This report aims to assess historical fisheries in the Caribbean Netherlands since the first inhabitants started exploiting the sea around them. In doing so, WWF-The Netherlands seeks to understand how fisheries and fishing traditions have influenced the marine ecosystem in the past, and hence what this ecosystem may have looked like before the start of marine resource exploitation. We hope that this will provide a more realistic view of the variations and impacts on baseline perspectives, and thus more effective targets to aim for in policies and plans for the future.
Peer-reviewed PHD dissertation, University of California San Diego.
This dissertation is a multi-disciplinary attempt to understand how coral reef resources can be sustainably managed. I begin by examining the peer-reviewed literature on artisanal reef fisheries, identifying gaps in knowledge, and proposing a set of priority areas for future research. Ecological examinations of trap fishing and gill nets follow. Fish trap bycatch can be dramatically reduced by the inclusion of escape gaps that allow juveniles and narrow-bodied species to escape, although catch of ecologically important herbivores remains high. Gill nets capture the few remaining apex
predators present on Caribbean coral reefs, and as such are unsustainable. The second half of the dissertation is a tripartite presentation of the results of interviews with 177 fishers and 211 professional SCUBA divers on Curaçao and Bonaire. First, I consider whether interviewees' baseline conception of a healthy reef ecosystem is actually a degraded state, and they have a "shifting baseline." Then, I evaluate interviewees' discount rates and present bias, and relate those measures to their preferred management approaches. Lastly, I contemplate how to reconcile ecosystem requirements with stakeholder preferences, and use socioeconomic information to develop a sustainable management plan
Widespread use of minimally selective fish traps has contributed to the overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs. Traps typically target high-value fish such as groupers (Serranidae and Epinephelidae) and snappers (Lutjanidae), but they also have high bycatch of ecologically important herbivores (parrotfish (Scaridae) and surgeonfish (Acanthuridae)) and non-target species. One strategy for reducing this bycatch is to retrofit traps with rectangular escape gaps that allow juveniles and narrow-bodied species to escape; yet the effectiveness of these gaps has not been thoroughly tested. On the shallow reefs of Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, I compared the catch of traditional Antillean chevron traps (the control) to the catch of traps with short escape gaps (20 × 2.5 cm), traps with tall escape gaps (40 × 2.5 cm), and traps with a panel of large aperture mesh. With data from 190 24-h trap sets, the mean number of fish caught was 11.84 in control traps, 4.88 in short gap traps, 4.43 in tall gap traps, and 0.34 in large mesh traps. Compared to controls, traps with short or tall gaps caught significantly fewer bycatch fish (–74 and –80% respectively), key herbivores (–58 and –50% respectively), and butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae; –90 and –98% respectively). The mean length of captured fish was significantly greater in gap traps because juveniles were able to escape via the gaps. Escape gaps reduce neither the catch of high-value fish, nor the total market value of the catch. Therefore, using escape gaps could make trap fishing more sustainable without reducing fishermen’s revenues.