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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2018)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: June 2019

The fisheries sector plays an important role in the economy in terms of foreign currency earnings, food supply and employment. In 2017, exports of fish and fishery products amounted to USD 87.7 million. In the same year, imports were valued at USD 18.4 million. Per capita fish consumption (27.7 kg in 2013) is largely above world average.

The Bahamas produced 11 400 tonnes from capture fisheries in 2017, with Caribbean spiny lobster and queen conch accounting about for, respectively, 68 and 29 percent of total catches. Other important fishery resources include snappers, Nassau grouper and various mackerel species. Conch and fin-fishes are mostly consumed locally in restaurants, hotels and homes. However, significant exports of these also take place. Spiny lobster is the most important species in terms of weight and in value with over 90 percent being exported.

The Bahamian fishing sector in 2015 contributed 1.2 percent of GDP (USD 96 million). In 2017, 4 people were reported as employed in aquaculture and 9 000 in occasional fishing. 934 vessels were reported – most small undecked boats under 6 meters LOA.

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, aquaculture production of tilapia was tried with production ranging between 5 and 55 tonnes annually. Other fish and shrimp species have been raised but with limited success. In recent years (2014–2017), there has been no aquaculture production reported except 8 tonnes of Spiny Lobster and 1 tonne of Tilapia.

General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Commonwealth of The Bahamas

Shelf area 116 550 km2

Sea Around Us:


Length of continental coastline 3 542 km World by Map: http://world.bymap.org/Coastlines.html
Fisheries GVA (2014)

BSD 80.1 thousand

USD 80.1 thousand *

The Gov. of the Bahamas, Department of Statistics: http://www.bahamas.gov.bs
* Calculated with UN Operational Rate

Key statistics

Country area13 880km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area10 010km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area3 870km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.0.379millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2019
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area619 938km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2018. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Commonwealth of The Bahamas

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 2.84 4.00 11.00 7.02 7.02 7.02 9.00
  Aquaculture 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.00
  Capture 2.84 4.00 11.00 7.00 7.00 7.00 9.00
    Marine 2.84 4.00 11.00 7.00 7.00 7.00 9.00
FLEET(thousands boats) 2.80 2.80 2.80 2.80
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up
* Calculated with UN Operational Rate

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2018Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorThe Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an archipelago of roughly 3,000 small islands and cays with a land area of about 13,935 km2. It has a total continental shelf area of approximately 116,550 km2. The islands and cays are spread over an area of some 230,000 km2 and are located on 16 plateaus separated from each other and from Florida, Cuba and Hispaniola by depths of 350 – 3600 meters.Marine sub-sector

Catch profileCommercial fishing takes place on the continental shelf, mainly on the Great Bahama Bank and Little Bahama Bank. The total production has fluctuated in recent years. Fluctuations are largely caused by the variations in landings of spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), which were nearly 10 000 tonnes in 2010 and 2012, and around 6 500 tonnes in 2015. Other important species are conch, grouper and other demersal species.

Landing sitesA comprehensive list of landing sites is difficult to compile as nearly any beach in The Bahamas can be used as a landing site. Some major ones are well known, such as Spanish Wells in Eleuthera and Montaigu Ramp in New Providence.

Fishing practices/systemsThe commercial fishing fleet is well known and described. It is estimated that about 4 000 fishing vessels are active. It is characterized by two types of vessels with two sets of activities:

Small vessels (around 17 feet (ft)/ 5.5 meters), often referred to as dinghies, operate different gears/techniques, including diving to target conch and lobsters. These vessels are typically operating on a one-day trip basis. Some of these vessels will operate under a mothership during the season. Figure 4 shows two examples of a typical 17-ft fiberglass dinghy in Abaco with a 60 Horse Power (HP) engine. It can catch 200 lbs. of lobsters a day.

Large vessels: The above dinghies can also be operated from larger vessels, known as mothership in the Bahamas. These vessels are usually above 20ft (6.6 meters) and are required to be registered. In that case, the fishing trip can be of several days to weeks, depending on the size of the mothership. These vessels operate mostly during the conch and lobsters season. They target mainly conch and lobster, but can also operate secondary gears like nets to capture snappers, groupers or other demersals.

The absence of industrial fishing vessels per se (due to a ban on longliners) is to be highlighted. Large pelagics are not targeted by the Bahamas commercial fishing fleet.

Main resourcesSpiny lobster stocks in The Bahamas are being fully exploited, while conch, snappers and groupers are, like in the rest of the Caribbean, under heavy fishing pressure and some stocks are probably overexploited. The major threats to the marine fisheries resources are coastal zone development, boat and diver damage to the reef, over-harvesting of commercial species and disturbance to sensitive sites.

Conch landings have declined in recent years. Research shows that most of the conch fishing grounds of The Bahamas showed there is a trend for local conch populations to be overfished to densities incapable of reproduction.

Of the grouper species produced in The Bahamas, the majority are Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). The production of Nassau grouper has been halved during the past decade, indicating a difficult resource situation.

Stone crab is another major commercial fishery in The Bahamas, producing about 50 tonnes on average per year. The main method for harvesting stone crabs is baited traps. Harvesting can be done sustainably if fishers only remove one claw. It is currently illegal to take both claws of a stone crab in Bahamian waters.

Management applied to main fisheriesFishing in the Bahamas as in most Caribbean countries is based on open access fisheries. No license is required to fish with authorized fishing gear. Fishing by use of scuba diving gear is officially forbidden, but a special license can be obtained by trained professional divers to use compressors for target conch and lobsters. Fishing is restricted to Bahamian vessels, except if issued with a foreign permit to operate in sport fishing. Tournaments are organized on a regular basis by United States (US) and Bahamian sport fishing associations.

Management objectives

The development of the fisheries sector through sustainable use and integrated management of the fishery resources, coastal zone, and the marine environment for the wellbeing of the Bahamian Environment.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

A few fisheries management measures have been in place for some years now and are worth mentioning. The most important are the following:Scuba diving in fisheries is prohibited – a compressor license is required to use compressed air to target lobster with depth restriction.Long liners have been prohibited to fish in Bahamian waters since 1993. Trap licenses are needed to use traps for lobsters – trap numbers (markers/identifiers) must be written on the traps, with some specific characteristics.A closed season is in place for spiny lobster and groupers.A minimum size for lobster is defined.Possession of bleach and dishwashing liquid on board is subjected to a specific license.

Inland sub-sector

No inland fisheries exist in The Bahamas.
Aquaculture sub-sectorAquaculture has been identified as a priority by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resource in the last decade, but this subsector is still in its infancy phase and is growing slowly. The available statistics show however that the aquaculture production reached a high in 2005 with 85 tonnes, including production of whiteleg shrimp, cobia and Florida pompano. A range of fish and shrimp species have been raised, but with limited success to date. Initiatives such as raising cobia and sponges and tilapia at the Cape Eleuthera Institute are ongoing, but aquaculture production is insignificant. Most of the limited aquaculture production at present is coming from aquaponics farms, which generate more income from the vegetable production activities than from fish culture.

Recreational sub-sectorThe recreational and sport fisheries subsector is also very important to the country and contributes with more than USD 500 million annually to the national economy through related expenditures by tourists, and provides employment for some 18 000 Bahamians. The recreational and sport fisheries target game fish, such as marlins and sailfishes, as well as bone fish.

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilizationSeafood packaging and fish processing is done for Spiny lobster, stone crabs and various fish species. Processing may involve sorting, grading, bleeding, gutting, washing, chilling, storing, and freezing. Several fish processing plants are authorized to export to the European Union.

Fish marketsLive fish is often sold directly to the consumer at landing sites, as well as in fresh (iced) and frozen products to fish houses, hotels, restaurants or processing plants. Live conch is sold directly to consumers or vendors for preparation of conch salad and scorched conch. Frozen conchs are usually sold to processing plants, hotels and restaurants. Crawfish are mainly sold to processing plants which sell them locally or export them. The Department of Environmental Health Services inspects the domestic fish markets

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

In this chapter, the fisheries and aquaculture sector is assessed in terms of its overall economic, social and ecological performance.

Role of fisheries in the national economyThe fisheries sector contributes an estimated 1% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but plays an important role in the economy in terms of foreign currency earnings, food supply and employment.

TradeIn terms of volume, imports of fishery products are some 75% higher than the exports. The value of the trade balance for fish and fisheries products is positive with export earnings around USD 70 million and imports around USD 24 million. The exports of fish and fisheries products in 2015 accounted for 31% of the domestic exports of The Bahamas. As such, the fisheries sector is a major contributor to reducing the trade deficit of The Bahamas.

Food securityThe latest (2013) per capita fish supply figures indicate that Bahamians have a supply of fish and fisheries products of some 31 kg/capita per year. In 1990, this was only 23 kg/capita/per year. The increase in supply of fish to the population has largely been achieved through a raise in fish and fishery product imports. Fish and fisheries products provide some 10% of the total protein intake by the Bahamian population.

EmploymentThe fisheries sector provides full-time employment to an estimated 9 300 commercial fishers and a few hundred people more in vessel maintenance, fish processing, retail and trade.

Rural developmentFisheries and related activities are important for rural development in The Bahamas. It is estimated that nearly 15% of the labour force is working full-time or part-time in the fisheries sector or related business. Moreover, if we estimate that there are a little over 100,000 households in The Bahamas, it would mean that about a quarter of the households derive some income from fisheries or related business.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunitiesThe fisheries sector development in The Bahamas has been hampered by the lack of a proper legal, policy and planning framework; a matter which has been addressed by the recently drafted Fisheries Act and the draft National Policy and the Strategic Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and Management in The Bahamas 2017-2022. Fisheries sector governance in The Bahamas is also constrained by the limited availability of data and information for management and development of capture fisheries (commercial and recreational).

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesAlthough the fisheries sector is important for the country in terms of food security, export earnings and employment provider, The Bahamas does not have a fishery sector policy. As a consequence, the daily politics and ad-hoc issues are largely interfering in fisheries management and development. In the period 2014 -2016, a National Policy for Fisheries and Aquaculture and a Strategic Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and Management in The Bahamas 2017-2022, has been developed in a participatory manner with a range of national- and local-level stakeholder consultations.

Non-Government organizations that are active in The Bahamas and play a significant role in fishery resource management from a conservation and research perspective include: the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC).

The BNT was established by an Act of Parliament in 1959, which makes it unique in the NGO community. It represents a unique collaboration of governmental, private sector and scientific interests dedicated to the conservation of the natural and historic resources of The Bahamas for the enjoyment and benefit of the Bahamian people. The major mandate of the Trust is management of the National Parks System of The Bahamas. Many of its parks have a marine component, including the longest existing park – the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The Bahamas National Trust Act of 1959 gives the Trust the power to create by-laws to be in effect in the protected areas it establishes. These areas are of environmental, historical and/or cultural importance. The Act was amended in 2010.

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is concerned primarily with coral reef education and fund-raising for the protection of marine resources of The Bahamas through education. Its mission is to strengthen the symbiosis between the Bahamian people and the reefs, which protect, nourish, and enrich us, by focusing Bahamian and allied minds on this relationship. The Foundation’s raison d’etre is the restoration of the reefs of The Bahamas to their former glory and abundance. BREEF has been active in encouraging respect for seasonal closure of the Nassau grouper fishery through public education and outreach.

The TNC has been working in The Bahamas for more than 10 years along with the Bahamas Government and a variety of partners to protect natural resources. TNC is working along with the BNT, Department of Marine Resources and the BEST Commission to build political support and garner long term financing for protected areas across the Caribbean through an initiative called The Caribbean Challenge. TNC Bahamas has also been collaborating with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) on certification of the spiny lobster fishery, through the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Research, education and trainingResearchBahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) offers teaching and training to provide the necessary professional and technical qualifications for the agriculture and fishery and 56 aquaculture sectors. Based in North Andros, its department for marine resources development provides the following services: Curriculum development to obtain an associate degree in marine science; Aquaculture – practical vocational training is offered in aquaculture. BAMSI has a 65,000 sq. ft. shade house for aquaponics with freshwater fish and plants; Research and extension – studies are currently underway on Nassau grouper aggregations and Queen conch populations. Research is proposed for sponges, bonefish and Spiny lobster

Education and trainingThe DMR staff provide training locally in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and compression diving safety. Such training sessions are held frequently and on-request.

Foreign aidFAO implemented a Technical Cooperation Project on “Strengthening Fisheries and Aquaculture Governance in the Bahamas”.

The Bahamas received assistance from the European Union funded Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Fish II project to review the 1977 Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act and to prepare, through a consultative process, a new fisheries act for The Bahamas.

Institutional frameworkThe DMR is under the Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources & Local Government. The Department of Marine Resources is primarily responsible for the administration, management, and development of fisheries in The Bahamas. The department was created to administer, manage, and develop the fisheries sector as stipulated by the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act. The department is also tasked with enforcement of Fisheries Regulations, Marine Mammal Regulations and the Seafood Processing and Inspection Regulations.

Functions of the Department of Marine ResourcesData collection, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, statistics, licences and permits.Processing of licences, permits and scientific research permits.Enforcement. By law and under appointment by the minister, a large number of staff have enforcement powers. However, in New Providence, enforcement is a full-time priority for three officers. Family Island officers are also responsible for enforcement of fisheries regulations alongside their other duties. In addition, by law, all Police, Customs, and Defense Force Officers are appointed Fisheries Inspectors and are routinely engaged by the Department of Marine Resources for training in recognizing infractions.Science & conservation issues.Seafood export quality control.Public education and training.Family Islands officer issues.Vessel operations and maintenance.Department accounting.Food laboratory.Human Resources.Clerical.

Legal frameworkThe main fisheries law is the 1977 Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act. The legal framework relevant for fisheries also includes the following main acts and regulations: 1964 – Agriculture and Fisheries Act, which provides for the supervision and development of agriculture and fisheries in The Bahamas and gives the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries the authority to declare an area protected; 1985 - Food Act, which regulates the manufacturing of food and provides for quality control, testing and certification for food processing and preservation. This act is supported by the 2002 Food (Seafood Processing and Inspection) Regulations; 1986 - Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, which establishes the Exclusive Fisheries Zone. It reflects concern for the conservation and management of the marine environment and its resources. It recognizes traditional fishing rights and provides for the declaration of protected marine areas and regulation of the fishing industry. An amendment in 1993 prohibited long line fishing, except with the written permission of the Governor General. An amendment in 2009 provides for the protection of marine turtles and an amendment in 2011 provides for the protection of sharks; 1993 - Archipelagic Waters and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, which delineates the territorial sea, archipelagic waters, internal waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of The Bahamas; 2003 – Family Islands Enterprise Zones Act, which allows for exemption on customs or excise duties for supplies related to construction of buildings, including those for fisheries, in specified zones in the Family Islands; 2004 - Wildlife Conservation and Trade Act, which regulates trade in protected animals and plants. It requires the appointment of a scientific authority to advise Management Authority on the proposed exports and imports of species listed in the Appendices of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. The Minister is required to appoint a National Advisory Committee of individuals from the public and private sectors involved in the management and enforcement of wildlife protection; 2005 - Marine Mammal Protection Act, which protects marine mammals belonging to the family Delphinidae and any other marine mammal designated by the Minister within the exclusive economic zone of The Bahamas. It regulates facilities involved with marine mammals and requires the appointment of Marine Mammal Inspectors. The Act has supporting regulations – the 2005 Marine Mammal Protection (General) Regulations and the 2005 Marine Mammal (Captive Dolphin Facility) Regulations (amended in 2006). 2006 - Port Authority Act, which regulates port authorities and port areas, establishes functions of port controllers and harbour masters and deals with port infrastructures.

The draft Fisheries Act is currently undergoing a governmental approval process. The draft has incorporated the majority of the new international norms related to fisheries, such as eco-sensitive norms related to fisheries management, the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14) and Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This new (draft) Fisheries Act makes provisions to lay the foundations of improved fisheries monitoring and management: Licenses are requested for any individual operating on a fishing vessel (linked with safety at sea training) Licenses are requested for fishing vessels There are obligations to report catches for fishing vessel Application of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for fishing vessels is required A better vessel registration system

Regional and international legal frameworkThe Bahamas is a Party to the 1982 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea since July 1983 and to the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement since January 1997. The Bahamas is also a party to a range of conventions and international instruments, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Climate Change, the Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands. The government has signed, but not ratified, any of these selected agreements. The Bahamas has neither accessed nor ratified the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement.

At the regional level, The Bahamas is an active member of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and in the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) of CARICOM.



ACP Africa, Caribbean, Pacific
BNT Bahamas National Trust
BREEF Bahamas Reef Environment Educational
CRFM Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
DMR Department of Marine Resources
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
ft feet
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GIS Geographic Information Systems
HACCP Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points
HP Horse Power
kg kilogram
MSC Marine Stewardship Council
SDG UN Sustainable Development Goals
TNC Nature Conversancy
UN United Nations
US United States
USD United States of America Dollar
VMS Vessel Monitoring System
WECAFC Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission


Bibliographic Entry Moultrie, S. et al. (2016) Fisheries and Aquaculture in The Bahamas: A Review, FAO FAO FISHSTAT J (accessed 2018)

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