April 2002


Map showing landing sites, zones and vessels in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Landing sites in St Vincent and the Grenadines are zoned and categorized.  There are seven zones and thirty-six landing sites, with sites designated as primary, secondary or tertiary.  There are 2 primary sites (Kingstown and Barrouallie), 14 secondary and 20 tertiary sites.  Kingstown is the main landing site, where approximately 40% of the total catch is landed (see Table 1).

Table 1. Annual average landings

Landing sites


Annual average landings (1996 - 2000)



Zone 1

Camden Park
Great Head Bay
Indian Bay





Zone 2

Buccament Bay
Clare Valley





Zone 3

Rose Bank
Dark View
Fitz Hughes
Petit Bordel




Zone 5

Sandy Bay





Zone 6

Trading Vessels
Admiralty Bay
Friendship Bay

Paget Farm




Zone 7

Palm Island

Petit Martinique
Saline Bay




Total average annual landings



Source: Fisheries Division Statistics, 1996 – 2000.



The policy framework for the fisheries sector is based on the expansion of fish production on a sustainable basis to provide a key source of protein for the national population at a competitive price.  In order to support increased production of fish, it is essential that the marine environment is adequately protected.

Specific fisheries management objectives

  • Develop and increase the potential of marine living resources to meet human nutritional needs, as well as social, economic and development goals;

  • Ensure that the fishing industry is integrated into the policy- and decision-making process concerning fisheries and coastal zone management;

  • Take into account traditional knowledge and interests of local communities, small-scale artisanal fisheries and indigenous people in development and management programmes;

  • Maintain or restore populations of marine species at levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, taking into consideration relationships among species;

  • Promote the development and use of selective fishing gear and practices that minimize waste in the catch of target species and minimize by-catch of non-target species;

  • Ensure effective monitoring and enforcement with respect to fishing activities;

  • Protect and restore endangered marine species;

  • Preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, as well as habitats and other ecologically sensitive areas, especially coral reef ecosystems, estuaries, mangroves, seagrass beds and other spawning and nursery areas;

  • Promote scientific research with respect to fisheries resources;

  • Cooperate with other nations in the management of shared or highly migratory stocks.


Shallow shelf and reef fish resources

The main species targeted are hinds [groupers, seabasses] (Serranidae), parrotfishes (Scaridae), squirrelfishes (Holocentridae), grunts (Pamadosydae), surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae) and triggerfishes (Balistidae).  Juveniles are distributed around mangroves and seagrass beds, while the adults live among the coral reefs.  They are caught mainly by traps (arrowhead traps or occasionally z-traps) and handline, and are harvested extensively in the Grenadines, with a large proportion of the catch (approximately 80%) delivered directly to trading vessels for export.  On mainland St Vincent, these species are fished most heavily in the off-season for large pelagics.  Approximately 98 t are landed annually.

The current regulations stipulate that the use of dynamite, poisons and other noxious substances, and trammel nets are prohibited.  The use of spear guns is restricted.

St Vincent and the Grenadines share the banks and shelf areas with Grenada, hence joint management is indicated.  The stock is considered to be overexploited due to the increase of fishing effort, destructive fishing practices and habitat degradation and destruction.  The main management objective of this fishery is to promote stock recovery. 

Management measures include size and gear limits, close areas and seasons; effort reduction and co-management arrangements.  So far, the modification of traps to improve selectivity has not yet been implemented, primarily as a result of declining use of traps. Exploratory fishing for deep-slope demersals and large pelagics are continuing as an initial step in the diversion of effort from the shallow shelf and reef fishery.  Management teams have been appointed to manage the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Permission for the use of spear guns is granted only to commercial fishers.

The Tobago Cays Marine Park has been set up under the newly enacted Marine Park and Protected Areas Act.  Under this act, the management team is required to consult stakeholders on management issues.  Whenever there is a request from the Central Planning Department, the Fisheries Division provides advice on projects with potential significant negative impacts on the marine environment.  However, no formal mechanism has been instituted.

Deep-slope fish resource

Targeted species include snappers (Lutjanidae) and groupers (Serranidae), which are taken mainly on handlines.  Bottom set longlines with about 100 hooks are also used.  These species are fished more heavily in the off-season for large pelagics.  In the Grenadines, they are harvested all year round and a large proportion of the catch is delivered direct to trading vessels for export.

There are no specific regulations for this fishery except the restriction on mesh size for traps.  Joint management is indicated since St Vincent and the Grenadines share the banks and shelf area with Grenada.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that this fishery is underexploited.  Potential yield estimates range from 32 to 144 t/year (Source: FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, No. 313).  A precautionary approach is warranted since foreign effort cannot be quantified and some species (e.g. groupers) are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation while they aggregate for spawning.

The estimated catch of deep-slope demersals in 2000 was 35 t.

The main management objective of this fishery is to maximize catches within the limits of the potential yield.  This can be achieved by (1) minimizing illegal foreign fishing;  (2) protecting stock from overfishing, by the adoption of appropriate management measures to limit fishing effort, particularly during the spawning season for groupers; and (3) integrating and improving the collection of biological and catch and effort data.

Current government policy is that the St Vincent and the Grenadines Coastguard Services designate 15 sea days to fisheries surveillance and enforcement. Data on catch rates and size frequency are also being routinely collected for a number of grouper and snapper species.

Coastal pelagics

The coastal pelagics are nearshore fish found in mid-water or surface waters in beach areas.  They are often smaller than offshore pelagics.  The main target species are jack, herring, silverside, anchovy, ballyhoo, robin/scad and small tunas.

Schooling species are caught by seines, which are set from small rowboats or set offshore from a large double-ended rowboat assisted by two or three smaller boats (some are powered by outboard engines) and a team of SCUBA divers to tend the foot rope.  Gill nets (fixed or drifting) are used primarily for catching ballahoo.

Coastal pelagics account for approximately 45 to 60% of the total estimated landings.  This fishery is one of the most important in St Vincent and the Grenadines.  Anecdotal evidence from fishers suggests that stocks are moderately exploited.  Lack of information precludes the estimation of potential yield.

Currently, there is a size restriction on mesh gear, with the use of trammel (tangle) nets prohibited and restriction on the use of ballahoo nets.

The management objectives are: (1) to encourage co-management of the fishery; and (2) maintain the artisanal nature of the fishery.

Management measures in place include (1) minimum mesh size for seines (this has already been legislated); (2) expansion of the marine reserve areas; and (3) control of land based pollution and coastal development.

Large pelagic fish resources

The large pelagic fish resources are fast-swimming migratory fish that inhabit the deep sea.  The target species include tunas (Scombroidei), billfishes (Stiophoridae), dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus), wahoo (Acanthocybium Solandri), sharks (Elasmobranchii), swordfish (Xiphus gladius), whales and  porpoises (Cetaceae).

The regional large pelagics (dolphinfish, kingfish, etc.) are mainly caught by trolling from pirogues and canoes east of the Grenadines bank.  Most of the catch is landed in Kingstown.  In the Grenadines, catches of regional large pelagics are primarily incidental to fishing for shallow shelf reef and deep-slope fishes.  Trolling lines (with artificial lines or baited hooks) are deployed at 100 m or more depth while the vessel is steaming, or at the surface with outriggers when underway.  Ocean-wide pelagics (yellowfin tuna, billfishes and swordfish) are targeted primarily by multipurpose vessels (Management Plan 1997).

Two humpback whale species are taken in the Grenadines, usually in the vicinity of Bequia between January and May.  Blackfish or pilot whales and other small whales and porpoises are harvested in St Vincent, mainly from Barrouallie.

The Eastern Caribbean is considered to be the minimum management unit for the regional large pelagics.  For most ocean-wide species, ICCAT propose the Western Atlantic, or even the entire Atlantic Ocean, as the management unit.

The large pelagics make up 25% (214 t) of the estimated average annual landings in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG Fisheries Statistics 2000).  There are no regulations controlling the harvest of large pelagics in the Eastern Caribbean.

Management objectives include (1) cooperation with members of ICCAT, particularly Caribbean states, to assess, protect and conserve the large pelagic resources; and (2) promotion of development of commercial and sport fisheries.

Management initiatives and measures in place include to:

  • continue negotiations leading to the ratification of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Common Fishing Zones agreement, with a National Boundary Negotiating Committee already established; 

  • draft a regional management plan with other Caribbean states, particularly OECS countries, to manage the fishery for large pelagics. St Vincent and the Grenadines is participating in discussions and providing support in principle for the establishment of a regional Fisheries Mechanism for CARICOM countries;

  • continue to participate in ICCAT through CFRAMP and consider adopting national conservation measures. St Vincent and the Grenadines has supported participation in ICCAT by CFRAMP staff;

  • cooperate regionally in monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), particularly within the context of the OECS common fisheries surveillance zones agreement.  A number of regional surveillance exercises have taken place and St Vincent and the Grenadines has participated, as well as being party to the OECS MCS agreement;

  • improve the quality of data collected.  The data collection system is being refined and upgraded; and

  • expand markets by using strategies such as increasing value-added products. The Fisheries Division of St Vincent and the Grenadines is currently involved in product development, assisted by Japanese technical experts in post-harvest handling.  There have also been significant infrastructure development at a number of landing sites.

Lobster resource

Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is harvested in the Grenadines by teams of a dozen or so men, of which five to six are SCUBA divers using stainless steel wire nooses.  Each diver will carry several nooses.  Each team deploys four to five open boats or quarter-decked speedboats of about 4.6 – 5.5 m long, mainly constructed of wood with a 35-45 hp outboard motor.

The spiny lobster fishery is a very valuable fishery for St Vincent and the Grenadines.  Approximately 25 t are exported annually to neighbouring islands such as Martinique and St Lucia.  An estimated 10 – 20% of the lobster catch is consumed locally.

Since St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada share the same shelf, joint management is indicated.  The lobster population is considered to be overexploited in nearshore areas.  The potential yield is 90 t/year (FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, No. 313).

The current regulations stipulate a close season for lobster (1 May – 31 August) as well as minimum size limits, restrictions on fishing gear, and restrictions on taking berried females or moulting individuals.

Management objectives have implications for the level and methods of resource utilization and the management of the resources.  The general management objectives for the lobster resources are:

(1) to manage the resource on a sustainable basis – Resource depletion can be prevented, where it has not already occurred, by controlling fishing effort.  This would contribute to the maximization of net national benefit, including maximization of foreign exchange earnings; and

(2) to rebuild stock in depleted areas – this could be accomplished by various management measures.  Unless fishing pressure is reduced, the viability of the fishery is threatened, and could result in complete loss of foreign exchange earnings, employment and income.

Further potential management measures include:

  • enforce more rigorously the existing regulations;

  • control land-based pollution and coastal development;

  • enforce regulations on illegal fishing;

  • evaluate the feasibility of using artificial habitats to rebuild depleted stocks; and

  • initiate collection of biological data and improve the collection of catch and effort data.

Conch resource

The conch fishery of St Vincent and the Grenadines is a moderately important commercial activity, and conch is harvested primarily by a number of lobster fishermen during the close season for lobster.  There are also specialized free-diving conch teams operating out of Union Island, who harvest the resource all year round.

Conch fishermen use double-enders of less than 20 foot in length, powered by sail, oars or small outboard engines.  The operation involves three persons: one who dives with a rope around his waist while the other two remain in the boat and are responsible for keeping the boat in position (i.e. over the fishing ground) and retrieving the diver.  Divers using this method dive for two to three hours per day.  Approximately 500 fishermen and 160 fishing vessels are involved in the conch fishery.

An estimated 10.5 t of conch is landed annually in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and, of this figure, approximately 4 t are exported to neighbouring islands.  The current regulations stipulate a size restriction (minimum shell length and meat weight) and harvesting of conch with a flared lip.

The general management objective for the conch fishery is to manage the resource on a sustainable basis, preventing resource depletion – where it has not already occurred – by controlling fishing effort.

Other management measures in place are: (1) more rigorous enforcement of existing regulations; (2) efforts initiated to map the critical habitat of conch to refine estimates of potential yield; (3) expansion of marine protected areas; and (4) support to CITES conservation measures re Appendix II.  St Vincent and the Grenadines is party to the CITES convention and participates in all CITES meetings.  CITES forms are issued for all conch exported from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Institutional arrangements

The Fisheries Division operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and is responsible for the overall management and development of the fisheries sector.


  • The Fisheries Act (1986) and Regulation (1987), which form part of the OECS harmonized legislation, covers fisheries access agreements, local and foreign fishing licensing, fish processing establishments, fisheries research, fisheries enforcement and the registration of fishing vessels.  The legislation also specifies conservation measures such as prohibiting the use of any explosive, poison or other noxious substance for the purpose of killing, stunning, disabling or catching fish; close seasons; gear restrictions; and creation of marine reserves.  The legislation gives the minister responsible for fisheries the authority to create new regulations for the management of fisheries when necessary.

  • The Maritime Areas Act (1982) – Declares the maritime areas of St Vincent and the Grenadines.  These maritime areas are internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zones, and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

  • Fish Processing Regulations (2000).

  • High Seas fishing Act (2001).

Other relevant legislation includes:

  • Town and Country Planning Act (1992) – covers coastal zone management.

  • Forestry Act (1945) – covers mangrove protection.

  • Mustique Conservation Act (1989) – Management of the conservation areas on and around Mustique.

  • Central Water and Sewage Authority Act (1978) – control of land-based pollution.

  • Public Health Act (1977) – waste management.


Over the past ten years or so the fishing industry has made tremendous strides and continues to do so.  A number of St Vincent and the Grenadines nationals, business people and fishers have made significant investment in the fisheries sector.  This has been facilitated by the introduction of multipurpose vessels fitted with modern navigational equipment and small-scale industrial gear (fish finders, global position systems) and the construction of fishing centres throughout the state through Japanese grant aid assistance. The government’s policy for the managing of the fishing centres is through promoting the establishment of functional fishing cooperatives within the various fishing communities where centres exist, and to further facilitate stakeholder investment.  These cooperatives assume management of the fishing centres as they develop.

Development banks have provided a great number of loans to the fishing industry.  Approximately 14% of the loans issued by the National Development Foundation constituted loans to the fisheries sector.  Although accessibility is limited, repayment plans are favourable, facilitating approval of a greater number of loans to the fisheries subsector.

Although the fishing industry is still predominantly small scale and artisanal, the concession and incentives granted by government have given fishers the opportunity to invest in bigger and more efficient boats (fibreglass pirogues with outboard or inboard diesel engines) and to improve gear technology.  Fishers have also found it to be beneficial to operate their own vessels.  About 90% of persons who own artisanal fishing vessels participate in the harvesting operations.  In cases where the owner does not take part in the harvesting operation, they are involved in the marketing of catch as vendors, wholesalers or exporters.


The demand for fish in St Vincent and the Grenadines is on the increase due to increasing awareness of the nutritional value of fish and fish products, the prospect of developing healthy eating habits, and increased tourist arrivals to the islands. 

Fish landings in St Vincent and the Grenadines are about 2.5 million pounds (1134 t) annually.  An additional 660 000 pounds (300 t) of fish and fish products are imported, while the average annual fish exports amount to an estimated 390 000 pounds (175 t).

The population of St Vincent and the Grenadines is approximately 115 000, with an expected growth rate of 0.7% per annum.  Current annual per capita consumption of fish is estimated to be 10 kg.  By 2015, the population is projected to increase to approximately 140 000 (using a low-case scenario) or 152 000 (using a high-case scenario), making the demand for fish even greater. 

It is assumed that an additional supply of approximately 450 t of fish will be needed annually to feed the national population in the next 25 years or so.  This is based on the assumption that the per capita consumption of fish will remain constant and that fish landings are more likely to decrease than increase, given regional and worldwide trends.  The development of underutilized and unutilized species may offset this to a certain extent.