Fish communities and fisheries of the Dutch Caribbean: status and trends

Abstract in scientific journal or proceedings

1st Annual AcroporaNet Symposium, 2016-06-10

Since 2012 the fish and elasmobranch communities of the Dutch islands of Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius have been monitored using both diver-operated video (DOV) and baited remote underwater video (BRUV). Also the commercial fisheries were investigated. The species composition, trophic, and size structure of the fish communities were compared between the islands and related to environmental variables and human-induced pressures. Diversity of the fish communities increased, as expected, with habitat complexity, but was not clearly related to fishing. Apparently this was caused by the generally low levels of fishing pressure around the islands. The influence of fisheries was clear however, from the low biomass and abundance of large grouper species, which usually deplete quickly even at low fishing pressure. Fishing practices vary greatly between the Dutch Caribbean islands, with a mostly pelagic fishery around Bonaire, a focus on deep-water snappers and spiny lobster on the Saba Bank, and a fishery on spiny lobster around St. Eustatius. In addition a fishery on Queen conch (a mollusc species) is present around St. Eustatius, but was banned on the Saba Bank since the early 1990s. The patterns in the fish communities and fisheries are compared between islands, historical developments are presented, and future research priorities identified.

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