large scale trade in other natural resources also decimated native hardwood trees including mahogany.

You mention the reduced conch catches, vulnerability of grouper and other scalefish, and pressure from poaching by fishing ships from nearby countries. Some of the responses illustrate that many are aware of these pressures based upon their own experiences.

In detailing how conservationists plan to address this, you note that the country exports 5 million pounds of crawfish/year, with 40% going to Europe (US trade levels are not mentioned). The expert recommendations for saving the species may work with enforcement, but an unanswered issue still appears to be whether these vulnerable natural sources can actually support the pressures of a high level of trade, without permanent collapse (as in some other Caribbean countries); and if not, whether we have the will to diversify from some types of high-income trades that bring wealth in the short run but has very undesirable outcomes.

Along with the important steps you mentioned (poaching control, environmental rules enforcement, and creation of no-take zones to replenish fish stocks), it seems critical that if we find out if certain levels or types of trade, particularly export, cannot be sustained, and if so, what are the economic alternatives, if any.

Economics, as our country’s history has documented and you have detailed, has paid insufficient attention to the natural limits of these types of resources. However, we still have some of these resources, and can possibly do something to live with them. We have hopefully reached the point where we recognize our natural resources as unique and intrinsically valuable, and not just a means to an end.

Sea life is part of our culture and an important biological support. So, in the interest of sustainability, it seems that a safe and accessible local market level should be a first priority. You note that recreational fishing, which is linked to tourism and appeals to both locals and tourists, has high income potential - this should be the second area for sustainability.

Whether we can afford high levels of export of species can either start a zero-sum argument, or be used to protect the first priorities mentioned, but to sustain the species it seem we can’t avoid that argument.

Also, as our population grows, and without alternatives, consumption and trade can easily outpace natural replenishment. Because marine species can or need to migrate, we also have to work with the countries around us to get them to follow similar, mutually beneficial approaches.

Climate change can also add to long-term threats, as familiar species might need time to adapt, if they can. The article is timely and clearly points out how much we need to do just to protect familiar species, and soon, rather than assuming business as usual.

Jonathan Carroll

The police force should be enlighten that there is no concessions underwater and no monitors on condos therefore no owners.They are just set all over the grounds,without permits or regulation,and no time could some one turn you away from getting crawfish from them. I think they should be bouyed with numbers and permits or banned.

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