WWF Policy Brief: CREATING EFFECTIVE, SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT IN THE CARIBBEAN NETHERLANDS
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.
Although fisheries management in the Caribbean Netherlands has improved dramatically compared to
10 years ago, many fish stocks are still declining. To make fisheries management more collaborative and
sustainable WWF believes that external factors influencing fish stocks should be taken into account. If
not, there is a high chance that commercial fish stocks in the Caribbean Netherlands will decline even
further to the point where they are no longer economically viable and will be replaced by lower trophic
species. This is already happening in the Caribbean Netherlands and is a prelude to ecosystem collapse
as seen on other islands in the region, where fisheries management is in an even much poorer state
than on the Dutch islands. Lessons should be learnt from places like Jamaica, where badly managed
artisanal fishing played a big role in the collapse of the local coral reef ecosystem.