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3.1 Background

Antigua lies in the northern group of the Leeward Islands, longitude 61.8° west, latitude 17.1° north, approximately 64 km north of Guadaloupe. The total surface area is 277 km2. The western part is volcanic in origin and has the highest peak, 602 m. The eastern and northern parts consist of limestones, marls and calcareous sandstones. A central plain composed of clay stretches diagonally across the island, separating the north and east sections. The gentle, rolling landscape and absence of high hills and forests distinguishes Antigua from most other Caribbean islands. The island has deeply indented shores with many natural harbours and small coves which are protected to a great extent by reefs. There are no permanent rivers and few springs. The capital is St. John's. The estimated population in 1978 was 74 000 (FAO, 1980).

Antigua has a drier climate than most of the other Caribbean islands. The mean annual rainfall, which is only about 114 cm, falls mostly in a rainy season which extends from August through November. The amount of rainfall varies greatly from year to year. During storms, as much as 35 cm of rain can fall in 24 hours; such heavy rains cause much damage to crops. On the other hand, droughts as long as five years have occurred. In the past numerous ponds have been constructed for water storage and more recently several larger reservoirs have been constructed. The ponds frequently dry up and the water levels in the reservoirs fluctuate widely.

The supply of water from wells, ponds and reservoirs is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the population's domestic needs. Supplies are supplemented by a large Government-owned desalination plant on Crab's Peninsula; part of a complex which also supplies most of the island's electricity (Macpherson, 1979).

The importance of agriculture has declined over the years and now three-fourths of the island's income is provided by tourism. Large areas of the island are no longer planted with crops, but instead are used for grazing livestock. In 1977 field crops contributed only 0.6 percent to the gross domestic product, while livestock contributed 5.4 percent. Fisheries contributed 2.6 percent to the domestic product (Antigua, 1978).

Table 2

Background Data about the Islands Visited by the Mission

 Unit of measurementAntiguaHaitiJamaicaMontserratSt. Lucia
AreaSquare km2771 27 560  10 830  100    610
Population mid-1978 (a)Thousand   74  5 542   2 11512.3    112
Population growth 1975–78 (a)Percentage  0.5      2.4       1.2-    1.2
Per caput food production 1977–79 (a)1969–71 = 100 133      91       96-     92
Landings of marine fish, 1978 (b)Metric tons1 5002 3 700    9 600  1202 500
Landings of marine fish, 1978 (per caput)kg   20    0.7       4.5   10     22
Total protein supplies per caput/ day (a)g   58     50       70-     57
Food supply in 1977 as % of requirements (a)Percentage   85     93     119-     92
Exports, 1978 (a)U.S.$ millions29.9  145     814- 22.8
Exports of agricultural products as % of total exports (a)Percentage    3    41       16-     65
Imports, 1978 (a)U.S.$ millions75.3  245     894-  61.1
Imports of agricultural products as % of total imports (a)Percentage  16    31       22-     20
GNP per caput (c)U.S.$-  260  1 110--
GNP per caput, average annual growth rate; 1960–78 (c)Percentage-  0.2     2.0--

Source: (a): FAO, 1980;
(b) FAO, 1980a;
(c) World Bank, 1980

1 Not including Barbuda

2 Local estimate

The country has an unfavourable balance between exports and imports, with a deficit of U.S.$ 45 million in 1978. Imports of food and live animals were substantial, U.S.$ 12.4 million, while exports amounted to less than U.S.$ 1 million - this accounted for 25 percent of the total deficit (see Table 2).

Barbuda, a small island about 39 km north of Antigua, is a dependency of Antigua. Most of the island is composed of a low plain that is only little above sea level. Its highest point is only 44 m. There is a large, shallow lagoon on the western side. The area of the island is 161 km2, including the large lagoon. Rainfall is about 91 cm per year. There is no agriculture on the island.

3.2 Present State of Fisheries

The commercial fishery of Antigua is based almost entirely on the exploitation of demersal species from the extensive areas of reef between Antigua and Bermuda in water less than 55 m deep. No detailed data on catch is available, but it is known that groupers, snappers and lobsters are caught. Approximately 800 fishermen operate 250 fishing boats. Most of the boats are small inshore craft propelled by oars, only about 60 are motorized. Fishing is done mostly on a daily basis, with fish pots (Kreuzer, 1978).

Almost all production is from marine waters. The landings are distributed more or less evenly throughout the year, and are believed to have remained fairly constant over the past few years, but are difficult to estimate, as much of the fish is sold on the beaches at 20 different sites while statistics are only gathered from eight of these sites (Villegas, 1978). The Antigua Statistical Yearbook for 1978 gives a value of 1 645.9 metric tons of fish and 174.5 metric tons of lobsters. Kreuzer and Oswald (1978) estimated landings in 1977 to be 1 498 metric tons. During its visit the Mission was told by the Fisheries personnel that 1978 production was 1 520 667 kg: 1 499 843 from Antigua and 20 824 kg from Barbuda.

At one time, penaeid shrimp could be caught in St. John's Harbour. Some local observers believe that the abundance of marine shrimp outside St. John's has declined since a deepwater harbour was constructed. Some shrimp are now imported at a reported cost of close to U.S.$ 9/kg1 for a size of 45 to 65 tails/kg.

There appears to be no utilization of oysters, but cockles and clams are collected from inshore areas with muddy bottoms, such as St. John's Harbour, Parham Harbour and Willoughby Bay. Cockles are taken by individuals for home consumption and also found on the menu in tourist restaurants. One collector told the Mission that he received the equivalent of between U.S.$ 0.60 and U.S.$ 0.75 for 12 pieces. There is no data on the quantity harvested.

Sea moss2 is scarce around Antigua, but it is quite plentiful in Barbuda. Sea moss from Barbuda is exported to Puerto Rico at a price of U.S.$ 4.25/kg dry weight. It reportedly also sells very well when brought to the market in Antigua. It is consumed locally either as a porridge or as a drink. No data is available on the amount harvested.

The price of marine fish in 1980 was controlled at U.S.$ 1.27/kg, but the price is not adhered to and hotels pay up to U.S.$ 4/kg. The restricted price does not apply to molluscs or crustaceans, and local shrimp sell for about U.S.$ 4.25/kg when available.

There are buyers who export fish to Guadaloupe where prices are higher, and while the amount exported in this way is unknown (there is an export tax on fish), it is believed to be considerable. As a result of this practise, consumers often are unable to purchase local fish. Therefore, a large share of fish consumed on the island is imported. Partly because of consumption by tourists, the apparent per caput consumption is around 20 kg.

Kreuzer and Oswald (1978) state that in 1976, 500 t of salted and dried fish (corresponding to 1 900 t fresh weight) and 100 t of canned fish (about 200 t fresh weight) were imported. Making allowance for local trade with Guadaloupe, they deduced that an extra 2 000–2 500 t/year would be required to meet local requirements and replace imports.

1 Prices and values are expressed in their U.S.$ equivalent throughout the report. For Antigua the exchange rate during the Mission's visit was U.S.$ 1.00 = E.C.$ 2.60
2 Sea moss is reported usually to consist of dried Gracilaria.

The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for fisheries administration. There is one fishery officer and an assistant fishery officer. A retired former fishery officer also provides advice. The Division does not have the capability to carry out research and development activities.

3.3 Status and Potential of Aquaculture

3.3.1 Status

There is little aquaculture activity in Antigua at present. One entrepreneur has started culture of ornamental fish. This business is a sideline and all labour is provided by family members. The farm has 20 small ponds on a l ha site. Seventeen different kinds of fresh water fish are being cultured from imported broodstock. Fresh water plants are also grown for the aquarium market. Most production is marketed locally, but there is one buyer in Guadaloupe and the owner hopes to expand his export market. Another individual has two small (0.1 ha) ponds where in the past he grew T. zillii and T. aurea, but at the time of the Mission's visit the ponds were idle.

There was an attempt to start a commercial catfish culture operation with floating cages in Collins Reservoir a few years back. Channel catfish and blue catfish fry were imported. Culture was in 22.1 m3 cage units. The operation failed due to lack of water during a long drought.

There is no culture in marine or brackish waters. A proposal by some entrepreneurs from the U.S.A. to start cultivation of seaweed in Barbuda did not materialize.

3.3.2 Potential for aquaculture

Antigua is one of the driest islands in the Caribbean and any attempt to grow significant quantities of fresh water fish for human consumption would face difficulties. A more intensive operation, such as ornamental fish culture, which can utilize rainwater and piped domestic water as well, has more potential.

There are many good sites where mariculture1 could be undertaken. In fact, Antigua presents more favourable conditions for mariculture than do either of the other two small islands visited by the Mission. There are areas with substantial growth of mangrove, such as: MacKinnon's Salt Pond, Winthorpes Foot Creek, Fitches Creek Bay, Parham Harbour, The Narrows, Willoughby Bay, Ayres Creek, Carlisle Bay, and Jolly Hill Salt Pond; some of these may be suitable for aquaculture, including for instance MacKinnon's Salt Pond where sufficient clay is present to permit construction of ponds.

In extensive culture with fertilization, annual yields of about 600 kg/ha of fish or 300 kg/ha of shrimp could be expected. If, in MacKinnon's Salt Pond, 50 ha could be utilized for ponds, then the projected yield would be 30 t of fish or 15 t of shrimp. However, when availability of land is a constraint, it is better to think of more intensive types of culture; in modified flow-through ponds with feeding, one could expect yields of shrimp in the order of 2 000 kg/ha (0.2 kg/m2) in a year; in raceways, 6 kg/m2 can be expected.

The temperature range of 26 – 31°C is very favourable for shrimp culture. The low tidal range would necessitate the use of pumps, but these could be driven by the more or less constant wind, thereby saving considerably on pumping costs.

1 Unless stated otherwise the term ‘mariculture’ includes culture in sea water and in brackish water throughout the report.

Unless it can be shown that post-larval shrimp occur in adequate numbers, it would have to be assured that fry would be produced in a hatchery. It would not be necessary to construct a hatchery right away, however, as post-larvae for initial trials could be imported. Feed would also have to be imported in the initial stages. It is not clear that this would be economic in the long run and investigations of local sources would have to be made. Cotton seed and copra meals are available intermittently from the local edible oil factory.

The frequency of tropical storms would have to be taken into consideration in design of capital intensive growing units, such as ponds or raceways; they would have to be constructed slightly back from the shore, so that they are not destroyed by wind waves. As added protection, the slopes of the exterior dikes would have to be 3:1 and heavily sodded.

There are numerous sites suitable for cage culture of marine and brackish water fish: for example, Ledeatt Cove, Indian Creek, and Parham Harbour. They are well protected, have deep water and are accessible by road. Portions of Falmouth and St. John's Harbours might also be suitable if boat traffic is not too heavy. Yields in the order of 12 – 15 kg/m3/year can be expected from floating cages, or 3 to 4 t/year from a culture module consisting of a raft with ten cages each with a volume of 27 m3. Twenty such culture units would yield up to 80 t/year of high quality reef fish. To be economic the fish would have to be sold for more than the present maximum price (U.S.$ 1.3/kg) and/or exported.

Initial trials of cage culture to determine local costs and to train local people could probably be carried out using fry collected from the wild. The Mission learnt from fishermen that large numbers of grey snapper juveniles occur during July and August and that small groupers can be taken in somewhat lesser numbers. Fishermen also spoke of a seasonal influx of grey snapper in Parham Harbour, as well as several other species of snapper. However, production-scale culture operations would eventually require seed produced in a hatchery. The technology would have to be developed largely ab initio since experience elsewhere in the world is as yet very limited, and relates to species not found in Antigua.

Cockles could probably be cultured at the Cove in St. John's Bay, Parham Harbour and Willoughby Bay. Cockle culture is practised in Malaysia and has recently been introduced to Thailand. It is simple, consisting of collecting seeds from areas where the young concentrate in great abundance, and redistributing them in areas where growing conditions are favourable.

Barbuda has stocks of Euchema seaweeds, which are used to extract carrageenan, and of Gracilaria seaweeds, from which agar is obtained. The sun-dried product of both can be marketed without further processing. The carrageenan producing seaweeds reportedly fetch up to U.S.$ 1 000/t (dry weight) for the most valuable species. The Gracilaria seaweed brings much more; the Mission was told in St. Lucia that it sold for U.S.$ 4.20 to 6.75/kg dry weight. It takes 3 or 4 kg of wet seaweed to obtain 1 kg of dry seaweed. The Mission was not able to visit Barbuda, but people with a knowledge of the area believe the island would be a suitable site for culture.

Seaweed culture does not require a high level of knowledge or skill. Sprigs of seaweed are tied on to monofilament lines which are either suspended from rafts or fastened to the bottom in a regular pattern. Investment requirements can be as low as U.S.$ 0.40/m2.

Annual yields of Gracilaria might be in the order of 10 kg of dry weed/m2 (Sivapalan, 1975) and for Euchema sp. about 0.4 kg/m2 of dried, washed weed (Dawes, 1974). In the case of Gracilaria, anticipated production for a 100 m2 culture plot would be 1 metric ton. The price of Gracilaria imported into Japan is U.S.$ 500 to 800/metric ton, depending on quality and agar content, so expected gross revenue would be in the range of U.S.$ 500 to 800 for the 10 x 10 m plot. If the production could be sold for human consumption in the Lesser Antilles the revenue would be accordingly higher. In the case of Euchema, at a value of U.S.$ 1 000/metric ton and a production of 40 kg, the gross revenue would be U.S.$ 40 for the same size plot.

3.3.3 Legal

Most of the sites available for aquaculture are owned by the Government. There are no provisions for leasing either mangrove areas or open water. However, the Mission was informed that it should be possible to arrange 10-year leases with an option to renew. There is no legal basis for protecting aquatic crops if grown commercially. There are no restrictions on the importation of exotic species. If certified by the Government, a fish farmer could import things like fry, feed and machinery, without paying an import tax, but a consumption tax would still have to be paid. Expatriates must have a work permit which has to be renewed annually; the Mission was told that this permit can take as long as two years to obtain. Some fishery laws might hinder development of some forms of aquaculture. For example, the law prohibiting the use of mesh less than 3 cm in fish traps would preclude the use of this gear to collect fish fry.

3.3.4 Recommendations for development

The ornamental fish culture enterprise should be encouraged, as there is considerable potential for developing a significant export market. A consultant would be required to advise the ornamental fish farmer, and the Government, on ways to expand Antigua's participation in the ornamental fish business.

A study should be undertaken of the laws of relevance for aquaculture development; in particular those dealing with property rights to water, and new laws should be drafted where applicable.

As discussed in the preceding section, a number of types of mariculture seem suitable for development in Antigua. One of the main constraints is that the Government does not have the financial and technical resources to support such activities and it is doubtful if conditions will improve in the near future. On the other hand, the Government is interested in promoting aquaculture and would support pilot-scale development activities.

The Mission has formulated its recommendations for mariculture development in a ‘Project Idea’ appended as Annex 4. The project's immediate objective would be to develop mariculture systems which are economically viable at a commercial or subsistance level. It would undertake pilot-scale studies of marine fish in cages, seaweed, molluscs, and possibly, penaeid shrimps. Naturally, a project of this nature would produce information of relevance for mariculture, also in other small Caribbean islands.

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