St. Eustatius fiesheries monitoring report 2017

Based on the fisheries data collected for 2017, St. Eustatius fishery continues to be a small-scale coastal fishery as described by Sybesma et al. (1993) and de Graaf et al. (2015). Lobster and fish landings for 2017 (52 metric tonnes kg and 17 metric tonnes respectively) were considerably more when compared to the 2012-2015 results of de Graaf et al. (2015). Fishing activity across the 12 fishing zones has remained the same since 2012. No activity was recorded at the Fish Aggregation Devices for 2017. Lobster traps were the most common gear used during the period followed by SCUBA. Lobster landings are seasonal with greater landings from January to February and November to December. Morphometric data collected for the Caribbean spiny lobster from 9 % of recorded lobster fishing trips, revealed that 28 % of males and 41 % of females were undersized. The average carapace length of females (97 mm) was close to the size limit (95 mm), which is concerning. An assessment of the lobster stock may be necessary to determine stock stability as 8 % of landed females were berried. Length frequency data for mixed reef fish was collected for 26 % of fishing trips. Large grouper species were rarely observed during port sampling with red hind being the dominant overall grouper species observed showing no seasonality throughout the period based on catch composition. Surgeonfish and the small groupers accounted for 44 % of the sampled catch by number (of individuals) while squirrelfish and the small groupers accounted for 46 % by weight. Pelagic species made up 4 % of landings by weight and < 1 % by number. Parrotfish in both weight and number accounted for 3 %. Parrotfish populations appear to be in a stable state as average length of species landed were greater than the average for each species across the Caribbean. When compared to other studies across the Caribbean, the 2017 data suggest that Statia’s parrotfish population seem to experience structurally low fishing pressure. Queen conch landings have remained steady over the last five years. Assessment of the conch morphometric data (39 % of total landings) suggests that increased harvesting has not yet had a measurable impact on population structure of St. Eustatius’s queen conch stock. The proposed annual combined commercial and recreational quota for 2015-2017 (4 % of estimated population size per year) nor the precautionary limit (8 % of estimated population size) recommended by the non-detrimental findings of 2014 was not exceeded during 2015-2017.

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