Reconstructing the former Netherlands Antilles marine catches from 1950 to 2010

The former Netherlands Antilles consisted of Aruba, which became a distinct state in 1986, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which became countries in 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherland Antilles, and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, which became special municipalities of the Netherlands. Fisheries management in the Netherlands Antilles has suffered due to a lack of data collection throughout its history and significant declines in fish catches have been seen on most of the islands over recent years. This study reconstructed fish catches for 1950-2010 in the five islands that were part of the Netherlands Antilles at the dissolution (namely Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) including artisanal, subsistence and recreational sectors that may be overlooked in catches officially reported to the FAO. This required disaggregation of FAO reported landings data previously reported only as ‘Netherlands Antilles’ into their constituent entities, using an assumption based approach. As a result of this process, there were two islands which had a total reconstructed catch that was less than their assumed FAO reported baseline. Overall, Curaçao was 2.2 times its baseline; Bonaire 2.9 times; Saba 6.6 times; Sint Eustatius 0.86 times (i.e., total is smaller than the baseline); and Sint Maarten 0.38 times. However, the total reconstructed catch for all five islands combined was 1.9 times the data reported by the FAO on behalf of the former Netherlands Antilles. In Bonaire and Curaçao, the dominant taxa were wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), dolphinfish (Coryphaenidae) and tunas (Thunnus albacares and Thunnus atlanticus), with barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) also being important in Bonaire. . In Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, snappers (Lutjanidae) and Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) were the most dominant taxa, with groupers (Serranidae) also proving to be important. The study emphasizes the need for more comprehensive and accurate fisheries monitoring on all of the islands. Programmes are beginning in Bonaire and Curaçao, although it will be several years before useful trends can be observed. 

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