There are about 25 fishermen on the island of St. Eustatius. Considering the small scale island economy this is a significant social economical factor that can not be overseen by the local Island Government. The money that is generated by the fishery sector, directly and indirectly, is invested back into the St. Eustatius economy, since all the fishermen are locals. In addition indirect taxes are generated from fuel, two stroke oil, fishing gear, spare parts and engines. The aggregated value of the fishery sector is also an important factor to the island economy. The spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery is without doubt the most important fishery on the island. The total lobster catch for 2003 is estimated to be approximately 4 tons, which represents a gross value of 100,000 NAf.
The St. Eustatius fishermen primarily fish on the narrow shelf surrounding the island. In 1996 the Island Council of St. Eustatius approved the Marine Park Ordinance 1996, creating a marine park and setting out regulations (diving, fishing etc.) for this marine park. Subsequently the St. Eustatius National Park Foundation (STENAPA) was requested to manage the park and active management started in 1997. STENAPA therefore has the effective control over the island shelf from the high water mark to the 30 meter (100 ft) depth contour. In addition, 2 marine park reserves were put in place to be managed by the STENAPA foundation, where fishing is restricted to hand line fishing. Furthermore the fishermen were restricted to catching a maximum of 20 queen conch (Strombus gigas) per year in the marine park area, without any base line study had taken place. The St.Eustatius fishermen find that the best fishing grounds were designated to be marine reserves, and after several quite severe incidents that took place over the years between them and STENAPA fishers have become distrustful of the local Island Government’s actions and STENAPA. In addition, it is the fishermen’s experience that catches have gone down significantly since STENAPA took over management of the park area. An other factor that has even worsened the situation is that tankers, coming and going to the St. Eustatius oil terminal, are anchoring in the marine park area (within the 30 meter depth contour), and are destroying the fishing grounds with their anchor and anchor chain, and cutting away the traps. The fishermen find that the habitat destruction by the oil tankers is much more severe than their “relatively small” violations of the marine park ordinance. Since the management of the marine park and thus the fishing grounds is a STENAPA matter, a critical success factor for sustainable management of the park area, and consequently the fishing grounds, is improving the communication and cooperation between the STENAPA foundation, the fishermen and local island Government, and finding a solution for the anchoring problem.