Fisheries are an important source of food, income and cultural identity for Caribbean communities. While reef fisheries in the Caribbean are frequently over-exploited, offshore pelagic resources also targeted by the US sport-fishing industry may generate alternative economic benefits and divert pressure from reefs. Key to the efficient harvesting of thinly-distributed pelagic fish is the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs). Traditionally, FADs were deployed by individuals or close-knit groups of fishers. Recently, governments have deployed public FADs accessible to all. There is concern that public FADs are exploited less efficiently and produce conflicts related to crowding and misuse.
In partnership with Counterpart International, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Fisheries Divisions, Florida Sea Grant collected information from fishermen on their use of FADs that were deployed privately, by small groups or by the government. This allowed for a determination of governance arrangements that were most profitable and provided input to stakeholder meetings with FAD fishers to identify best practices for sustainably using and co-managing FADs.
The fishing trip analysis shows that catch and profitability are higher when FADs are managed privately or by small groups and access to the aggregated fisheries resources is somewhat restricted. An engagement strategy that introduced an activity planner as a best practice to increase information sharing helped strengthen the rapport between government and fisheries stakeholders. Study results are helping shape regional implementation of policy, which favors FADs co-managed by fishers and government, but can benefit from positive aspects of FADs managed privately or by small groups.