Montserrat is located about 43 km southwest of Antigua. It is a small island only 17.7 km long and 11.3 km wide at its widest part, with a total area of 102.3 km2. Its population is approximately 12 500. The capital is Plymouth. Basic activities are agriculture and tourism. Redondo, a small uninhabited volcanic island which is part of Montserrat lies 10 miles to the northwest.
The island is of volcanic origin and has rugged, forested hills with the highest peak reaching 915 m. The coastline is harsh and unprotected and there are no natural harbours, well-protected beaches or marshy areas on the island. Little Bay is the most protected bay on the island, but it shows signs of heavy wave action along the shore.
The mean annual temperature is 26°C. There is no great fluctuation throughout the year; the mean annual low ranges from 21.1 to 24.4°C and the mean annual high from 27.8 to 30.6°C. Average rainfall is about 174 cm but, as indicated below, it is not distributed evenly throughout the year.
Mean monthly precipitation for Montserrat
Most of the runoff water and water available from wells and springs has been harnessed into a piped water supply system to provide drinking water. This has led to a marked reduction in river flow as compared with the recent past. There are no rivers which have water throughout the year or natural lakes. All the existing reservoirs are of a tank type not suitable for fish culture, but one new earthen reservoir of perhaps one-fourth ha is under construction, which would be suitable.
Fishing in Montserrat is essentially an occasional activity, in which about 220 men are involved, only 20 of them being professional. Their catching methods are rather simple and mainly based on bottom hand-lining and pot trapping in the 3 to 55 m depth interval. All of the 80 boats are 4.5 to 6 m open dorys; 50 are powered by outboard engines and the rest by oars. There are about 12 beach seines operated on the leeward shore, mostly by the 20 or so professional fishermen.
The total yearly production is estimated at 55 t. Half of this is demersal species and the other half pelagic species.
Local production is not sufficient to satisfy local consumer demand and the country is importing large quantities of salted, smoked and canned fish. In 1974 the imported weight, 122 t, was equivalent to 326 t of landed fish. In 1976, 68 t, equivalent to 221 t of landed fish were imported (Giudicelli, 1978).
A proposal has been made to make an artificial reef off the western coast of Montserrat to provide an additional habitat for reef fishes. This is expected to result in increased catches of fish.
There is no freshwater fishery. In the past, eels and mullet could be caught from the rivers, but now river flow has been reduced so much that they cannot enter. There are some freshwater crayfish in the rivers, but not enough to fish.
The Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Lands and Housing, is responsible for fishery matters, which are handled by an Assistant Fishery Officer.
Neither inland fish culture nor mariculture would be a suitable activity in Montserrat at this time. The scarcity of water would make inland fish culture costly in terms of foregone use of the water for other purposes. The new open reservoir could be stocked with tilapia. A small stock is available from some which were imported privately from Antigua in 1955.
Most conventional types of mariculture, such as oyster, or shrimp culture, which require protected shore lines, would not be suitable. There is a chance that in the future some form of mariculture could be developed. Hawksbill turtles nest on the beach at Fox's Bay and Farm Bay, and it may be possible at some future time to develop this natural resource into a sea-farming operation. There are extensive turtle grass beds in the area between Fox's Bay and Iles Bay. This area would seem suitable for seeding with young queen conches if experiments in other countries in the region show it to be feasible.
The mission believes that Montserrat at this time should devote any resources available for fisheries development to the marine fishery. No efforts should be made to develop aquaculture at this time, but the Government of Montserrat should keep itself informed of developments in conch seeding and in turtle culture.