Roadmap towards effective fisheries management of the Caribbean Netherlands

For the special municipalities of the Netherlands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is responsible for the proper management of fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the islands and, together with the island authorities is responsible for the proper management of fisheries in the territorial sea (TS). The Caribbean Netherlands, either as special municipalities of the Netherlands or through the Kingdom of the Netherlands, participate in- and cooperate with global and regional efforts for fisheries management through adherence to international instruments and participation in international bodies. By becoming a party to a legally binding instrument, that party is legally bound to the obligations therein. Currently, the Caribbean Netherlands – either as special municipality of the Netherlands or as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has committed to the following instruments and international treaties with relevance to fisheries:

Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, Cartagena Convention: Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol (SPAW) , Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); 1982 , The Migratory Shark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU),  Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention (IAC) Caracas, Venezuela, December 1 1996., Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) , The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS),1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHMSI), The Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC)

The need for better fisheries management Throughout the Caribbean, like in the rest of the world, the abundance of marine fish species have been declining over the past decades. The health and abundance of fish stocks depend not only on fishing pressure but also on the quality of the marine ecosystems. In the Caribbean Netherlands, coral reefs and the open ocean are the main ecosystems in which the species targeted by the fisheries sector occur. Coral reefs are marine biodiversity hotspots that are not only invaluable for coastal protection but also have a high economic value through associated fisheries and tourism. As healthy fish stocks are essential for the existence of fisheries, concentrating efforts towards more sustainable fishery practices, will not only benefit ecosystems, but also fishermen and other users that contribute to the local economy such as dive tourism. Hence, proper management of the fisheries sector is important for the existence of the profession and for ensuring food security, and also for other sectors which are vital to the economy of the islands. Moreover fisheries plays a very important role when it comes to culture and identity of inhabitants of the Caribbean. As a recreational activity it is a vital source of wellbeing. Hence, it is not only food and dollars that make fisheries an activity to manage well.

As opposed to historical fisheries management in the Caribbean Netherlands, sustainable fisheries management must be a joint effort by the local government, national government, nature NGOs, fishermen and buyers. In addition, adequate enforcement must be in place. Truly sustainable fisheries management requires an active and adaptive approach to the conservation of areas and species, a focus on communication, education and awareness, active research and monitoring, and interaction with stakeholders. Additionally, it requires an integrated approach to address serious anthropogenic threats such as pollution, the introduction of invasive species and climate change, as well as addressing the need for the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems (See Box 1).

Considering the aforementioned, a new and more effective fisheries management system is required in the Caribbean Netherlands. In light of this need, WWF-NL initiated a series of fisheries management oriented studies, including the a Social Mapping Study of the fisheries sector of the Caribbean Netherlands, called study ‘Mas Piska pa Boneiru’ (Mac Donald, 2019). The study was conducted to identify and come up with solutions for the social bottlenecks c in arena of fisheries management the Caribbean Netherlands. The study concluded that on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius there are many interlinked bottlenecks inhibiting effective management of the sector. The following bottlenecks were identified:

Urgency to manage fisheries is lower than the urgency to manage nature 2. Urgency to manage nature is lower than the urgency to invest in development 3. Nature NGO tend to have a negative reputation within community 4. There are no fisheries organizations / representatives 5. Fisheries legislation has gaps and is insufficient 6. Responsibilities for (daily) management are unclear 7. There is a lack of resources both in terms of budget & capacity 8. There is a lack of inclusion of fishers in the management process 9. No collective lobbying by fishers takes place 10. No structural investment in fisheries sector development are made 11. There exists no fisheries policy or management plan (no management goals) 12. There is insufficient enforcement of legislation taking place 13. (Perceived) Insufficient communication of legislation towards stakeholders, especially the fishers 14. There is no governance support from fishers

To overcome these management bottlenecks, a roadmap was developed based on insights and findings from the research. In addition to describing what the solutions entail, explaining which bottlenecks are tackled, the roadmap presents concrete steps on how each solution can be successfully implemented. For the creation of the roadmap, the principles of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) and the co-management principles were used as a vantage point for developing concrete steps and guidelines in order to achieve effective, sustainable fisheries management on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. The (theoretical) background about and importance of EBM and the co-management principles can be read more in-depth in Appendix A.

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