Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

2. The fishing industry

2.1 The country.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is formed of 19 major islands with an total area of 5 382 sq mi (13 935 km2) and a few thousand cays. These islands and cays are spread over a shelf area of about 45 000 n mi2) (153 000 km2) of shallower water and are located on 16 banks separated from Florida, Cuba and Hispaniola by depths of 200– 2 000 fth (366–3660 m). The edge of such banks where depths fell abruptly has an estimated length of 2 500 mi (4 022 km).

Preliminary results of the 1990 Census gave a population of 254 685 national residents. 83% of the population is living in New Providence and Grand Bahama. Figures on number of fishermen have not yet been processed. Estimates from other sources put the number of persons working in the fishery sector at around 3 500.

1990 Gross Domestic Product was B$ 2 811 millions to which agriculture and fisheries were contributing around 1% each.

2.2. Structure and characteristics of the industry.

2.2.1. Fish production.

A) Fishing

Fishing is carried out in Bahamian waters by Bahamian fishermen and foreigners that participate in sport fisheries (a legal activity) and illegal fishing. Catches of Bahamian fishing boats are by far the most important. Recorded landings (by weight and value) have increased during the period 82 – 91. Figures recorded of landed products in 1991 (which cover mostly of the landings from the licensed commercial fleet -crawfish vessels- and probably part of the small unlicensed boats) amounted to 8.9 million lb (4.0 thousand t) with an ex-vessel value of B$ 56.4 million1. By large the most important species is crawfish which represented 52% of the total weight and 83% of the total value of the recorded commercial landings during 1988 – 1990. Other important statistical categories are conch (11% of the weight landed in the same period), groupers (13%) and snappers (9%). Minor categories are jacks, grunts and sponges.

1 B$ = 1 US$

Catches of sport fisheries are mostly composed of medium -large migratory pelagic fish such as dolphin, barracuda, wahoo and blue marlin. Bonefish is caught by a fleet of small charter boats.

Commercial fishing operations inside a 200 mile zone is reserved for Bahamians. It was carried out by a fleet of 305 boats of 20 ‘– 90’ (6–27 m) length licensed for commercial fishing operations in 1991 and an unknown number of smaller boats. Fishing by Bahamians is also taking place with smaller vessels fishing for pleasure or subsistance purposes and by an unknown number of charter boats. Private non Bahamian vessels engaged in sport fishing are adding up to the fishing effort exerted in bahamians waters.

Most of the commercial fishing boats (large and small units) are participating in the crawfish fishery. Large vessels use standard Florida wooden traps and compressor divers operating from dinghies. Small scale vessels are using divers. Conch and scalefish are caught also in the crawfish fishery, specially by divers. The number of crawfish vessels (units larger than 20') using exclusively traps or divers is not known, but the number of permits for trapping has been disminishing during the last five years to 75 permits issued during the 90/91 season. Some of the licensed commercial vessels are fishing for deep water snappers using hydraulic or electrical reels.

Small boats are using a variety of fishing methods and gears such as fishpots made of “chicken” wire, hook and line, diving and Hawaiing sling, bully nets, conch hooks and nets (gill nets and seine nets). Sponge fishing, an important activity in the past, is slowly coming back.

Main fishing areas for the licensed commercial fishing vessels landing at Nassau (New Providence Is.) during the last five years have been the statistical areas Berry Island and South Andros where more than a half of the recorded effort exerted has taken place. Preferred areas for sport fishermen are Bimini - Cat Cay, Abaco and Berry Islands. Marinas situated in New Providence and Grand Bahama represent nearly 94% of the slips available in the country.

Main landing areas for large commercial fishing vessels are New Providence where 57% of the total recorded weight landed in 1990 took place followed by Abaco (23%) and Eleuthera (17%). However there were some differences in respect to species. Most of the crawfish was landed in Abaco (42%), Nassau (24%) and Eleuthera (23%).

B) Aquaculture.

This sector of minor importance was represented by four enterprises with recorded production during 1991: One experimental tilapia farm, one farm producing marine tropical fish for aquaria and one starting to culture shrimp. Total value of aquaculture production in the same year was B$ 000. Farms provided employment to 65 persons approximately in 1990.

2.2.2. Utilization of the catches.

Fish products are landed by fishing vessels under different forms that go through various commercial circuits:

a)Scalefish: Alive in wooden boxes (kits). (Small amounts),
  frozen in 40 lb (18 kg) plastic bags
b)Conch: Alive,
  skinned and frozen.
c)Crawfish: Frozen tails,
  whole frozen (relatively small amounts)

Live scalefish is usually sold directly to the consumer at the landing point as well as live conch which is also sold by the 100 to street vendors. Frozen scalefish is sold to vendors and small processing plants. Frozen conch are sold to some 23 processing plants, hotels and restaurants; crawfish mainly to processing plants that sell to hotels and restaurants or export the product.

2.3 Economic Role of the Industry.

The local fishing industry makes a significant contribution to the economy with local vessels owners and operators earning in excess of B$ 56 million during 1991. Over B$ 50 million were exported during the same period representing revenues of B$ 2.5 million for the Government.

Despite the fact that number of small scale fishermen and boats are not known it is supposed that this type of fisheries are making a significative contribution to the Family Islands economy.

In addition to that sport fishing is also making an important contribution to the Bahamian economy. During 1991, some 51 tournaments were held and more than 6 000 permits were issued to foreign vessels engaged in sport fishing.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page