Overview of fisheries in the CAMAC zone and interactions with marine megafauna

One of the aims of the Camac project is to assess the socio-economic and environmental issues associated with interactions between fishing and marine megafauna.

To achieve this objective, three main actions have been implemented during the first phase of CAMAC in 2023:

  1. setting up a scientific and technical advisory committee to support the actions, with fisheries stakeholders in particular;
  2. Synthesise available information and data on fishing activities in the region and their interactions with marine megafauna;
  3. identify priority areas for the knowledge-building actions planned for phase II.

The main deliverable of this workstream is therefore the report providing an overview of fishing practices and by-catches in the area covered by the CAMAC project. Here are the main points.

Overview of fishing activities

The report indicates that fishing activities are mainly small-scale and for local consumption. This activity employs many people and is an important source of income and food security for local communities.

Industrial fishing in the Caribbean is mainly pelagic and consists of pelagic trawls, shrimp trawls and longliners; it is most developed in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and French Guiana.

barque de pêcheurs

Pêcheurs à saint-Pierre en martinique

Benjamin Guichard / Office français de la biodiversité

Pêcheurs à saint-Pierre en martinique

Benjamin Guichard / Office français de la biodiversité

Oversight and regulation

The report shows that most Caribbean countries have fisheries monitoring programmes. However, there is very little long-term monitoring of bycatch, and few specific studies. In terms of conservation, the report highlights the disparate regulations in place for different species and territories.

  • 6 countries and territories in the CAMAC zone still authorise the capture of marine turtles
  • Shark and ray fishing is banned in 4 countries (7 territories) in the CAMAC zone,
  • Shark finning is banned in 11 countries (19 territories).
  • The EEZs of the Dominican Republic, some of the British Virgin Islands, the Dutch islands of Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire, and the Los Roques archipelago in Venezuelan waters are shark sanctuaries.
  • Marine mammals are fully protected in around half the countries in the CAMAC zone.
  • Five countries have MPAs specifically dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals: the Dominican Republic (Bancs de la Plata and Navidad Sanctuaries), France (Agoa Sanctuary), the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Yarari Sanctuary), Dominica (MPA dedicated to sperm whales) and the United States (Puerto Rico).

Focus on negative interactions

A survey was carried out among experts in the CAMAC zone for marine turtle, elasmobranch and marine mammal species. The vast majority of experts who responded to the online survey identified by-catches of marine turtles, elasmobranchs and marine mammals as a major problem to be mitigated and better assessed in their country/territory, for almost all groups of marine megafauna species.

Some depredation issues were also raised, including marine mammal depredation on traps in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, and several cases of shark depredation on various fishing gear in Puerto Rico, Saba and the French West Indies.

filets de pêche

Filets de pêches entassés sur le quai

Jérôme Couvat

Filets de pêches entassés sur le quai

Jérôme Couvat

What can be done after this overview?

Following this review of knowledge about fisheries and by-catches, an action plan and recommendations were drawn up. These include:

  • Refining the collection and compilation of available data;
  • Conducting surveys with fishermen at pilot sites to characterise the interactions between marine megafauna and Caribbean fisheries;
  • assessing the interactions in order to formulate operational recommendations for mitigating the main negative impacts.

To read the full report, download the file in the documentation below.