Over the past 12 months a comprehensive assessment has been made of the fish stock of the Saba Bank. The assessment was initiated by the Environmental Department of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles in Curaçao, whereby the condition of the fishgeries resources of the Saba Bank was to be determined.
Over the past 12 months the Saba Bank fishermen engaged in two types of fishery: Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery, and snapper fishery, with two main target species: Silk Snapper (Lutjanus vivanus) and Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella). The main fishery activity on the Saba Bank is the lobster fishery; snappers are only targeted sporadically.
The objective of the fish stock assessment programme was to collect fishery dependent data on the different target species of the Saba Bank. Alongside data on Catch Per Unit Effort of the lobster fishery, biological data, such as length frequency, length-weight relationship, sex, number of females carrying eggs, and the number of lobsters in ecdysis, were collected.
During the study it became apparent that a high percentage of lobsters landed were under-sized and a substantial percentage of berried lobsters were landed. Furthermore a considerable number of traps were lost, due to passing by traffic and hurricanes. None of these traps were fitted with a biodegradable panel and the lost traps are extremely damaging to the ecology and consequently the fish stock of the Saba Bank.
As a result of this study, the following regulations are now being strictly enforced:
- Presence of biodegradable panel in each trap.
- Legal size limits for lobsters.
- Prohibition to land berried lobsters.
- Prohibition to land lobsters in ecdysis.
- Prohibition to fish without licenses in both the Saban territorial waters and the Economic Fishery Zone (EFZ) of the Netherlnds Antilles.
Collecting fishery data alongside enforcement of the fishery regulations will enable successful management and will in the end result in sustainable exploitation of the fishery resources of the Saba Bank.