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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
      • Fishing communities
    • 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
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. 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: September, 2018.

Curaçao is a Lesser Antilles island in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region. It is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.The country was formerly part of the Curaçao and Dependencies colony (1815–1954) and is now formally called the Country of Curaçao. It includes the main island of Curaçao and the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao ("Little Curaçao"). Curaçao has a population over 160,000 in an area of 444 km2 and its capital is Willemstad.Before the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010, Curaçao was administered as the "Island Territory of Curaçao”, one of five island territories of the former Netherlands Antilles.Although fishing accounts for less than 1% of Curaçao’s GDP, it is a socially and culturally important activity that provides income and protein to a portion of the population. All fishing that takes place in Curaçao’s waters is artisanal. In 2000, five vessels were reported as actively operating. These were all purse seiners 60m and above (4 vessels reported as 60-74.9m, one vessel as 75 and over), targeting primarily skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). Although registered under Curaçao’s flag, these are Spanish vessels fishing exclusively in international waters. Total annual landings in Curaçao’s artisanal fishery are estimated to be 500 t. Pelagic species account for the majority of the catch (about 80%), with the remainder composed of demersal and reef species. There are approximately 15 full-time and 229 part-time fishers utilizing 98 undecked, multipurpose boats. Most of Curaçao’s artisanal fishers sell some of their catch at local markets and retain a portion for home consumption.Marine tourism, including cruise ship tourism, contribute over $400 million to Curaçao’s economy each year, adding to the value of its marine resources.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Curaçao

Shelf area 251 km2 http://www.seaaroundus.org
Length of continental coastline 364 Km http://world.bymap.org/Coastlines.html
Fisheries GDP (year) N/A N/A

Key statistics


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 - Curaçao

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017
EMPLOYMENT (thousands)
  Aquaculture ..
FLEET(thousands boats) 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

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 sectorCuraçao has a distant water fisheries, operating in the Eastern Central Atlantic, taking mainly tuna species. As this catch does not play any role in the Curaçao economy, the following text will concentrate exclusively on the coastal fisheries. Almost all fishing in coastal areas of Curaçao is artisanal; however, since the turn of the century, there have been attempts to introduce longlining as a way to develop local fishing in the Exclusive Fishing Zone, although without success.
Curaçao had a break in fisheries data collection. Since its resumption (in 2000), data on catch and effort are being collected at landing sites on a daily basis, using a sampling method. Catches in coastal waters are estimated between 500 to 1 100 tonnes.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileCuraçao fisheries are exclusively artisanal. The Curaçao artisanal fishers engage in different types of fisheries targeting pelagic and demersal species. There is no clear distinction between target species and by-catch. Fish species with the highest market value include wahoo, dorado (mahi mahi), red-snappers and groupers. Less desired fish species such as shark, marlin and tuna are still sold at relative high market prices compared to prices of chicken and pork meat.

Landing sitesThere are 15 main landing sites, namely (from the north to the south on the calmer West Coast) Westpunt, Lagoen, Santa Cruz, Santa Martha, Daaibooi, Sint Michiel, Iscadera, Rifhaven, Baii Macola, Caracasbaai, Kura Buriku, and on the east coast Playa Canoa. Caracasbaai is the main landing site, accounting for about 40% of landings.

Fishing landings sites in Curaçao
Fishing landings sites in Curaçao

Fishing pressure is highest in Zone 7 (Westpunt) and Zone 1 (Klein Curaçao). Most fishing takes place offshore targeting deep-water or pelagic fish species (WI Listening Tour, 2016, Dilrosun, 2003) so the effect of this fishing effort on reef-associated fish communities is likely smaller than expected from Figure 9. Fish stocks near Oostpunt (Zone 2), coastal waters off Willemstad (Zone 4) and along the north shore (Zone 8) experience the lowest fishing pressure on the island resulting relatively healthy fish stocks in this zone. Lack of fishing in Zone 4 (Willemstad) likely reflects the conflict between shipping traffic and small fishing vessels (e.g., wake waves from larger vessels may impact smaller fishing vessels). Rough ocean conditions and the long distance that vessels must travel from fishing ports to the North Shore likely prevents intensive fishing in this area.

Fishing zones in Curaçao
Fishing zones in Curaçao

Fishing practices/systemsTwo main fishing systems exist in the country: a troll fishery that targets pelagic fish and a reef fishery that targets demersal and some reef species. Total annual landings are estimated to be between 500 and 1100 tons. Hand-line and trolling fishing are, and always have been, the most common form of fishing on Curaçao, accounting for the majority (~85%) of demersal and pelagic fish. Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) is the top landed species. Barracuda (Sphyraena), groupers (Serranidae), and snappers (Lutjanidae) account for the largest portion of reef fishery landings. Although there is no permanent fishery monitoring program in Curaçao, several short-term monitoring studies have been conducted over the last 15 years by the government and university students. Reefs around Curaçao appear to be overfished based on the trophic levels of species present, the average size of species, and the absence of previously important fishery species from current landings.

The boats are commonly operated by 1 or 2 fishers and the trip duration is usually one day, although some fishers sometimes venture out the Klein Curaçao and Bonaire where they stay over for several days. The total number of fishers is 183 of which 83 can be considered full time

Main resourcesWahoo, snappers, groupers, jacks, reef sharksrainbow runners, barracudas, bonefish, mahi mahi, ladyfish, gray snapper, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, Atlantic spearfish, wahoo, king fish, black fin tuna are the main resources. Surveys found that carnivorous fishes, such as sharks, groupers and snappers, are found at extremely low abundances across all zones of Curaçao. The depletion of these species is especially worrisome as they support local fishing economies. In addition, they are important in controlling the abundance of certain fish species (e.g., damsel- and lionfish) that, when not controlled by predators, inflict significant damage to native reef communities and corals. Overall, resources are likely to be overfished, as is shown in declining catches and smaller sizes of fish caught.

Management applied to main fisheriesThere are currently no no-take zones in Curaçao’s waters, but the government has the authority to establish them and there are concrete plans to do so.

Fishing permits are required for vessels longer than 12m or more than 6 Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT), or deploy more than 4 troll lines. In practice, as most of the boats are smaller, fishing licences are very few.

Fishing with drag nets, spears, harpoons, quinaldine, and explosives is prohibited. Fish traps must have a mesh size greater than 38 mm and an escape opening of at least 20x2.5 cm and made of biodegradable material.

In waters 60m or less, fishing with gillnets and trammelnets is forbidden without a permit. In areas from Watamula to Oostpunt, bottom longlines and beach seines are forbidden. Fishing for marine mammals is forbidden, as well as using bait derived from marine mammals.

Catching turtles and turtle eggs is forbidden. Egg bearing lobsters and lobsters that are molting may not be landed. Taking and possessing of corals is prohibited.

Management objectivesThe management objectives are to reduce illegal catch and rebuild stressed fish stocks.

Management measures and institutional arrangementsPermit of large vessels is the main management measure in place at the moment.

Fishing communitiesTraditional fishing played an important role in the villages, however, in recent years sport fishing and other tourist activities have replaced commercial fishing in rural communities.

Inland sub-sectorNo inland fisheries exists in Curaçao.

Aquaculture sub-sectorCurrently no significant aquaculture production occurs on Curaçao.

Recreational sub-sectorSport fishing is a popular activity in Curaçao, mostly targeting pelagic species such as marlin, tuna, and wahoo. Since 1966, the Curaçao Yacht Club has hosted an annual fishing tournament. There are a number of charter boat operators who offer day trips to visitors. The Curaçao Tourism Board lists seven sport fishing operators on its website, although this list is not comprehensive. Shore fishing is also a popular recreational activity.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationFish is mainly utilized in fresh form.

Fish marketsSome dedicated fish markets exist in the country, especially at the main landings sites. In addition, imported fish from Venezuela and Bonaire is sold at the main fish stalls in the floating market, the main fishing market in the country. Tariffs on imported fish are low, which makes imports inexpensive and competing with domestic production. Imports play an important role in fish consumption contributing for over sixty percent of consumed fish. The main imported products include canned tuna and dried cod. All the production from the distant water fleet never comes close to the island and is exported directly from the fishing vessels.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyWhile fisheries contributed about 4% to the Curaçaoan national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1904, this contribution has decreased to less than 1% in 2003, and is even lower at present. This is partially caused by the low import prices of fish, resulting in relative higher market prices for local fish species compared to foreign fish species, but also by the declining catches due to overfishing.

TradeThe main imported products include canned tuna and dried cod. The value of imports exceeds US$ 9 million. All the production from the distant water fleet never comes close to the island and is exported directly from the fishing vessels.

Food securityThere is a large demand for seafood in the country. Curaçao’s seafood consumption was estimated at 20.8 kg per capita.

EmploymentEmployment in the fisheries sector has been declining in recent years. High fuel prices and import taxes on fishing gear, but also alternative employment in the tourism industry, have resulted in many fishers dropping out of the fishery sector.

Rural developmentThe fisheries sector no longer plays an important role in rural development.

Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesCatch per unit effort has decreased substantially during the last three decades due to a drastic decline in demersal and pelagic fish abundance. This has led to a shift from demersal towards pelagic species and forced fishers to target low market value species. The largest decrease in abundance was found for large predators which are virtually absent from the reefs at present.

The degradation of coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitats has negatively impacted on reef fish biomass. The die-off of Acropora, which provided important habitat and structure for many reef species, has led to a huge decline in fish biomass and a loss of one-third of species diversity.

Several approaches to support improvement of domestic fisheries include: protecting key stocks while ensuring ongoing access to marine resources; improving fisheries management measures related to gear usage, permitting, and other common tools; improving ecosystem, fisheries, and socioeconomic monitoring to inform adaptive decision-making; and ensuring compliance through collaboration, education and enforcement. Of particular concern for fisheries management is Zone 7, which is a high use and high value fishing zone. This zone ranks among the second lowest for fish biomass of all the zones on the island indicating severe overfishing. Domestic fisheries in Curaçao are small in scale and fishers generally fish in specific locations. This means that while fishing is distributed across the island, place-based decisions will affect different fishers in different ways.

The government has plans to establish potential no take zone networks around Curaçao. These plans are designed to protect nursery areas (inland bays), to safeguard fish stocks, and to support impact areas as fish stocks recover.

Curaçao has a rich history in marine research focused on the marine ecology of Curaçao’s coral reef environments. Less studied are the deep sea and pelagic habitats, as well as mesophotic reefs that exist between depths of 30 to 100 meters. In addition, fisheries data are lacking and difficult to collect with small vessels using a large number of ports over a large geographic area. This lack of data makes it difficult to formally evaluate fishing practices. In addition, there is a lack of socioeconomic research regarding ocean use and users. To overcome these challenges, a more robust system of research and monitoring is needed to support science-based management decisions.

Yet another problem is the fact that fisheries are split between two ministries, which make a coherent policy for fisheries challenging.

Curaçao has made great progress in the fight against illegal fishing, and can now effectively address this practice. Therefore, in 2017 the European Commission withdrew the yellow card which was handed out in 2013. An imminent export prohibition to the EU is thus no longer coming.

The price of local fish, which is generally of higher quality than the imported one, is usually somewhat higher than that of the imported fish, but cannot rise very high above it. Thus the rising costs for the fishers could be passed to the customer only partly. This is one of the main causes of the financial difficulties fishers experience nowadays and the main reason why many fishers migrated to the Netherlands, and many boats remain unused.

Another threat to reef fish biomass and diversity is the invasion of lionfish (Pterois volitans). In October 2009, the first lionfish was observed in Curaçao’s waters, and lionfish quickly spread along the island’s western coast. This is potentially a major threat to Curaçao’s coral reef ecosystems because lionfish can reduce the abundance of small reef fish by an estimated 80%. In 2012, the Lionfish Elimination Team was established to help with eradication efforts through spearfishing. In fact, spearfishing is allowed for lionfish, while it is prohibited for all other species. At present, lionfish is caught for direct consumption.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThrough the Blue Halo Initiative, the Waitt Institute is partnering with the government and people of Curaçao to envision, design, and implement new ocean management that is grounded in science and based on community priorities.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (CARMABI) Research Institute, a non-profit marine research institute, focuses on marine and terrestrial ecological research, nature management of marine and terrestrial parks, environmental education, and public advice and consultancy

Foreign aidSpain assisted Curaçao in fighting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Institutional frameworkThe fisheries institutional framework is complex. The authority in fisheries is shared between the Ministry of Economic Development (MEO, formerly the Ministry of Economic and Labor Affairs) and the Ministry of Health, Environment, and Nature (GMN). MEO manages high seas fishing and would manage large-scale domestic fishing in Curaçao waters if such fisheries were to exist, with the advice and consultation with the Fisheries Commission, International Fisheries Commissions, and Ministry of Traffic, Transportation, and Spatial Planning (VVRP). GMN’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Management (AVB), formerly the Department of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Fisheries, separately manages small-scale fishing in the Curaçao territorial sea. MEO has drafted new fisheries legislation that would reform current fisheries management, in part by consolidating fisheries management authority within MEO.

Legal frameworkThe main legal instrument for the fisheries sector in Curacao is the National Fisheries Ordinance (NFO) approved in 1991 No. 74, and amended in 1993 (No. 110), in 2001 (No. 80), in 2004 (No. 16), in 2007 (No. 18 (high seas fishing)), in 2010 (No. 34) and in 2011 (No. 49). Subsidiary legislation consist of the National Fisheries Decree (Arts. 3 and 12): 1992 No. 108, the Fisheries Ordinance Curaçao 2004 (FOC) (Arts. 2.c and 4) and the Fisheries Decree Curaçao (Arts. 13, 14, 20) in 2009. Also very important for fisheries is the Reef Management Ordinance Curaçao of 1976 amended in 1989 (No. 21 (corporate responsibility)), in 1996 (No. 8 (turtle protection)), in 1996 (No. 13 (nest and egg protection)). Subsidiary Legislation of the Reef Management Ordinance is the Island Decree for Protection of Sea Turtles (Art. 3) of 1996.

The National Fisheries Decree was enacted simultaneously with the National Fisheries Ordinance to implement Articles 3 and 12 of the Ordinance and applies in the Curaçao Fisheries Zone. As relevant to Curaçao, it includes additional provisions governing fishing gear permitted, fish allowed to be caught, recording of data, and duties to be paid by licensees, which differ by vessel size and fishing gear used. The Decree does not include time or area closures. Violation of the Decree constitutes a violation of the NFO.

MEO drafted a new fisheries ordinance in 2015, which would make substantial changes to the structure of Curaçao fisheries management—notably by integrating domestic and high seas fisheries management under a single framework within MEO and excluding the AVB from management. Fisheries management and implementation of the new draft 2015 fisheries ordinance would be carried out by a new Fisheries Authority, which would be an independent, public legal authority. Fishing activity would be governed by rules set out by ministerial decree issued by MEO, and a fisheries register would be maintained, also by ministerial decree, to keep records of licensed fishing vessels. The draft 2015 fisheries ordinance would also provide substantial detail regarding obligations of commercial fishers, for licensing and permitting, and for enforcement, among other topics. The draft ordinance thus is a substantially more comprehensive ordinance than provided in current law. It also would modernize fisheries management and assign it to a single Ministry. In addition the government has recently approved no take fishing areas along nearly 30% of the coast.

Regional and international legal frameworkAs part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao is party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention for Migratory Species, the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region, the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Curaçao has twelve wetland areas designated as Ramsar sites, sites that include wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar convention.

Curaçao is also a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Convention for 23 Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and the FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Curaçao is not currently a member of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, but it submitted an application for associate membership in April of 2014.

10. References
Environmental Law Institute (2016) Sustainable Fisheries & Coastal Zoning in Curaçaohttp://waittinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ELI_Curacao-Legal-Framework-Report_July-2016.pdf .
Government of Curaçao (2014) National Report Sustainable Development Curaçao, Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing Countries, Apia, Samoa, 1-4 September 2014http://www.sids2014.org/content/documents/599National%20Report%20Curacao%202014%20Sustainable%20Development%20FINAL%20(July%202014).pdf .
Sustainable Fisheries Group, AC Santa Barbara (2015), A Review of the Ecology and Economics of Curaçao’s Marine Resources.
Wait Institute (2017) The State of Curaçao’s Coral Reefshttp://www.researchstationcarmabi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Waitt-2017-Status-of-Curacaoan-reefs_Low-Res-1.pdf .

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