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C. Chan A Shing
Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources
St Clair, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago


1.1 The resources, the fishery and management

There is limited information on the shark resources in most of the English speaking Caribbean and few efforts have been made to obtain even basic information about them. This document seeks to compile information on the shark resources in the Caribbean area with emphasis on the CARICOM countries of the Western and Central Atlantic Fishery Commission area. The CARICOM countries extend over a fairly broad geographic area (Figure 1) and include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Habitats range from characteristically marine (Barbados, Jamaica and countries of the lesser Antilles) with coral reef formations and narrow island shelves to habitats heavily influenced by riverine discharge with comparatively extensive continental shelves and muddy bottoms (Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname). The associated shark resources are similarly diverse.

In late October 1997 a questionnaire was sent to Fisheries Departments of the region to obtain an idea of the present situation with regard to shark resource use and management directions if any. Based on the responses obtained three countries were chosen for the case study to depict varying levels of use and management of shark resources. This report therefore focuses on three countries where sharks are considered important in the landings: Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica. These countries were chosen to represent the different scales of activities in the region as well as the differences in awareness and approaches to shark management. The report demonstrates some of the difficulties in developing management regimes for sharks in the region. The multispecies nature of the fisheries and the fact that most shark landings are bycatches of other fisheries poses special challenges to the management process.

The main countries with fisheries that land sharks in the region are Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. For most other countries, sharks are generally neither landed nor utilised. In some countries (e.g. Jamaica) they are considered nuisance bycatch while in others (e.g. Antigua) the flesh is used as bait for other higher priced species. Shark catches in the region are primarily taken as bycatch though a few directed fisheries exist most of which are both occasional and seasonal. This means that at certain times of the year some fishers may specifically target sharks.

CARICOM countries that have reported landings to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Nominal Catches and Landings database are Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. These data are presented in Table 1. For Barbados landings fluctuated between 18 and 25t between 1992 and 1996. For the same period reported landings fluctuated between 4 and 12t for Grenada and 440 and 530t for Trinidad and Tobago. Landings of 37t were reported for the Bahamas in 1993 and for St. Lucia data are available for the three years 1994 to 1996 when 6 to 11t were reported.

1 The view expressed in this report are those of the author and may not necessarily be those of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago.

Figure 1

Location of case study areas: Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago

Figure 1

1.2 Species composition of the fishery

The species reported from the area are listed in Table 2. The species identified from the landings of the inshore fishery in Trinidad and Tobago include large coastal sharks (Carcharhinus altimus, C. brevipinna, C. falciformis, C. leucas, C. limbatus, C. obscurus, C. perezi, C. plumbeus, C. signatus, Galeocerdo cuvieri, Ginglymostoma cirratum, Negaprion brevirostris, Sphyrna lewini and S. mokarran) and small coastal sharks (C. acronotus, C. isodon, C. porosus, Mustelus canis, M. higmani, Rhizoprionodon lalandii, R. porosus, S. tiburo and S. tudes). While all these species are caught, 15 occur frequently in the landings and three (M. higmani, R. lalandii, and R. Porosus) are most common.

Table 1

Landings as reported in the FAO Catch and Nominal Landings data base (tonnes) for countries of the CARICOM area
YearBahamasBarbadosDominican RepublicGrenadaSt LuciaTrinidad Tobago

In Guyana sharks are mostly landed gutted and headed and therefore the species composition of the inshore fishery is largely deduced from the reported range of the coastal sharks, fishery independent surveys and from limited observations of the landings of the few vessels which land whole shark. Campagno's (1984) comprehensive catalogue of world sharks includes distribution maps for the species which implies that the species composition should be similar to that of Trinidad and Tobago. Some indication of this can be obtained from the reports of past surveys around the Guyanas. Lowe McConnell (1962) reported on a survey of the fishes including sharks from Guyana during 1957 and 1961. Sharks listed as occurring were Scoliodon (Rhizoprionodon) terra novae, Scoliodon sp, Carcharhinus acronotus, C. maculipinnis, C. porosus, C. obscurus, C. limbatus, C. leucas, Aprionodon (Carchsrhinus) isodon, Sphyrna tiburo, S. tudes and S lewini. Fourmanoir (1971) reporting on the sharks of nearby French Guiana added to this list Negaprion brevirostris, S. mokarran, C. falciformis, R. lalandi, M. higmani, G. cirratum, R. porosus, C. springeri, and S. nana. The R.V. Dr. Fridtjof Nansen Surveys reported that catch was dominated by C. acronotus, R. porosus and S. tiburo (Institute of Marine Research 1989). The processing of sharks at sea also makes it difficult to determine even the qualitatively relative composition and importance of the different species.

Table 2
Species occurring in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Dominica
Scientific nameCommon nameCommon species in the landings
Alopias spp.Thresher shark
Apristurus parvipinniCat shark   
Carcharhinus acronotusBlacknose shark 
Carcharhinus altimusBignose shark* +   
Carcharhinus brevipinnaSpinner shark*   
Carcharhinus falciformisSilky shark* +   
Carcharhinus isodonFinetooth shark   
Carcharhinus leucasBull shark*   
Carcharhinus limbatusBlacktip shark* + 
Carcharhinus obscurusDusky shark   
Carcharhinus pereziCaribbean reef shark+  
Carcharhinus plumbeusSandbar shark*  
Carcharhinus porosusSmalltail shark* + 
Carcharhinus signatusNight shark   
Etmopterus polliAfrican lantern shark   
Galeocerdo cuvieriTiger shark* + 
Ginglymostoma cirratumNurse shark* +  
Heptranchias perloSharpnose seven gill shark   
Hexanchus vitulusBigeye six gill shark   
Isurus oxyrinchusShortfin Mako shark* 
Mustelus canisDusky smooth-hound shark 
Mustelus higmaniSmalleye smooth-hound shark* 
Negaprion brevirostrisLemon shark* +   
Prionace glaucaBlue shark 
Rhizoprionodon lalandiiBrazilian sharpnose shark* 
Rhizoprionodon porosusCaribbean sharpnose shark* 
Pristiophorus schroederiAmerican saw shark   
Rhiniodon typusWhale shark   
Scyliorhinus boaBoa Cat shark*   
Sphyrna lewiniScalloped hammerhead shark* + 
Sphyrna mediaScoophead shark*   
Sphyrna mokarranGreat hammerhead shark*   
Sphyrna tiburoBonnethead shark*   
Sphyrna tudesSmalleye hammerhead shark*  
Squalus blainvilleiBlainville's dogfish Longnose spurdog shark   
Squaliolus laticaudusSpined pigmy shark   

Those marked with an * were cited by FAO (1988) as occurring in Trinidad, those with a
+. in Tobago

In Dominica, which is part of the Eastern Caribbean, the nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is important in the landings of the inshore demersal fishery. There are 11 species of sharks believed to be associated with the pelagic fisheries of the Eastern Caribbean (Mahon 1993). Target species of these fisheries are tunas (yellowfin, big eye, skipjack), dolphin fish and wahoo. Sharks believed to be associated with this fishery are the blue shark (Prionace glauca), the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), thresher shark (Alopias sp.), mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini and S. mokarran) and lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris).

The offshore fleet of Trinidad and Tobago, as with the inshore fleet of Dominica, primarily lands large pelagic species (Alopias sp., Heptranchius sp., Isurus oxyrinchus and Prionace glauca). This is because of the narrow island shelf in Dominica, so that deep oceanic waters are close to shore.

1.3 Distribution of the fishery

In general, the artisanal fisheries of each country operate in areas not more than 50nm offshore, commonly between 7 to 30nm. The fisheries use a variety of fishing gears and methods in the same area but catch the same species of sharks. It should be noted that while a fishery may be called the same name in many countries the methods and gears are not standard from one country to another. For each country a few methods contribute most to the landings. In Trinidad and Tobago the artisanal gillnet and line fishery is the most widespread fishing method accounting for over 85% of artisanal shark landings. This fishery operates from landing sites all around the country.

In Guyana the major gears used by the artisanal fishery to catch shark are artisanal gillnets and demersal longlines (cadell) (described in Section This fishery is limited to coastal areas not more than 50nm offshore (Phillips, Fisheries Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Guyana, pers. comm.).

The fisheries which contribute most to shark landings in Dominica are the bottom gillnet and line fishery and the trolling fishery which operates in inshore areas off the north west, north and east coasts of Dominica (Guiste et al. 1996).

The offshore fisheries of Trinidad and Tobago operate in the EEZ and are primarily pelagic longline fisheries (Chan A Shing 1993).

1.4 Other bycatch and discards

In Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Dominica, sharks caught by the artisanal fishery are generally landed. However it is believed that some of the sharks caught by the industrial fishery are not. In the absence of observer programmes and continuing fishery independent surveys the species composition and the magnitude of this is difficult to quantify. For the inshore fishery other bycatch and discards include a range of species considered to be of low commercial value such as eels, other chondrichthyians such as rays, and in some cases sea turtles.

1.5 Discussion

There is limited documented information available on shark resources in the areas specified. The Anglo-American Caribbean Commission's ‘Guide to commercial shark fishing in the Caribbean Area’ describes the species to be harvested in the Caribbean Area (Anglo-American Caribbean Commission 1945). The early reports of Lowe McConnell (1958 1962a 1962b) provide some indication of common species from exploratory fishing surveys off Guyana. Brown (1942) described the early fisheries of Guyana and included a species list of sharks of potential commercial value which were considered nuisance species at the time. Gines and Cervigon (1968) reported large quantities of C. porosus and C. limbatus from the northeastern coasts of Venezuela, including Guyana, during exploratory fishing surveys in 1966 and 1967. Kleijn (1974) reports on the results of eight exploratory shark fishing surveys off north east South America during 1968 and 1970 using longlines and handlines. The reports gave some indication of the species distribution and an evaluation of catches by gear, season, area, depth, species, length composition and length-weight relationships in the area. The average catch-per-day for the area was reported to be 3000lbs. Stevenson (1981) presents a review of the marine fisheries resources in the western central Atlantic (FAO Area 31). The focus of the short Section on the assessment of shark resources was the Gulf of Mexico. The review demonstrated the paucity of information for the southern parts of WECAF. It was concluded that shark resources in the region were underutilised and that there were no obvious obstacles to preventing the harvest of sharks.


2.1 The harvesting process

2.1.1 Gillnet fisheries (including beach seines)

The fisheries in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are generally inshore and artisanal. In Guyana this is a partially directed fishery for sharks which is conducted in estuarine and shallow coastal waters less than 40m in depth. The fishery captures both demersal and pelagic inshore species. There are about 600 vessels presently involved in this fishery (Maison 1998) and the fishery was described by Dragovich and Villegas (1983). They reported two types of artisanal gillnet boats: large gillnetters 12–15m in length which conduct trips of up to 12 days duration and small gillnetters of 6–12m length which conduct day trips. The areas of operations of both vessel types overlap. The gillnets are made of polyethylene or nylon twine and range in size from 1000m to 1600m in length. They are generally 4m deep with 20cm stretched mesh. Phillips (Fisheries Department, Guyana, Pers. Comm.) stated that nets are generally anchored at one end and marked by a buoy at the floating end.

The artisanal gillnet fishery of Trinidad and Tobago operates in coastal waters less than 30 miles offshore and the main target species is mackerel (Scomberomorus brasiliensis). A number of other species, including sharks, are caught as bycatch. Vessels are wooden, fibreglass or fibreglass coated wooden boats, 7 to 10m in length, called ‘pirouges’. They use either multifilament or monofilament nets. The former range in size from 732–1190m in length and are generally used at night while the latter are 450–1098m and are used both by day and night. Mesh sizes for both nets range between 95 to 114mm (Hodgkinson-Clarke 1990). When the nets are set they are anchored at both ends or at one end with the other attached to the boat by the cork or float line. Multifilament nets are set at the surface of the water supported by flosts. One set is usually made per trip (Chan A Shing 1993a).

2.1.2 Line fishing (trolling, live bait fishing, hand lines)

The artisanal line fishery is conducted in near-shore waters. In Guyana handline vessels are about 14m in length with in-board diesel engines. These vessels are equipped to conduct trips of up to 15 days duration. They operate in waters of 91–183m depth about 50nm offshore on banks and rocky areas towards the edge of the continental shelf. The target species are snappers and groupers (Phillips et al. 1992).

In Trinidad and Tobago there are both artisanal ‘pirogues’ and semi-industrial vessels (over 14m, with mechanised line haulers) involved in this fishery. The artisanal component operates in inshore areas less than 30 miles offshore. When trolling, four to six lines are towed from bamboo outriggers. Leader lines are 20 to 90m in length and usually have one hook per line. The semi-industrial component operates in the same area but is capable of venturing beyond 50nm. The areas of operation overlap with the artisanal gillnet fishery. The target species are the Spanish and king mackerels (S. brasiliensis and S. cavalla).

The line fishery of Dominica operates in near shore areas of 20 to 70m depth and targets snappers and groupers. Handlines and vertical longlines are used. The boats used are either dugout canoes or keel boats and which conduct day trips. (Philbert 1983).

2.1.3 Demersal longlines

This fishery in Guyana, which uses longlines referred to as the cadell line, is a partially directed shark fishery. It is an artisanal activity in near-shore waters 9 to 20m in depth, on the continental shelf. Lines are baited and the target species are catfishes and sharks (Phillips et al 1992; Maison 1998). In Trinidad and Tobago longlines called palangue, may be used to target both pelagic and demersal shark species but are usually used for the latter. It is a partial directed fishery and is an artisanal activity conducted in near-shore areas. The number of hooks used varies depending on the target species - between 200 and 400 hooks are used when sharks are targeted. Hooks are generally baited (Chan A Shing 1993a). The bottom line fishery of Dominica operates in depths of 70–200m. Lines are either demersal longlines or vertical longlines (Philbert 1983).

2.1.4 The industrial fishery

In Guyana about 100 industrial trawlers catch sharks and species of finfish as bycatch of the shrimp trawl fishery. Details of the shark bycatch are unavailable, or undocumented. The industrial fishery of Trinidad and Tobago operates in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Vessels are between 14–23m in length and are equipped to conduct trips of between 7–14 days. Fishes sought are large migratory species such as yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), big eye tuna (T. obesus) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius). Pelagic longlines are used with 300 to 500 baited hooks per set. Bait includes squid and small tunas (Chan A Shing 1993). In 1997 there were six vessels in this fishery. Apart from the local vessels there are a number of Taiwanese and other foreign vessels which transship fish in Trinidad and Tobago. An unknown quality of shark is also landed by these vessels.

2.1.5 Fishery development

Attempts to develop a shark fishery in Trinidad and Tobago were encouraged by the need to obtain shark liver oil for the extraction of vitamin A. (Anon 1948a 1948b). In 1949 an exploratory survey was conducted by the vessel Sachem to determine the potential for a shark fishery in Trinidad (Springer 1949). Rathjen et al. (1969) reported landings of 1100t of shark for Trinidad, which was considered to be significant. The surveys reported by Kleijn (1974) identified a potential for commercial shark fishing in the waters of Trinidad and Tobago.

During 1983 to 1986 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago sought to encourage greater utilisation of shark resources through the promotion of a directed artisanal fishery for sharks. This was implemented through a project executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the FAO. Monofilament gillnets of 6" stretch mesh were introduced for demersal gill netting, a typical artisanal vessel was fitted with a gillnet hauler for easier setting and retrieving of gillnets, post harvest processing to reduce waste and enhance preparation and storage of shark flesh were also introduced. The project included biological studies of the most common species for conservation and management of shark resources.

During the implementation of the activity there was some increase in harvesting of sharks. The project succeeded in promoting increased interest in targeting sharks; reduction in post harvest losses; development of small scale processing facilities for salting and smoking shark flesh and increased awareness of the vulnerability of sharks to over exploitation (Mounsey 1986). However, as the resource continued to compete in the market place with higher valued species it reverted to being primarily a bycatch fishery, as fishers found it more profitable to target the higher valued mackerels. Consequently net traders were requested to import monofilament webbing of smaller mesh size than was previously used to catch sharks.

In Dominica an attempt was made to promote greater utilisation of sharks by promoting a number of smoked and salted products. This did not result in increased landings, but contributed to diversification of the products from the fishery (Guiste, Ministry of Agriculture & the Environment, Dominica, Pers. Comm.).

Sharks have been reported to be abundant in the waters of Guyana. Brown (1942) reported that cadell fishermen targeting catfish complained that sharks were so plentiful and troublesome that their fishing activity was necessarily restricted to the muddy near-shore zone to avoid them. Mitchell and Lowe-McConnell (1960) reported on an exploratory survey to determine the possibility of establishing a trawl fishery in Guyana. They noted an abundance of sharks which increased progressively with each haul. After three hauls the vessel was forced to change location to continue trials in a new location as other fish avoided the area due to the presence of the sharks, which also destroyed the nets by consuming fish already caught. Sharks and other chondrichthyians have been recognised as important components of the catch in Guyana and a number of surveys recommended development of shark fisheries in Guyana and the Caribbean region (Brown 1942; Rathjen et al. 1969; Kleijn 1974; Springer 1979).

Shark fishing started as a directed fishery in the early 1980s when fish imports into Guyana were banned. A vibrant “cottage” processing activity subsequently developed to produce salt fish for the local market. The success of this activity encouraged the development of small processing plants. The concurrent demand for sharkfins and vertebrae for the export market has driven development of the fishery. Boat owners and captains were often paid to target sharks and the entire catch was purchased before it was even caught (Maison 1998). At present, sharks are targeted by about five boats with the bulk of the sharks landed as bycatch from other fisheries (Maison 1998).

2.2 Evolution of the catch

Data on shark landings by the artisanal fleet of Trinidad and Tobago are presented below.

Landings (t)7006758741063873922531410448520

(Chan A Shing 1993) 1994/1995 Fisheries Division.

In Guyana a data collection system was established in 1995. Estimated landings of sharks are as follows:

Landings (t)8246912972

Source: Maison (1998).

It was not indicated if conversion factors were applied to account for sharks which were landed gutted and headed, also the relatively high estimates for 1997 are not explained.

For Dominica landings of sharks estimated for 1984 and 1985 were 2.2 and 3.7t respectively (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Fisheries Unit, 1989).

Data obtained from the main fish port in Trinidad and Tobago for the industrial fishery are presented below. However, exports and transshipments are combined.

Data obtained directly from exporters and the transshipment company for the period January to June 1998 show that about 23t of fins were transshipped. This may be equivalent to about 500t of shark landings. However details of the shark catch composition are unavailable.

Common nameYears
 (weight in kg)
Mako shark40 25827 0638 54039 792120 01812 085147 97400
Thresher shark4 89027380000000
Shark sp.32 16429 56510 5062 260055 732054 7633 552
Shark fin11 024000002800
Total88 33659 36619 04642 052120 01867 817148 00254 7633 552

* Data covers only part of the year.

2.3 Markets

2.3.1 Introduction

Generally shark landed are for domestic consumption though a number of products are exported or transhipped by foreign vessels using local ports.

In Guyana sharks are utilised both fresh and as processed product. About 90% of the dried salted shark is exported to regional (Caribbean) markets (Maison 1998). Shark vertebrae are dried and exported to Costa Rica to supply raw material for pills promoted as a treatment for cancer. Shark fins destined for Asian markets are exported to the United States.

In Trinidad and Tobago shark flesh is consumed locally while the fins are exported. There is also a cottage industry processing flesh into smoked and salted products for the domestic market. Shark fins are exported to the United States and Asian markets. Sharks and shark fins are categorized with a number of unrelated species in export data records, which makes it difficult to provide details on the quantity of each that is exported. In Dominica virtually all sharks landed are consumed on the domestic market.

Several studies have been undertaken that have examined the market potential for sharks and shark products in the Carribean Area, e.g. Horn (1984, 1986) and Walker (1986).

2.3.2 Revenues from the fishery

Generally shark remains a low value commodity in the artisanal fishery in Trinidad and Tobago, although sharks rank third in both volume and value after the mackerels (Scomberomorus brasiliensis, S. cavalla) and shrimp species. In the industrial fishery prices obtained from shark are not competitive with those for pelagics species such as tuna, swordfish and demersal species such as tile fish. In the artisanal fishery of Trinidad and Tobago annual shark landings are valued at approximately US$1 million.

Attempts to obtain direct data on the value of the shark component of either the industrial fishery of Trinidad and Tobago or the fisheries of Guyana or Dominica have been largely unsuccessful. Maison (1998) reports that about 5% of the total landings are small sharks (below 3kg in weight). Given the price structure described in Section 2.3 it is deduced that the estimated value of the landings could be about $1.1 million in 1995; $0.9million in 1996 and $3.8 million in 1997.

2.4 Economics of the fishery

As landings are essentially taken as bycatch it is difficult to evaluate the fishery specifically in terms of sharks. The price of sharks in the inshore fishery of Trinidad and Tobago is not fixed. Prices per kg range from $0.85 to $2.30. Prices vary from one location to the other being highest at landing sites on the west coast and lowest at sites on the north coast. Prices are also higher in the first half of the year when the demand for seafood is high due to cultural practices.

In Guyana sharks above 3kg are sold for $1.30/kg; sharks below this size are sold at US$0.90/kg.

2.5 The fisheries workforce

In Guyana, employment in the fishing industry was estimated at about 10 600 people (Phillips et al. 1992). The bulk of the sharks are landed by the small-scale fisheries. About 4500 people are estimated to be directly involved in this fishery (Phillips et al. 1992). In addition there are about six small scale shark processing plants producing dried salted shark employing just over 100 people involved in this activity (Charles, Fisheries Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Guyana, pers. comm.). Salting of shark is also a widespread subsistence activity. No recorded data on the workforce involved in this activity are available.

Some 40 000 persons earn a livelihood directly or indirectly from fishing, in Trinidad and Tobago. (Fisheries Division 1994a). Of these about 13 000 are directly employed in the fishing industry. Estimated employment in the fishing industry of Dominica in 1994 was about 1988 accounting for roughly 10% of the total labour force (Pers. comm. Guiste, Fisheries Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Dominica).

The complex nature of the fisheries comprising a direct work force that is not clearly defined in some cases and a large indirect component, makes it difficult to report on a workforce specific to sharks in these fisheries.


3.1 The fisheries within the context of national fisheries policies

In spite of the apparent importance of sharks in the landings of Guyana no articulated policy exists for management of sharks. The same is true for Dominica. In Trinidad and Tobago a Marine Fisheries Policy was recently drafted. The primary objective of the Policy is to provide a framework for the implementation of management strategies for the marine fisheries. Generally the Policy seeks to direct the fisheries from a situation of open access and provide the basis for the implementation of specific management measures for the different fisheries through Fisheries Management Plans, which will be reviewed and updated periodically. While consideration is given to the special characteristics of sharks they are not considered as a specific fishery.

Fishery Management Plans developed with the assistance of CFRAMP refer to sharks only where they are recognised as constituting a significant bycatch. Specific management plans for sharks have not been developed. The paucity of documented information, low awareness and the focus on main or target species in these multi-species may be key factors responsible this situation.

3.2 Objectives of management of shark fisheries

Generally management objectives apply to all fisheries and there are no special provisions for sharks.

3.3 The objective setting process

National governments have a legal and central role to play in setting objectives through their relevant agencies. Generally the objective setting process is influenced to a great extent by global trends defined in international Conventions and Agreements. However, in all cases, stakeholders with direct or indirect interests participate in the process. These include public consultations to finalize the objectives; awareness building to publicise the process and industry representation on relevant committees to participate in the process. These mechanisms occur in all CARICOM countries to varying degrees.

In Dominica and Guyana, fisheries co-operatives provide effective representation on behalf of their members. In Guyana a number of large-scale operations exist. These involve primarily the industrial trawl fishery which consists of 118 trawlers, five fish/shrimp processing plants and infrastructure for servicing this fishery. Ownership of the vessels and most of the facilities is vested in the participants of the fishery and entrepreneurs outside of the fishery. These lucrative ventures negotiate directly with the Government.

In Trinidad and Tobago the artisanal industry is represented by the National Organisation of Fishing and Allied Cooperatives which has assisted the Fisheries Division with the planning and organisation of community meetings to obtain the views of stakeholders for development of fisheries policy and legislation. In addition the action of “Fishermen and Friends of the Sea’ has resulted in the establishment of an inter-disciplinary ‘Monitoring and Advisory Committee appointed by the Minister ‘to oversee fishing industry activities and fishery management for fishing on the north, south and west (Gulf of Paria) coasts of Trinidad.

In the case of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, institutional arrangements to give effect to the objective setting process and negotiations among stakeholders are expected to be based on legally constituted Advisory Committees. Government, the industry and other major stakeholders will be represented on the Committees.

3.4 Discussion

The proposed fisheries management planning process is similar for both Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana where fisheries legislation is under review. The updated legislation will give effect to Fisheries Management Plans in respect of each fishery. Each plan will contain all available information on the fishery including assessments of the most important species and the most appropriate management recommendations. Plans will be presented to the participants in the fishery through the Management Advisory Committee (Trinidad and Tobago) or Fisheries Advisory Committee (Guyana) who will, among other things, coordinate the means for public review of plans and make the appropriate recommendations based on the review. After Ministerial review and Cabinet approval, these plans will be implemented by the Director of Fisheries. Plans will be reviewed and revised regularly to reflect information updates or changing circumstances.

In Trinidad and Tobago participation in a fishery will be by special licence on payment of a prescribed fee which is yet to be set. Granting of licences will be influenced by a number of considerations including the past performance in the fishery. Refusal to grant a licence can be challenged through the relevant Minister and Management Advisory Committee. The proposed management strategy includes regimes for both domestic and foreign access to the fisheries.

The strategies proposed for the development and implementation of management policies are considered to be satisfactory though the process is at a developmental stage in the countries under consideration. The proposals describing the fisheries management process outlined above, have been taken through a consultative process involving the major stakeholders. The major areas of concern are the appeal process where licences are not granted and the cost of licences particularly in the case of the inshore fisheries in Trinidad and Tobago.

It is recognized that the major impediment to achieving management objectives is effective enforcement. Through consultation with the industry, self-regulatory mechanisms were strongly supported by the fishing community. Discussions with direct stakeholders resulted in partnership between them and the agencies with the mandate to enforce fisheries regulations, i.e. Departments of the Ministry of National Security.


4.1 Identification and evaluation of policies

In all cases the management of sharks is recognized as a particular challenge. While emphasis is placed on the target species the management policies proposed are expected to benefit the shark bycatch. In Guyana a precautionary approach to the continued harvesting of sharks is recommended due to concern about potential over-exploitation “by a lower level of effort than the overall inshore assemblage”. The Guyana “Draft Marine Fishery Management Plan” states, specifically in the “Inshore Artisanal Fishery Management Plan” and the “Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan” that Management policies are directed at discouraging targeting of sharks and “imposing limits on the proportion of landed catch or by limiting the number of processing plants utilizing sharks by licences” (Phillips et al. 1992).

In Trinidad and Tobago the results of preliminary assessments of major inshore fisheries based on analysis of the dynamics of the target species suggests that most fisheries are either fully or over exploited (Henry and Martin 1992a; Manickchand - Heileman and Phillip 1992; Samlalsingh and Pandohee 1992). This prompted a review of policy and legislation governing fisheries development, which resulted in a policy shift towards fisheries management. In the management plan for the inshore gillnet fishery (the primary source of inshore shark landings) the management regulations are to prohibit the use of monofilament gillnets less than 4.75 in stretched mesh and move towards limited entry through a licensing system.

In Dominica the Fisheries Management Plan makes no specific reference to sharks and no management options have been proposed for them. The promotion of long-lining activities through an open access system will have implications for sharks possibly resulting in increased harvesting. However, given the small-scale nature of the activities, it is believed that the level of effort directed to sharks will be insufficient for Dominica alone to significantly affect the resource, especially as pelagic, migratory species comprise the bulk of the landings.

4.2 Policies adopted

4.2.1 Resource access

The present situation in all areas under consideration is one of “open access” to the fisheries that contribute most to shark landings. In Guyana under the Fisheries Act of 1958 all fishing vessels must be registered and licensed. In Trinidad and Tobago artisanal fishing vessels (under 12m in length) are provided with a fishing vessel registration number and there is a voluntary fisherman registration system. These systems are linked to other programmes (e.g. the incentive programme) so virtually all fishermen and vessels are registered. Dominica also has a licensing and registration system. However, licensing is not used as a mechanism to restrict effort. It is generally for administrative purposes.

4.2.2 Gear restrictions

For the artisanal fishery of Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica there are regulations under the 1916 Fisheries Act and the 1961 “Laws of Dominica, Fisheries, Chapter 79” respectively. Gillnets are limited to 900ft in length and 15ft depth with mesh sizes not smaller than 3 1/2 in stretched mesh. Net dimensions and minimum mesh sizes are also specified for seine nets which also land sharks.

4.2.3 Vessel regulations

In all cases regulations may differ for different categories of vessels. Therefore regulations governing the activity of artisanal vessels will not be applicable for industrial or semi-industrial vessels. There are no known regulations on vessels where size or type of vessel is controlled.

4.2.4 Biological regulations

There are no minimum size regulations, or other biological regulations, in effect in any of the countries with respect to shark resources.

4.2.5 Catch/quota allocation

There are no catch/quota allocations for shark species in any of the countries. None of the Fishery Management plans examined promote this management policy as a practical management, tool in light of the multispecies nature of the fisheries.

4.2.6 Discussion

Existing management policies were developed to promote equal sharing of the fisheries resources in situations of “open access”, where the inshore artisanal fishery was the primary sector and functioned as the major employer in coastal communities. While this function remains, re-organisation of the sector with management regimes and entitlements for harvesting resources are now priorities in light of the over-fished, over-capitalised state of the inshore fishery. Both the existing management options and the policy setting framework are inadequate. One of the major problems with the present situation is that it emphasizes the artisanal fishery. A major consequence of this is the absence of adequate systems to monitor the industrial fishery. It is suspected that there may be significant waste of shark resources in this fishery but this is difficult to quantify.

Macro economic polices focus on the earning of foreign exchange. There are complex interrelationships between shark and the target species in the different fisheries and priority is given to the target species and policy setting is generally driven by concern for the status of those resources. In this regard, this situation will continue and sharks will have to compete for attention with other higher priced species with more lucrative export market earnings.

Previously the policy setting environment did not include stakeholder participation in the process to a significant degree. The proposed policy setting process is expected to address most of these issues. It includes analysis of the important fisheries, presentation of management recommendations, review of recommendations by relevant stakeholders, finalization and implementation of recommendations; monitoring and enforcement.

The policy framework incorporates the provisions of a number of international conventions and non-binding agreements in Fishery Management Plans. These include: the United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III); Agenda 21, Chapter 17 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED); the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the Agreement to promote compliance with the provisions of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory and Straddling Fish Stocks; the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species; the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol, and the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Sharks are considered among the highly migratory and straddling stocks but have not been afforded specific attention in this regard. However, for all countries overarching policy specify the need to “minimise waste, and bycatch of non-target species” as well as the need to “cooperate with other nations in the management of shared or ‘highly migratory stocks”.


5.1 The planning process

Fisheries Management Plans have been developed in all countries. Countries are also going through a process of upgrading fisheries legislation to support the implementation of management recommendations. In addition, Dominica, which is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Carribean States (OECS), has harmonised approaches to fisheries monitoring and surveillance within the OECS. As previously mentioned sharks are considered in fisheries specific plans directly in the case of Guyana and indirectly in the case of Trinidad and Tobago. For the Lesser Antilles resource specific management options have been proposed by Mohan (1990). Major constraints to the development of a management strategy for shark were identified as the lack of knowledge on stock abundance, consumer acceptance for shark flesh, and the lack of information, both on current catches and the biology of the major species. The plan recommended the establishment of appropriate monitoring systems for catch, effort and size data for individual shark species.

5.2 Provision of resource management advice

In all cases the Fisheries Departments of the respective Ministries of Agriculture are the primary agencies mandated to provide resource management advice. The existing situation with regard to the flow of fisheries management advice is depicted in Figure 3, which is a composite illustration of the process for all countries.

Dialogue among the different stakeholders is facilitated through a number of mechanisms such as fishing cooperatives in Guyana; the Fisheries Monitoring Committees in Trinidad and Tobago and similar organisations as well as the Natural Resources Monitoring Unit Of the Organisation Of Eastern Caribbean States, in the case of Dominica. However, in most cases the final decision is made by the Minister. The proposed management planning process for Guyana is shown in Figure 2; and for Trinidad and Tobago in Figure 4. For Dominica the management planning process for the Lesser Antilles after Mahon (1990) is shown in Figure 5.

These systems remain to be implemented for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. They provide for regular review of Management Plans (in the case of Trinidad and Tobago every two years or as necessary and in the case of Guyana, as required) and an institutionalised system for dialogue among stakeholders. Associated legislation has been drafted to give effect to this process. In Dominica, as part of the Lesser Antilles, the process has commenced. However, it remains for individual countries to implement aspects of the process at the national level.

Figure 2

Management planning process for Guyana (Phillips et al. 1992)
Preparation of draft fishery management options by the Fisheries DepartmentDraft Fishery Management Options document
Review by participating agencies/co-operatives in the fishery sub-sectorDraft Fishery Management Plans (FMP) from selected options
Review by Fisheries Advisory Committee (FAC)Draft Fishery Management Plans with any modifications and recommendations to Minister
Review by Minister responsible for FisheriesFinal Draft Fisheries Management Plan
Management Plan approved by CabinetFisheries Management Plan
Regular reviews of Fisheries Management 
Plan by FAC as situation changes 

5.3 Fishery statistics

5.3.1 Methods used for collection of catch and effort data

A logbook system exists for both the artisanal and the industrial fleets of Guyana. Licences to fish must be renewed annually and the return of logbooks is a condition of licence renewal. These data are verified through the data returns from processing plants and fishing cooperatives

Shore based data collection exists in all counties. In Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica data are collected by dedicated collectors who live at the landing sites. This system covers only the artisanal fishery. The number of enumerated sites account for about 20% and 32% of the total landing sites respectively. In Trinidad and Tobago data are collected on 20 random days in the month and on each sample day a complete census is conducted at most sites. At two sites stratified random sampling is done In Dominica data are collected daily and a complete census is done. Data collected are raised to account for non-enumerated sample days and sites.

Data are collected for each vessel and include landed weight and price by species, as far as possible, details of the fishing trip (duration, number of crew), and records of the gear used. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica while the data collected are adequate, generally the coverage could be improved. For the industrial fishery in Trinidad and Tobago data are collected at the major fish port from port records. There are other landing sites, which are not covered, and it is difficult to verify port records. A common problem of all the data collection systems is the inability to report sharks by species. In some cases in the industrial fishery a few species are reported individually e.g. mako shark (Isurus oxyrhincus) and the blue shark (Prionace glauca).

In Trinidad and Tobago a small number of personnel have been trained in species identification; biological data collection and assessment methods with the assistance of the FAO. Training of data collectors in shark taxonomy could help to address the shark identification problem. This process has commenced in Trinidad and Tobago but is anticipated to be long and tedious. This training may be more effective for the industrial fleets of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana and the artisanal feet of Dominica where the diversity of species is smaller and in the case of Guyana where sharks are landed whole by their fishery. In Guyana a means of identifying shark carcasses will help to provide even basic information on the existing shark composition of the fishery.

A logbook system for the industrial fleet in Trinidad and Tobago would provide some details of the activities of these fleets. Observer programmes targeting these fleets both in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana would provide valuable information on their activities including discards.

Figure 3

General Fisheries Management structure for CARICOM countries

Figure 3

Figure 4

Management Planning Process for Trinidad and Tobago

Figure 4

5.3.2 Evaluation of the data collection process

Records of landings provided by the processing plants of the industrial fishery are considered reliable. As previously mentioned, the provision of logbook returns is linked to the renewal of fishing licences. There are occasions where logbook returns have been rejected when they have been found to have been completed immediately before the renewal date for a licence. Data obtained from the shore-based system for the artisanal fishery is believed to be reliable. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago a parallel biological sampling system provides some measure of quality control for respective sample days. There is also a Data Collection Supervisor who reviews, queries and corrects data submitted. Data are generally submitted within the week of collection.

Figure 5

Management Planning Process for Lesser Antilles

Figure 5

Port records are obtained each week in Trinidad and Tobago. As the port sampling system is based on the provision of reports by the company operating at the major port, it is not possible to validate the data or ascertain if complete records are provided. Generally the major problem is the narrow extent of coverage of the landing sites. Increasing the number of sample sites should improve the accuracy of the estimates. However, this will require additional human and financial resources.

5.3.3 Data processing and storage and accessibility

In Trinidad and Tobago data are entered and processed in an ORACLE database which both reports of nominal and raised data. Nominal data, which are reported by individual vessels, are treated confidentially and are used only by the Fisheries Administration. Summary reports are available to anyone who makes a request through the Director of Fisheries. In Guyana and Dominica data are entered in a database called the Trip Interview Programme (TIP) developed in Fox-Pro. This programme was introduced through CFRAMP. Individual vessel details are believed to be confidential There are no known recorded policies governing access to data by users. However, summarised reports of landings are available to the public.

5.4 Stock assessment

5.4.1 Assessment programmes

Attempts at conducting stock assessments have been made in Trinidad and Tobago. A biological data collection programme was initiated in 1985 for the major species of the artisanal fishery (Carcharhinus limbatus, C. porosus, Mustelus higmani, Sphyrna lewini, S. tudes, R. lalandii, and R. porosus). Data are also collected for C. acronotus, S. media and S. tiburo when samples become available. The data collection system is ongoing. The data collected provides details on reproduction, ageing (growth parameters), gut contents, length frequencies and length weight relationships (Henry and Martin 1992). In 1992 in cooperation with UNDP and FAO biological data collection systems were reviewed and a preliminary approach to the assessment of C. porosus and C. limbatus was conducted using the existing data (Walker 1992). Analysis of the data provided the proportion of breeding females in each year and the relationship between number of young produced at each pregnancy as a function of maternal length and the sex ratio of new born sharks. Parameters, such as mortality, catchability and gear selectivity were taken from the literature or derived making certain assumptions about selectivity and fishing effort. Based on the review of the data collected, emphasis was placed on shark ageing techniques and the determination of gillnet selectivity parameters.

5.4.2 Measures of stock abundance

The most recent survey of the fisheries resources of the northeast south American shelf was conducted in 1988 by the R.V. Dr. Fridtjof Nansen (Institute of Marine Research 1989). Biomass estimates of 1100t and 3000t were obtained for Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana respectively. The values obtained were considered underestimates given that acoustic survey techniques (e.g. sharks do not have swimbladders) and the trawl survey swept area method used are inappropriate for sharks.

Catch rate by standard boat trips (gillnet boat trips) for the inshore fishery is unfortunately not analyzed by species and ranged between 14kg/trip in 1978 to 11kg/trip in 1991. There is a lot to be done with regard to stock identification/delineation and establishing the distribution of the main species. Past fishery independent surveys conducted in the southern Caribbean provide valuable additional data information on distribution and relative abundance of major shark species (Sections 1.2 and 1.5).

5.4.3 Biological advice review process

This is not a mandatory review process at the national level. Currently some aspects of biological data collection are supported under CFRAMP and there is regular monitoring of the quality and quantity of data collected. Additional peer review is obtained through formal and informal linkages with key research personnel and institutions. These collaborative efforts have been mutually beneficial.

5.4.4 Sustainability of the resource

The outlook for the sustainability of the resource is one of concern and in some cases individual species comprising the fishery, particularly with regard to the inshore fisheries of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, Catch, effort and CPUE data suggests an equilibrium situation for the stocks. In Trinidad and Tobago the landings over the past seven years have fluctuated between 400 and just over 500t. It has been observed through the biological sampling programme that the abundance of some species in the landings have been markedly reduced (e.g. S. tudes) while others (R. lalandii) have increased.

5.4.5 Discussion The managers' perspective

The resources devoted to shark research and management in the CARICOM are limited. In the Caribbean, sharks are assigned low priority so there is little support for shark research even though there is interest in enhancing the knowledge about sharks. In the northeast South America area there needs to be greater collaboration among researchers in countries such as Venezuela, Guyana, Cayenne, Suriname, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago particularly in aspects of research related to stock distribution. In terms of generating and providing management advice, there is satisfaction with the process. In a general sense political considerations may often take precedence over others depending on the nature of the issue. User's perspective

Management measures are generally viewed as restrictive and not in the best interest of those affected. Investigations revealed that the main cause of this was the exclusion of most stakeholders from the management process. The proposed consultative mechanisms which have been developed with their input is expected to address this by ensuring that all views are considered in the management process. In addition, the resource assessment process is designed to include user knowledge.

5.4.6 Evaluation of the management process

In the countries under consideration, the management processes proposed are considered appropriate as attempts were made to address existing shortcomings. With specific regard to sharks, management of these resources can benefit from awareness programmes aimed at highlighting the vulnerability of sharks to unregulated exploitation. This requires that attention is given to shark management, promoting the need for support of shark research programmes and dispelling the negative attitudes to sharks in the region. This it is felt will give these resources greater prominence.


Gear regulations exist which limit the size of gillnets and mesh sizes as described above. (Section 4.2.2). In all countries under consideration the Minister has the authority to make regulations under the existing laws. When regulations are made they are gazetted after Cabinet approval enter into force only after this process. Little is known about the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the countries. In Trinidad and Tobago this has recently been introduced but a framework for its implementation remains to be developed.


7.1 Legal status

The laws in the region are not explicit in identifying the status of rights of access to the fisheries. In addition there are no entry restrictions to the fisheries that contribute most to shark landings. Implicitly the law points to state ownership of the resources and provides a legal basis for effecting controls on the harvesting of these resources with the authority vested in the departments of the state to implement these controls.

In Trinidad and Tobago the law which governs access to the fisheries resources of the exclusive economic zone by foreign concerns does specify that “Trinidad and Tobago has sovereign rights over---

the exploration and exploitation, conservation and management of the living and non- living natural resources of the waters super-adjacent to the sea-bed and of the sea-bed and its subsoil”…

specifying in the Fisheries Act of Trinidad and Tobago “Jurisdiction over ---

  1. the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
  2. marine scientific research; and
  3. the protection and preservation of the marine environment”.

7.2 Enforcement and surveillance problems

With regard to existing regulations the net sizes used (length and width) is larger than that specified in the regulations and mesh sizes have decreased. This implies a need for revision of the relevant regulations.

Those with authority to conduct surveillance with regard to foreign fishing, as specified in the Fisheries Act of Trinidad and Tobago, are the National Coast Guard, Police Officers, Customs Officers, the Director of Maritime Services and any person authorised by the Minister. With respect to domestic fishing the Director of Fisheries and or any person authorised in writing, by the Director may carry out the provisions of the act. However, enforcement is hindered by the diffuse nature of the inshore fisheries operating from small boats landing at numerous sites.

7.3 The legal process

Under the existing legislation the courts determine culpability. Under the respective laws penalties generally are fines. The laws of Trinidad and Tobago include imprisonment and in some cases forfeiture of fish and equipment vessels as well as destruction of gear deemed to be illegal.


Economic evaluation of the contribution of sharks to the profitability of respective fisheries needs to be done, especially in the case of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Management measures that will contribute to the conservation of shark resources are yet to be adopted. The evaluation of the success of such measures is expected to be an integral part of their implementation. In the Draft Marine Fishery Management Plan For Guyana, the fundamental principles governing the plan state that “ the fishery plan shall promote efficiency in the utilisation of fishery resources within the constraint that major adverse effects on fishermen should be minimised”

The social welfare implications of any change in the fishery are of particular importance especially as the artisanal sector is likely to be the one most directly affected. In all countries considered here the broad policy direction is towards promoting equity and increasing efficiency, especially in the primary sector, by ensuring the widest participation of the direct stakeholders (harvesters, processors, vendors etc.) in discussions and decision on these issues. Consultative mechanisms exist between these stakeholders through community meetings or fishing cooperatives. These considerations influenced the mandatory inclusion of Fisheries Advisory Committees in the proposed management process of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Such committees are expected to guarantee the involvement of the fishing community.


An analysis of fishery management costs has not yet been conducted. However there are concerns about the costs of management in general. The Draft Marine Fisheries policy of Trinidad and Tobago states “The institutional arrangements for the management of fisheries must provide a policy environment in which the fisheries managers are able to make difficult decisions to enable the Government to meet its objectives for fisheries management. The principles underlying future administrative arrangements will be as follows:

Cost-efficient and effective administration of management programmes…”

In this regard, the upgraded legislation is seeking to establish a fisheries research fund which will exist as a corporate body utilising some of the funds obtained from the implementation of management recommendations.


This report is largely the result of consultation with Fisheries Officers and others in the region. Their input has contributed significantly to the compilation of information contained in this report. In particular the Fisheries Officers of Dominica (Mr. Harold Guiste) and Mr Ruben Charles, Chief Fisheries Officer of Guyana who responded readily to requests for information to contribute to certain Sections of the report. Thanks are also due to Fisheries Departments in the region who responded to the questionaire in the short time available. Special thanks are due to Mr. Terrance Phillips, Resource Assessment Unit (RAU) Leader of the CARICOM Fisheries Resource Assessment and Management Programme (CFRAMP), located in Trinidad and Tobago. Thanks are also extended to Dr. Robin Mahon who suggested that I tackle this task. Mr Andre Thomas and Ms. Suzuette Soomai are thanked for their assistance in the preparation of this report.


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