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Spearfishing as a potential threat to fishery sustainability in jamaica: A survey of 23 fishing beaches

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Spearfishing was becoming an increasingly important economic activity in the Caribbean as a result of socioeconomic factors related to underemployment and the low capital outlay for equipment. For a year (2011) we surveyed spearfishing in 23 Jamaican beaches. Spearfishing has expanded from approximately 1% of fishers in 1991 to about 10% in 2011. The fishery is larger than expected and probably produced 4 000tons per year. Though reef fishes dominated catches, other resources such as lobsters, conch and octopus were regularly taken. Many small juvenile fishes were observed in catches well below their adult or optimum sizes. A total of 58% of spear-fishers reported they would have significant difficulty finding alternative employment if spearfishing was banned. Spearfishers reported exploiting the entire island shelf and also nearly all the offshore banks, especially Pedro Bank. Night spearfishing was common and targeted sleeping reef fishes. The activity is banned and should be enforced. Our recommendations include: register all spearfishers, actively manage spearfishing, a partial ban for part of the year and a ban on using scuba and hookah gear for spearfishing.
Fishing beaches visited in Jamaica: 1. Negril Beach, 2. Orange Bay, Hanover 4. Lucea, 5. Sandy Bay, 6. Hopewell, 7. Spring Garden, 8. Whitehouse Beach, St. James 9. Success, 10. Grange Pen, 11. Falmouth Fishing Village, 12. Braco, 13. Rio Bueno, 14. Old Folly, 15. Discovery Bay, 16. Runaway Bay, 17. Swallow Hole, 18. Salem, 19. Priory, 20. St. Ann's Bay, 21. Mammee Bay, 22. White River, 23. Oracabessa, 24. Pagee, 25. Robins Bay, 26. Breakfast Gap, 27. Annotto Bay, 28. Castle Garden, 29. Dover, 30. Buff Bay, 31. Orange Bay, 32. Hope Bay, 33. St. Margaret's Bay, 34. Bryan's Bay. 35. Norwich, 36. Prospect/Port Antonio, 37. Drapers, 38. Fairy Hill, 39. Blue Hole, 40. Preistman's River, 41. Boston Beach, 42. Long Bay, 43. Manchioneal, 44. Innes Bay, 45. Hector's Bay, 4 6. Holland Bay, 47. Dalvey, 48. Rocky Point, St. Thomas, 49. Port Morant, 50. Leith Hall, 51. Lyssons Beach, 52. Morant Bay, 53. Yallahs, 54. Bull Bay (7 miles), 55. Port Henderson, 56. Hellshire, 57. Old Harbour Bay, 58. Welcome Beach, 59. Barmouth/Portland Cottage, 60. Rocky Point, Clarendon, 61. Alligator Pond, 62. Black River, 63. Long Acre, 64. Whitehouse, Westmoreland, 65. St. Ann's Beach, 66. Smithfield, 67. St. Mary's Beach. Satellite image from Google Earth 2012 ©. Fig. 2. Playas de pesca visitas en Jamaica. 1. Playa Negril, 2. Bahía Orange, Hanover, 4. Lucea, 5. Bahía Sandy, 6. Hopewell, 7. Spring Garden, 8. Playa Whitehouse, St. James 9. Success, 10. Grange Pen, 11. Villa de pesca Falmouth, 12. Braco, 13. Rio Bueno, 14. Old Folly, 15. Bahía Discovery, 16. Bahía Runaway, 17. Swallow Hole, 18. Salem, 19. Priory, 20. Bahía St. Ann's, 21. Bahía Mammee, 22. Río White, 23. Oracabessa, 24. Pagee, 25. Bahía Robins, 26. Breakfast Gap, 27. Bahía Annotto, 28. Castle Garden, 29. Dover, 30. Bahía Buff, 31. Bahía Orange, 32. Bahía Hope, 33. Bahía St. Margaret's, 34. Bahía de Bryan. 35. Norwich, 36. Prospect/Port Antonio, 37. Drapers, 38. Fairy Hill, 39. Blue Hole, 40. Río de Preistman, 41. Playa Boston, 42. Bahía Long, 43. Manchioneal, 44. Bahía Innes, 45. Bahía de Hector, 4 6. Bahía Holland, 47. Dalvey, 48. Punta Rocky, St. Thomas, 49. Puerto Morant, 50. Leith Hall, 51. Playa Lyssons, 52. Bahía Morant, 53. Yallahs, 54. Bahía Bull (7 millas), 55. Puerto Henderson, 56. Hellshire, 57. Bahía Old Harbour, 58. Playa Welcome, 59. Barmouth/Portland Cottage, 60. Punta Rocky, Clarendon, 61. Laguna Alligator, 62. Río Black, 63. Long Acre, 64. Whitehouse, Westmoreland, 65. Playa St. Ann, 66. Smithfield, 67. Playa St. Mary. Imagen satelital de Google Earth 2012 ©.
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
Spearfishing as a potential threat to fishery sustainability in Jamaica:
a survey of 23 fishing beaches
Zahra Ennis & Karl Aiken
Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies, Mona campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica, West Indies;
karl.aiken@uwimona.edu.jm
Received 15-VIII-2013 Corrected 05-III-2014 Accepted 24-III-2014
Abstract: Spearfishing was becoming an increasingly important economic activity in the Caribbean as a result
of socioeconomic factors related to underemployment and the low capital outlay for equipment. For a year
( 2011) we surveyed spear fishing in 23 Jamaican beaches. Spearfishing has expan ded from approximately 1% of
fishers in 1991 to about 10% in 2011. The fishery is larger than expected and probably produced 4 000tons per
year. Though reef fishes dominated catches, other resources such as lobsters, conch and octopus were regularly
taken. Many small juvenile fishes were observed in catches well below their adult or optimum sizes. A
total of 58% of spear-fishers reported they would have significant difficulty finding alternative employment
if spearfishing was banned. Spearfishers r ep or ted exploiting the entire island shelf and also nearly all the
offshore banks, especially Pedro Bank. Night spearfishing was common and targeted sleeping reef fishes. The
activity is banned and should be enforced. Our recommendations include: register all spearfishers, actively man-
age spearfishing, a partial ban for part of the year and a ban on using scuba and hookah gear for spearfishing.
Rev. Biol. Trop. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149. Epub 2014 September 01.
Key words: Spearfishing, overfishing, management, reef fishery resources, Jamaica.
Jamaica is the third largest island within
the Greater Antilles and is situated near the
center of the southwestern Caribbean Sea. It
lies in the path of the northeasterly trade winds
where speeds often exceed 15ms-1 and choppy
waters are common. Seas are generally calmer
between October and February (Aiken, 1993;
Munro, 1983). Westerly currents from 0.5-1 kt
occur in the vicinity of the island for most of
the year with minimal to no tidal effects (Aiken,
1993), although currents over Pedro Bank can
reverse at ebb tide (Munro, 1983).
The island shelf and a number of offshore
banks constitute the fishing grounds for marine
fisheries of Jamaica which are almost all
artisanal. Fisheries produce about 12 000tons
annually and are conducted by at least 15 000
active (but possibly as many as 20 000) fish-
ers (Aiken, 2008). Most of the seafloor on the
island shelf is sea-grass and soft corals over
sand and limestone bedrock. Coralline growth
is usually concentrated around the shelf edges
(Aiken, 1993; Halcrow, 1998). The south-
ern shelf is much larger and wider than the
northern shelf, with a maximum distance from
the mainland of 24km. The shelf consists of
mostly small patches of corals, gorgonians and
seaweeds mixed with sandy patches and large
reefs on the eastern side. The north shelf is
much narrower; with a maximum distance from
the mainland of 1.6km (Fig. 1). Fringing reefs
with a few gaps (which are virtually continuous
with the sill reef) characterize the north shelf.
The largest banks that are utilized as fishing
grounds are Pedro Bank and Morant Bank.
These banks rise abruptly from deeper than
500m to form submerged plateaus with depths
averaging between 20-30m (CFRAMP, 2000).
The fishing techniques used in the Jamai-
can reef fishery are diverse. The most promi-
nent fishing gears are fish traps, beach seine,
and tangle and gill nets; followed by hand
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lines, spearfishing, and some use of illegal
explosives. Fishing vessels are mainly small,
open, non-motorized wooden canoes (95%
of all vessels), with some use of larger, 27
foot motorized fiberglass open canoes (Aiken,
2008; Sary, 2001). The main fisheries resources
utilized in Jamaica are coral reef fishes, spiny
lobsters, conch, small coastal pelagic finfish
and large offshore pelagic finfish. All are tar-
geted by spearfishers (Aiken, 2008).
Spearfishing is defined in this study as “the
catching or taking of a fish through the instru-
mentality of a hand or mechanically propelled,
single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed
or barbless, operated by a person swimming
at or below the surface of the water” (FWC,
2011). Types of spearfishing include free div-
ing with snorkel, SCUBA, or hooka.
Munro (1983) noted that spearfishing was
becoming an increasingly important economic
activity in the Caribbean as a result of socio-
economic factors related to underemployment
and the low capital outlay for equipment.
Spearfishing appeared to be attractive as it
offered income earning capacity to otherwise
unskilled or impoverished individuals. Accord-
ing to Munro, spearfishing was also attractive
in terms of its effect on the natural resources
and their management as spearfishing tended
to target the oldest, largest and least produc-
tive members of the fish community, leaving
the younger and more productive members and
promoting conservation of the stock (Munro,
1983). He gave an example of the benefits of
spearfishing in Belize, stating that about 67%
of the production of spiny lobsters at that time
was derived from spearfishing and that the
spearfishing community appeared to be one of
the most prosperous population sectors.
Despite Munro’s observations of the ben-
efits of spearfishing in Caribbean countries,
some studies have also shown that spearfish-
ing has been implicated in the local extinction
of some species. An example is the Goliath
grouper (Epinephelus itajara) on the Carib-
bean island of Bonaire (Roberts, 2007). The
previous Jamaican study showed that spearfish-
ing accounted for a major portion of the
country’s annual fisheries production (Passley,
2009; Passley, Aiken & Perry, 2010). That
study focused on regular fishermen at beaches
around the island and obtained data on the
amount, size and type of fish caught, where
fishing was most frequently carried out, and
how much the fishermen depended on their
spearfishing activities. Results showed that
spearfishing was much more widely used in
Jamaica than expected. The unexpected results
from the Passley (2009) study led to the initia-
tion of a second follow-up spearfishing study
(the present paper) of commercial spearfishing
in Jamaica to confirm the earlier conclusions
and to assist the Fisheries Advisory Board
in managing commercial spearfishing. Data
gathered from this and the previous study
were analyzed with the following objectives:
1) to determine the current status of spearfish-
ing in Jamaica, its commercial value, and its
contribution to annual fisheries production; 2)
to compare the current status of commercial
spearfishing in Jamaica with results from the
previous study (Passley, 2009; Passley et al.,
Fig. 1. Major fishing areas of Jamaica. The island shelf
consisting of the very narrow northern and much wider
southern portions, small nearshore banks, and offshore
areas including Pedro Bank (bottom left) and Morant
Bank (center right) (Map data from NRCA data unit in
CFRAMP, 2000).
Fig. 1. Principales zonas de pesca en Jamaica. La plataforma
de la isla consiste de partes muy estrechas al norte y mucho
mas amplias al sur, pequeños bancos cercanos a la costa, y
las zonas de alta mar, incluyendo el Banco de Pedro (parte
inferior izquierda) y el Banco de Morant (centro-derecha)
(Datos del mapa son de la unidad de datos NRCA en
CFRAMP, 2000).
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
2010); 3) to determine effective steps that may
be taken to conserve the resources of Jamai-
ca’s island shelf and determine if commercial
spearfishing can continue under regulations,
and 4) to conduct a literature Review on com-
mercial spearfishing worldwide.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study sites: Survey trips were made to
23 preselected fishing beaches known to have
spear-fishers present by the Fisheries Division
of the Ministry of Fishing and Agriculture in
Jamaica (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Fishing beaches visited in Jamaica: 1. Negril Beach, 2. Orange Bay, Hanover 4. Lucea,
5.
Sandy Bay, 6. Hopewell,
7. Spring Garden, 8. Whitehouse Beach, St. James 9. Success, 10. Grange Pen, 11.
Falmouth
Fishing Village, 12. Braco,
13. Rio Bueno, 14. Old Folly, 15. Discovery Bay, 16. Runaway Bay, 17. Swallow Hole,
18.
Salem, 19. Priory, 20. St. Ann’s
Bay, 21. Mammee Bay, 22. White River, 23. Oracabessa, 24. Pagee, 25. Robins
Bay,
26. Breakfast Gap, 27. Annotto Bay,
28. Castle Garden, 29. Dover, 30. Buff Bay, 31. Orange Bay, 32. Hope Bay,
33.
St. Margaret’s Bay, 34. Bryan’s Bay. 35.
Norwich, 36. Prospect/Port Antonio, 37. Drapers, 38. Fairy Hill, 39.
Blue
Hole, 40. Preistman’s River, 41. Boston Beach,
42. Long Bay, 43. Manchioneal, 44. Innes Bay, 45. Hector’s Bay,
4
6.
Holland Bay, 47. Dalvey, 48. Rocky Point, St. Thomas,
49. Port Morant, 50. Leith Hall, 51. Lyssons Beach, 52.
Morant
Bay, 53. Yallahs, 54. Bull Bay (7 miles), 55. Port Henderson,
56. Hellshire, 57. Old Harbour Bay, 58. Welcome
Beach,
59. Barmouth/Portland Cottage, 60. Rocky Point, Clarendon, 61.
Alligator Pond, 62. Black River, 63. Long Acre,
64.
Whitehouse, Westmoreland, 65. St. Ann’s Beach, 66. Smithfield, 67.
St. Mary’s Beach. Satellite image from
Google
Earth 2012
©.
Fig. 2. Playas de pesca visitas en Jamaica. 1. Playa Negril, 2. Bahía Orange, Hanover, 4. Lucea, 5. Bahía Sandy, 6.
Hopewell,
7. Spring Garden, 8. Playa Whitehouse, St. James 9. Success, 10. Grange Pen, 11. Villa de pesca
Falmouth
, 12.
Braco, 13. Rio Bueno, 14. Old Folly, 15. Bahía Discovery, 16. Bahía Runaway, 17. Swallow Hole,
18.
Salem, 19. Priory,
20. Bahía St. Ann’s, 21. Bahí a Mammee, 22. Río White, 23. Oracabessa, 24. Pagee, 25. Bah ía Robins
,
26. Breakfast
Gap, 27. Bahía Annotto, 28. Castle Garden, 29. Dover, 30. Bahía Buff, 31. Bahía Orange, 32. Bahí a Hope,
33.
Bahía
St. Margaret’s, 34. Bahía de Bryan. 35. Norwich, 36. Prospect/Port Antonio, 37. Drapers, 38. Fairy Hill, 39.
Blue
Hole,
40. Río de Preistman, 41. Pl aya Boston, 42. Ba hía Long, 43. Manchioneal, 44. Bahía Innes, 45. Bahía de Hector,
4
6.
Ba a Holland, 47. Dalvey, 48. Punta Rocky, St. Thomas, 49. Puerto Morant, 50. Leith Hall, 51. Playa Lyssons, 52.
Bahía
Morant
, 53. Yallahs, 54. Bah ía Bull (7 millas), 55. Puerto Henderson, 56. Hellshire, 57. Ba a Old Harbour, 58.
Playa Welcome
,
59. Barmouth/Portland Cottage, 60. Pun ta Rocky, Clarendon, 61. Laguna Alligator, 62. Rí o Black, 63.
Long Acre,
64.
Whitehouse, Westmoreland, 65. Playa St. Ann, 66. Smithfield, 67. Playa St. Mary. Image n s at el it al
de
Google
Earth 2012
©.
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
The sites were visited over 9-10 months
between January and October 2011. Each trip
was made by the researcher and a representa-
tive of the Fisheries Division that was well
known at the beaches visited. At each site, a
questionnaire modified from the original used
in the Passley ( 2009) r epor t was adminis-
tered to a specified number of spear-fishers.
Repeat trips were made when necessary to
achieve the desired total sample number.
We photographed each spearfisherman inter-
viewed and when available took pictures of
spearfishing gear, boats, and catch at the fish-
ing beach. Fifty additional fishing beaches
where spearfishing was practiced were also
visited to estimate total numbers of spearfish-
ers operating on beaches. Questionnaires were
not administered at these additional beaches.
RESULTS
We interviewed a total of 148 spearfish-
ers. The mean age of the spearfishers inter-
viewed on the North Coast was 38±0.5 yrs and
35±0.7 yrs on the South coast. The mean age
of all spear-fishers interviewed was 36±0.4 yrs.
The majority of spear-fishers interviewed
used spears as their main form of fishing, but
some also used hook and line, net, and pot
(trap) fishing also (Table 1).
Most (approximately 75% ) of the 148
spear-fishers interviewed reported fishing on
the island shelf while approximately 25%
reported fishing offshore. Among offshore
spearfishers, nearly 50% reported fishing
Pedro Bank located 160 km southwest of
Kingston (Table 2).
This study revealed a new practice of
spearfishing at night on reefs. Fully 27% of all
spearfishers ( 29% of south coast and 26% of
north coast spearfishers) reported spearfishing
at night .
TABLE 2
Reported offshore spearfishing areas by
frequency of visit (148 interviews)
CUADRO 2
Zonas informadas de pesca submarina en altamar por
frecuencia de visita (148 entrevistas)
Offshore fishing area Percentage of fishers
Pedro Bank
Morant Cays
Formigas Bank
Colombian Areas
Grappler Bank
Walton Bank
47.1
25.5
15.7
7.8
2
2
TABLE 1
Main fishing gears reportedly used by 148 spearfishers Islandwide. Four other types
of gears were reportedly used by 50% of spearfishers interviewed.
CUADRO 1
Tipos de pesca utilizados principalmente según lo informado por 148 pescadores de arpón en la isla.
Según informes, otros cuatro tipos de engranajes fueron utilizados por el 50% de pescadores entrevistados.
Gear used Percentage of fishers interviewed
Spearfishing only
Spearfishing & nets
Spearfishing & lines
Spearfishing, pots, nets
Spearfishing & pots
Spearfishing, lines, nets & pots
Spearfishing, lines & nets
Spearfishing, nets & pots
Nets & spearfishing
Spearfishing & nets
Spearfishing & trawling
Spearfishing & 7 other permutations of these gears
50
14
8
4
4
3
3
2
2
2
1
1 each
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Spearfishers that reported doing only
spearfishing also reported spending an aver-
age of 4.4(±0.2) days per week spearfishing
Islandwide with slightly more time fishing on
the North Coast (4.58±0.1) compared to 4.25
(±0.1) days per week on the South Coast.
Spearfishers interviewed who did only
spearfishing (75%) reported that they spent a
mean time of 4.5 (±0.16 hours) in the water
Islandwide, compared to 4.6 (±0.30) hours on
the North Coast and 4.45 (±0.22) hours on the
South Coast.
About 75% of all spearfishers reported
using commercial spear guns, compared to
25% that used homemade spear guns. More
south coast than north coast spearfishers used
hookah and scuba gear to spearfish as suggested
by Figure 3.
Mean reported daily spearfishing catch
islandwide was 18.1±1.8 kg/trip (Fig. 4) were
found to be highest on the south coast at
21.3kg/day. Although not a direct objective
of the present study, repeated observations of
spearfisher catches showed presence of very
small and clearly immature reef fishes of sev-
eral species (Table 1).
All spearfishers interviewed reported tak-
ing coral reef fish and that
parrotfishes (Scaridae) and Grunts (Hae-
mulidae) dominated catches. Table 3 shows
a list of the most commonly landed fishes
from spearfishing
Parrotfishes and grunts dominated spear-
fisher catches around the island and is con-
sidered an indicator of an overfished reef
Fig. 3. Distribution of breathing mode used reported by spearfishers by coast. Spearfishing breathing apparatus included
hookah, SCUBA, or free-diving (“freelung”) while breath holding with snorkel.
Fig. 3. Distribución de modo de respiración utilizado según lo informado por Pescadores de arpón en la costa. Equipo de
respiración de pesca submarina incluye hookah, buceo o buceo libre (“freelung”), mientrasse respira con tubo respirador
(snorkel).
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Percentage of Spear-shers (%)
Freelung Hookah SCUBA Freelung Hookah SCUBA
North Coast South Coast
Region
76%
15%
8%
58%
25%
17%
Fig. 4. Reported daily catch rates (kg) by spearfishers by
coast and island wide. Numbers show reported average
daily catch.
Fig. 4. Tasas diarias de captura(kg) informadas por los
pescadores de la costa y en toda la isla. Los numeros
muestran el promedio diario de captura.
25
20
15
10
5
0
Weight (kg)
North South Island-wide
14.58
21.35
18.12
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
fish community (Munro, 1983, Aiken, 1993).
Sparisoma viride, stoplight parrotfish and S.
aurofrenatum, redband parrotfish, were the two
most numerically abundant reef fish species on
Jamaican reefs over the last 10 years (Aiken,
personal observation). The present study
revealed that spearfishing regularly targeted
several other species in addition to coral reef
fishes including, i) lobsters (mostly Panulirus
argus, and some P. guttatus), ii) octopus (Octo-
pus vulgaris), iii) queen conch (Strombus gigas)
iv) lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) and
great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda).
A total of 74% of all spearfishers reported
fishing year round with no special spearfishing
“season”. The remaining 26% reported taking
a break from spearfishing at some time each
year. Spearfishers reported an average of 4.5
hours spent spearfishing per day. Reported per-
ceptions of spearfishers about catch trends are
shown in Figure 5. Exactly 64% of spearfishers
reported reduced catches on both coasts while
approximately 30% reported no change.
Near ly 60% of all interviewed spearfishers
expressed the view that they would face unem-
ployment if spearfishing was banned while
roughly a quarter reported that they would try
another fishing technique for a living.
Mean reported annual income of spear-
fishers was J$1 992 166.73 (J$480.52/kg *
18.12kg/day *4.4days/week * 52weeks/year
= US Exchange Rate = J$100:1 July 2013).
Therefore, the mean annual income of spear-
fishers was the equivalent of US$ 20 000/year.
Assuming approximately 1 000 active spear-
fishers in Jamaica, that total annual production
by spearfishers was around 4 145m.
We discovered a new fishing variation
involving spear-fishing where a net was used to
block off a confined area, then long sticks and
TABLE 3
Ranking of the eight numerically most abundant fish species caught by spear-fishers by region.
CUADRO 3
Clasificación de las ocho especies de peces más abundantes en las capturas de los pescadores de arpón según la región.
Rank North Coast
(Scientific & common name)
South Coast
(Scientific & common name) Overall (Islandwide)
1Sparisoma viride (stoplight parrot) S. aurofrenatum (redband parrot) S. aurofrenatum
2S. aurofrenatum S. viride S. viride
3Acanthurus coeruleus (tang) H. plumieri (white grunt) H. plumieri
4H. sciurus (bluestripe grunt) H. sciurus H. sciurus
5H. flavolineatum (French grunt)A. coeruleus H. flavolineatum
6Lutjanus analis (Mutton snapper) Balistes vetula (queen trigger) L. analis
Fig. 5. Reported spearfisher perceptions of catch trends in recent years by coast.
Fig. 5. Percepciones reportadas por los Pescadores de arpón de las tendencias de capturas en los últimas años en la costa.
A B
Opinion of North Coast
Spearshers regarding the trends
in Spearshing catch in the last few years
Opinion of South Coast
Spearshers regarding the trends
in Spearshing catch in the last few years
No change in catch
Better catch
Decline in catch
No change in catch
Better catch
Decline in catch
64% 64% 7%
6%
29%
30%
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other scar ing devices were used to strike the
water surface in order to make the fish strike
the net and become entangled. Those fishes that
did not strike the net were speared by swim-
mers around the net. This method produced
very few, if any, escapees.
DISCUSSION
Passley (2009) and Passley et al. (2010)
was the first recent study of the state of
spearfishing in Jamaica and was considered
preliminary in need of supporting data to con-
firm its findings. It found for example, that 2%
of all fishers were found to be spear- fishers
as opposed to the 1% in previous estimates
(Munro, 1983; Aiken, 1993; Aiken, 2008).
About 75% of artisanal spearfishermen in
Jamaica used commercially manufactured spe-
arguns and the rest used homemade versions. It
was also discovered that spearfishers reported
averaging about 4 hour of fishing per day, 5
days a week, which provide an estimated catch
of about 3 500 kg/spearfisher/year (Passley,
2009; Passley et al., 2010).
Spearfishing has the potential to be envi-
ronmentally friendly by being highly selective
with no by-catch if participants are educated to
target only legally sized fish. However, small
fish are continuously being caught and sold in
Jamaica, where the reefs are greatly overfished
and the fishermen depend on their catch to sup-
port their livelihood.
The Jamaica fisheries are considered
overfished (Aiken, 1993; Aiken, 2008) based
on evidence of observed gradual changes in
species composition in catches with time.
There has been a great reduction in top carnivo-
rous predatory fish such as the higher-valued
snappers and jacks. These species have been
replaced by lesser valued herbivorous and
omnivorous reef fish such as parrotfishes and
doctorfishes (Aiken, 2008). This replacement
shows a direct impact of overfishing on reef
biodiversity. Other factors affecting the status
of fisheries include severe hurricane damage
to reefs and the recent introduction to Carib-
bean waters of the carnivorous lionfish species
Pterois volitan and P. miles, which has no
natural predators.
In 2009, a ban was placed on night
spearfishing in an attempt to reduce the exploi-
tation of reef fisheries. However, lack of
enforcement and an awareness of the ban has
somewhat negated its effectiveness. The pres-
ent study found that night spearfishing was
still relatively commonly practiced in 2011
with approximately 27% (nearly one-third)
of all spearfishers interviewed reported doing
this practice. This violation is one of the most
serious conservation and management issues
identified in the present study.
The high earnings of the average spear-
fisher indicates that this occupation is the
equivalent to a “middle-class” income for
Jamaica (Claremont Kirton, Pers Comm).
The estimated annual yield of approximately
4 000t in 2011 i s larger than expected and
means that spearfishing could be contributing
approximately one-third of the total fisher-
ies production of the entire country that was
approximately 12 000tons in 2012. This annual
production estimate is slightly larger than that 3
500tons estimate for 2009 reported by Passley
(2009) and Passley et al. (2010).
Our results showed that many species of
coral reef fishes are being removed not only
in the day but also at night. This is a serious
overall problem for sustainable marine bio-
diversity. While there is not a problem with
the removal of invasive lionfish (Pterois sp.),
all the other species are removed together,
averaging 18.1kg/day. It must be remembered
that this sub-sector together with the other
activities in the other fishery sub-sectors such
as fish trappings, the artisanal and industrial
queen conch fisheries, along with spiny lobster
harvesting, hook-and-line fishing, and beach
seining, comprise a relatively large island
fishery. There is therefore tremendous fish-
ing pressure on the already declining fishery
resources in Jamaica. This is a serious issue for
fisheries management.
Of a total of some 20 000 fishers of all
types, spear-fishers now appear to comprise
approximately 2 000 or roughly 10%. This
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
proportion is considerably higher than in ear-
lier estimates of roughly 1% of the total fisher
numbers (Munro, 1983; Aiken, 1993; Aiken,
2008). The increase in spearfishing may be due
to increases in the cost of gear and maintenance
for trap and net fishing as well as the apparent
success of spearfishing as suggested by Passley
et al. (2010).
A total of 33% of spearfishers interviewed
by Passley in 2009 reported that they had no
replacement skills with which to make a living
if spearfishing were to be banned. An equal
percentage said that they would attempt to find
an alternative means of supporting themselves
however 10% said that they would then require
government assistance.
In other Caribbean countries, spearfish-
ing is strictly regulated or banned completely.
In the Bahamas, the Hawaiian sling is the
only approved spearfishing device. Gear such
as SCUBA gear or air compressors are not
allowed for catching fish, conch, crawfish or
other marine animals. Spearfishing is further
regulated by location whereby spearfishing is
not allowed within one mile of the coast of
New Providence, within one mile of the south
coast of Freeport, Grand Bahamas and within
200 yards of the coast of all the Out Islands.
Spearing or taking marine animals by any
means is illegal within national sea parks (The
Islands of the Bahamas, 2008-2011).
The present study confirmed that the main
types of fish and edible marine life landed by
spearfishers were those that had a high sale
value, such as parrotfish, snapper and lobster.
We also confirmed the finding by Passley
(2009, 2010), that night diving was a highly
productive fishing activity as sleeping fish
presented a stationary target and were easily
caught. We support enforceing the night diving
ban. Again we confirmed findings by Passley
et al. (2010) that most spear-fishers carried out
other types of fishing, that a high percentage
(58% in this study) were decidedly dependent
on their spearfishing activities, and that the
number of spear-fishers had steadily increased
around the island. If spearfishing were banned,
42% of fishers indicated that they would shift
into other types of fishing or other non-fishing
activities. The overall sentiment perceived in
this study was that spear-fishers agreed that
their activities were in need of some sort of
regulation and management.
CONCLUSIONS
& RECOMMENDATIONS
An awareness of the consequences of tak-
ing immature reef fishes during commercial
spearfishing was perceived in both spearfishing
studies to be lacking. Commercial spearfishing,
especially with the aid of compressed air, was
banned in many countries, either in an attempt
to mitigate or prevent overfishing of those
countries’ marine resources, but in Jamaica.
There is a relatively dire situation with all the
fishable marine resources of Jamaica and it our
opinion that spearfishing as presently practiced
in Jamaica is significantly exacerbating the
situation with its high level of fishing effort and
large catches of many reef species as shown in
this paper.
On the basis of findings from the present
2011 data (supported by the 2009 data), we
strongly recommend that the government of
Jamaica should, with some urgency, consider
doing the following:
• Enforce the ban on night diving declared
late 2009.
• Enforce strict spearfishing regulations but
not completely ban spearfishing. These
regulations should include a minimum size
of fish landed and a penalty for possession
of undersized catch.
• Publicize the danger of depletion by spear-
fishing with SCUBA and hookah appara-
tus. Many fishers are unaware, especially
to younger divers.
• Register all spearfishers
• Ban spearfishing with SCUBA & Hookah
gears.
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Rev. Biol. Trop. (Int. J. Trop. Biol. ISSN-0034-7744) Vol. 62 (Suppl. 3): 141-149, September 2014
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Special thanks to Charlene “Nicky” Thom-
as, Fisheries Instructor, Fisheries Division,
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Kingston,
whose invaluable field support facilitated this
collaborative project with the UWI. We also
thank the Fisheries Division, MAF, for trans-
portation and financial support through the
Fisheries Management & Development Fund
(Conch Cess Fund).
RESUMEN
Pesca Submarina: una amenaza potencial para
la sostenibilidad de la pesca en Jamaica. Un estudio
de la pesca submarina en Jamaica durante el 2011 reveló
una pesquería mayor que la esperada, que produce apro-
ximadamente 4 000 toneladas por año de todos los tipos
de recursos pesqueros. Este nivel de producción esta por
encima de lo que se pensaba era una actividad pesquera de
pequeña escala. Esta pesquería especializada se ha amplia-
do aproximadamente en 1% de pescadores a al menos el
10%, en un periodo de 20 años (1991 a 2011). Aunque los
peces de coral se dominaran como otros recursos tales como
langostas, concha y pulpo. Aunque no era un objetivo del
censo se observaron muchos peces juveniles en las capturas
con tamaños muy por debajo de su tamaño adulto u ópti-
mo. Un total de 58% pescadores informaron que tendrían
dificultad para encontrar otra opción de empleo si la pesca
submarina se prohibe. Los pescadores explotan recursos en
la plataforma de la isla y también en casi todos los bancos
de la costa sobre todo en el Banco de Pedro. Este estudio
también muestra que comunmente se práctica la pesca
submarina durante la noche con el fin de capturar peces de
coral durmiendo. A pesar de que esta actividad es prohibi-
da. Se recomienda que los pescadores se registren y que se
regule la actividad. Posibles acciones incluyen considerar
la prohibición parcial durante el año o prohibir el uso de
equipo de buceo y narguile.
Palabras claves: Pesqueria submarina, sobrepesca, mane-
jo, recursos de arrecifes coralinos, Jamaica
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... The preliminary estimate of landings from spearfishers indicated that it might be as high as 30% of total shelf landings. A subsequent survey of spearfishers (Ennis and Aiken 2014) estimated that approximately 10% of all fishers or approximately 2,000 spearfishers were in operation; with 65% of them using the speargun as their sole fishing gear. Of all spearfishers based on the South coast, 82% reported to primarily use the Southern Shelf and 18% use Pedro Bank to fish (Ennis and Aiken 2014). ...
... A subsequent survey of spearfishers (Ennis and Aiken 2014) estimated that approximately 10% of all fishers or approximately 2,000 spearfishers were in operation; with 65% of them using the speargun as their sole fishing gear. Of all spearfishers based on the South coast, 82% reported to primarily use the Southern Shelf and 18% use Pedro Bank to fish (Ennis and Aiken 2014). Furthermore 58% of inshore spearfishers were free lung divers, 25% hookah divers and 15% SCUBA divers. ...
... The vast majority of the reef fish catch is sold whole and fresh for domestic consumption (CFRAMP 2000, Ennis and Aiken 2014). Finfish at most sites in the artisanal sector, have a direct link to the buyer via the vendors. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The USAID Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Program (CMBP) seeks to reduce threats to marine-coastal biodiversity in priority areas in the Caribbean to achieve sustained biodiversity conservation, maintain critical ecosystem services, and realize tangible improvements in human wellbeing for communities adjacent to marine protected areas. This five-year programme will target four Caribbean Seascapes of which the Pedro Bank and Southwest Coast of Jamaica Seascape is one. This report documents the Rapid Fishery Sector Assessment (RFSA) that will be used as a basis for a fisheries strategic planning process with the CMBA seascape team and key stakeholders to complete the Fisheries Sector Action Plan (FSAP) for the Jamaican Seascape. The report is based on a literature review and key informant interviews.
... Compressor divers usually find more fish and obtain higher catch rates when compared to apnea dives (Pavlowich and Kapuscinski 2017). Thus, compressor fishing has the potential to severely impact fishery resources, particularly vulnerable or threatened populations (Ennis and Aiken 2014). In addition to environmental impacts, this type of practice represents a public health problem in several areas worldwide. ...
... I n a d d i t i o n , representative agencies should carry out educational actions aimed at fishers, to alert them of the risks of depletion of natural and living resources when using compressors. Actions of this nature should be directed, above all, to younger fishers, as Ennis and Aiken (2014) recommend in their study of harpoon fishing along the coast of Jamaica. ...
Article
Full-text available
IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing causes severe detrimental social, economic, and environmental impacts worldwide. Although this practice is prohibited in Marine Protected Areas (MPA), practices such as fishing with compressor devices have been reported at the Marine Extractive Reserve of Corumbau (MERC), Brazil. In this case study we use data on MERC fisher knowledge and attitudes concerning compressor fishing gathered through semi-structured interviews to discuss MPA strengths and weaknesses in preventing IUU fishing. Interviewees strongly oppose IUU fishing, complaining it is one of the main reasons for declines in local fishing yield. Respondents indicate that non-local compressor vessels were frequently observed prior to the establishment of MERC, and while such sightings are now less frequent, these vessels continue to appear. At the same time, respondents also indicate that marine environmental enforcement actions are rare. We discuss the roles, potentials, and limitations of MPAs in preventing illegal fishing and protecting fishers from competition with industrial fishing. We recommend the IUU be vigorously combated in Brazilian MPAs.
... Spearfishing can cause changes to fish populations (Frisch et al., 2012) and by selectively removing larger size classes, has the potential to remove a disproportionate number of males, in protogynous hermaphrodites such as most parrotfish, thus altering sex ratios and consequently contributing to population decline (Chavarro et al., 2014;Costa Nunes et al., 2012;Frisch et al., 2012). The effects of spearfishing extraction, such as reductions in density and mean size of targeted fish, are well-known (Ennis & Aiken, 2014;Frisch et al., 2012), however there is less information available on the non-lethal effects of this fishing method. Consistent spearfishing pressure causes significant changes in fish behaviour, such as increased wariness (Benevides et al., 2018;Côté et al., 2014;Goetze et al., 2017) and flight initiation distance (Benevides et al., 2016;Gotanda et al., 2009;Januchowski -Hartley et al., 2011;Tran et al., 2016), defined as the distance between the prey and a potential predator when it starts to flee (Gotanda et al., 2009). ...
Article
The grazing behaviour of two Caribbean parrotfish, a fished species, the stoplight parrotfish Sparisoma viride and a non‐fished species, the striped parrotfish Scarus iseri, were studied in the presence (fished site) and absence (marine reserve) of chronic spearfishing activity. Diurnal feeding periodicity did not differ between the sites in either species: roving individuals had significantly higher bite rates in the afternoon, while territorial individuals foraged consistently throughout the day. Mean bite rate varied between sites in both species. Abundance, biomass and bite rates of S. viride were all significantly higher within the reserve, except for roving S. viride which had a higher mean bite rate in the afternoon outside the reserve compared with within it, attributable to maximisation of feeding in the afternoon when fishing risk was lower. Scarus iseri mean abundance and bite rate were greater outside the reserve, potentially because reduction in large territorial herbivores allowed S. iseri to feed more rapidly. By reducing the grazing potential of the remaining S. viride individuals the effect of fishing is greater than would be predicted from biomass changes alone. Less grazing by S. viride would not be compensated for by the increase in grazing by S. iseri because the latter feeds on different algae. Spearfishing of key parrotfish species reduces grazing potential directly by extraction and indirectly by changing behaviour.
Article
Full-text available
A questionnaire-based study conducted in the first quarter of 2009 showed that greater numbers of spearfishers presently exist than were previously estimated. Some 2% of fishers are spearfishers whereas previously the estimate was 1%. However, on the third largest landing site, spearfishers comprised nearly 50% of all fishers. Some fishers use boats, but many north coast fishers do not, instead simply swimmimg to the nearby reefs. Fishing effort is very high, with 4 hour trips done 5 days per week. Mean catches using mostly home-made and commercial spearguns, are estimated at a surprisingly high 3,500 kg/spearfisher/yr. Dominant species landed were parrotfishes, jacks, groupers, snappers, barracuda, spiny lobsters and octopus. Spearfishers report increasing numbers of the Pacific-invasive species, the lionfish Pterois volitans, which was first reported in 2008. Best fishing season was the summer months. Most fishers reported they would have no alternative income if spearfishing was to be banned. The spearfishing sector thus annually harvests a far greater quantity of fishable resources than was previously imagined.
Article
Humanity can make short work of the oceans’ creatures. In 1741, hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller’s sea cow in the Bering Strait, and in less than thirty years, the amiable beast had been harpooned into extinction. It’s a classic story, but a key fact is often omitted. Bering Island was the last redoubt of a species that had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss years before the explorers set sail. As Callum M. Roberts reveals in The Unnatural History of the Sea, the oceans’ bounty didn’t disappear overnight. While today’s fishing industry is ruthlessly efficient, intense exploitation began not in the modern era, or even with the dawn of industrialization, but in the eleventh century in medieval Europe. Roberts explores this long and colorful history of commercial fishing, taking readers around the world and through the centuries to witness the transformation of the seas. Drawing on firsthand accounts of early explorers, pirates, merchants, fishers, and travelers, the book recreates the oceans of the past: waters teeming with whales, sea lions, sea otters, turtles, and giant fish. The abundance of marine life described by fifteenth century seafarers is almost unimaginable today, but Roberts both brings it alive and artfully traces its depletion. Collapsing fisheries, he shows, are simply the latest chapter in a long history of unfettered commercialization of the seas. The story does not end with an empty ocean. Instead, Roberts describes how we might restore the splendor and prosperity of the seas through smarter management of our resources and some simple restraint. From the coasts of Florida to New Zealand, marine reserves have fostered spectacular recovery of plants and animals to levels not seen in a century. They prove that history need not repeat itself: we can leave the oceans richer than we found them.
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