CARIBBEAN BILL­FISH PROJECT SUR­VEY RE­SULTS

Re­sponses in­di­cate sev­eral sur­pris­ing trends

Marlin - - BEFORE THE STRIKE - BY JASON SCHR AT WIESER, CON­SER­VA­TION DIREC­TOR, IGFA

In my Oc­to­ber col­umn last year, I asked Mar­lin read­ers to par­tic­i­pate in a sur­vey to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion on an­glers’ per­cep­tions about bill­fish fish­eries in the Caribbean. This sur­vey is just one com­po­nent of a large mul­ti­year study funded by the World Bank and the Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion to take a deep dive into how bill­fish re­sources are uti­lized in this part of the world. The Caribbean Bill­fish Project is a mul­ti­year pro­gram with part­ners that in­clude the World Bank, the FAO and the In­ter­na­tional Game Fish As­so­ci­a­tion. The goal of the CBP is to de­velop new fish­ery poli­cies to re­duce bill­fish mor­tal­ity and in­crease bill­fish stocks. It will con­duct a se­ries of pilot projects to de­velop con­ser­va­tion ac­tions that can be scaled up to the en­tire Caribbean re­gion to pro­tect bill­fish stocks, max­i­mize eco­nomic value and en­hance recre­ational fish­ing.

Well, we asked for your opin­ion, and you gave it. Here are some of the key re­sults that came from the study. First of all, the re­sponse rate was fan­tas­tic. We re­ceived a to­tal of 1,176 re­sponses, which nearly dou­bled our goal. These re­sults rep­re­sent the first data of its kind from the Caribbean re­gion.

Let’s first take a look at ex­pen­di­tures. Re­sults are bro­ken down by char­ter an­glers and pri­vate boat own­ers, as well

as res­i­dents and non­res­i­dents. To­tal daily ex­pen­di­tures for non­res­i­dent pri­vate boaters from this sur­vey were $2,767, com­pared to $1,036 for res­i­dents. On the char­ter-an­gler side, to­tal non­res­i­dent ex­pen­di­tures were $2,971 per day and resident ex­pen­di­tures were $820 per day.

The study also asked what an­glers would be will­ing to pay to catch one more bill­fish per trip or one tro­phy-size fish per trip. Over­all, an­glers re­ported they were will­ing to spend an ad­di­tional $761 per trip to catch an ad­di­tional bill­fish and $1,494 to catch a bill­fish that was con­sid­ered a tro­phy.

The sur­vey also ex­am­ined an­glers’ will­ing­ness to pay for con­ser­va­tion funds that could fi­nance fish­eries in­ter­ven­tions aimed at re­build­ing and con­serv­ing over­fished bill­fish stocks. On av­er­age, an­glers who had not taken a trip in the past 12 months were will­ing to pay $280 for a gov­ern­ment-ad­min­is­tered stamp or an en­dorse­ment that would al­low them to tar­get bill­fish for a year. Avid an­glers are will­ing to pay some­what more for such an en­dorse­ment, at $439 per year for a gov­ern­ment-ad­min­is­tered en­dorse­ment.

Much of the end of the sur­vey was ded­i­cated to ex­plor­ing man­age­ment is­sues in the Caribbean. Sixty per­cent of re­spon­dents in­di­cated that gov­ern­ments were not do­ing enough to man­age bill­fish in the re­gion, and 79 per­cent agreed that mon­i­tor­ing and en­force­ment need to be in­creased. Recre­ational an­glers over­whelm­ingly sup­ported the con­cept of cir­cle-hook re­quire­ments when us­ing nat­u­ral bait, as well as their manda­tory use in long­line fish­eries to im­prove the sur­vival of re­leased fish. In ad­di­tion, 82 per­cent of re­spon­dents be­lieve the com­mer­cial sale and ex­por­ta­tion of bill­fish should be banned. Re­gard­ing the age-old topic of an­glers har­vest­ing bill­fish, 75 per­cent agree or strongly agree that all recre­ation­ally caught bill­fish should be re­leased, but 36 per­cent be­lieve they should still be able to har­vest a tro­phy-size fish.

These are just some of the in­ter­est­ing re­sults we ob­tained with your help. In sum­mary, this study high­lights sev­eral im­por­tant points: An­glers are not sat­is­fied with how bill­fish are cur­rently man­aged in the Caribbean; the value and ex­pen­di­tures for bill­fish recre­ational fish­ing are very high in the re­gion; and there is the po­ten­tial to raise con­ser­va­tion funds to go to­ward en­hanced man­age­ment of bill­fish in the re­gion. The re­sults of this study will be used to de­velop cash-flow mod­els for recre­ational fish­eries in our pilot stud­ies in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Gre­nada. These will be com­bined with sim­i­lar mod­els of the com­mer­cial fish­eries sec­tors to ex­am­ine the ben­e­fits, costs and po­ten­tial fund­ing for pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions to in­crease bill­fish con­ser­va­tion through­out the Caribbean re­gion.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR JASON SCHRATWIESER HAS A MAS­TER’S IN MA­RINE ECOL­OGY AND HAS WORKED ON FISH­ERIES IS­SUES FOR 16 YEARS.

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