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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
  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: October 2020

The Turks and Caicos Islands, or TCI for short, are a British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Atlantic Ocean and northern West Indies. The islands have a total land area of 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi).

The main target species are Queen conch and spiny lobster, and the fisheries are small-scale. The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are home to one of the last healthy queen conch fisheries in the Wider Caribbean. While fisheries are not the primary industry of the TCI, ranking a mere third in percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) behind tourism and offshore banking, a large part of the population still depends on healthy fisheries, either directly or indirectly. This is particularly true in some of the more remote islands, like South Caicos where up to 70 percent of the population is dependent on this resource. Overall, about 10 percent of the population is estimated to get their main income from fisheries. Before tourism emerged as the number one industry in the Turks and Caicos, fishing was the lifeblood of the community. The industry was based largely around South Caicos and the Caicos Bank, where spiny lobster and conch fisheries provided jobs and food for locals. Today, the TCI are one of the prime fishing destinations in the Caribbean, targeting tuna, wahoo, dorado, barracuda, snappers, groupers, jacks and bonefish. Deep-sea fishing, bottom fishing, bone-fishing, light tackle trolling are the main recreational fishing methods. The TCI are a net importer of fishery product, with a trade deficit of USD 1 million.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Turks and Caicos

Shelf area 5 560 Km2 http://www.seaaroundus.org
Length of continental coastline 389 Km http://world.bymap.org
Fisheries GDP N/A  

Key statistics

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area91 025km2VLIZ

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 2020. 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 – Turks and Caicos

       1995  2000  2005  2010  2015  2016  2017  2018 
EMPLOYMENT (thousands)  0,35 0,35 0,40 0,29 0,26 0,26 0,52 0,65
  Capture  0,35 0,35 0,40 0,29 0,26 0,26 0,52 0,65
    Marine  0,35 0,35 0,404 0,288 0,26 0,26 0,52 0,646
FLEET (thousands boats)  0,15 0,15 0,15 0,14 0,24 0,24 0,11 0,30
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 sectorThe small archipelago of the TCI is heavily dependent on the health of marine ecosystems, as they support the development of a booming tourism industry as well as rich fisheries of Queen conch, spiny lobster and a burgeoning finfish fishery.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileTCI fisheries is small scale in nature, concentrating on spiny lobster and Queen conch for the market, including exports, and on limited amounts of demersal fish for the domestic consumption, including self-consumption by fishermen’s families.

The majority of lobster is landed when the fishery is open from 15 August – 31 March, although the bulk (over 1/3) is landed immediately following the opening of the fishery, termed the ‘Big Grab’ each August. The Queen conch fisheries is important, with about 2 500 tonnes landed each year.

Landing sitesLandings take place all over the islands, with no major landings sites to be identified. Some small-scale commercial fishing for local consumption takes place at North and Middle Caicos, but unlike the fishing industry on South Caicos, Grand Turk and Providenciales, no products are exported internationally.

Fishing practices/systemsSpiny lobster fisheries consist of trap or pot fisheries, boats are small, with about 2-3 fishers on each boat. Day trips are the norm. Conch is hand collected, an activity which does not need great skills. Fishers move from one activity to the other, depending on the closed season of one fishery, but lobster is the preferred species, as its price is higher.

Main resourcesTCI are home to one of the last healthy Queen conch fisheries in the Wider Caribbean. Indeed, the TCI populations of Strombus gigas are deemed by the Scientific Committee of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) to be of no concern, a starkly different situation compared to many other fisheries in the region.

Concurrently, however, the fishery for spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) gives rise to some concern, though the exact status of the stock is difficult to assess. Reported catches are going down. These two fisheries are managed completely different, with a closed season, national size and gear restrictions for the spiny lobster, but through a CITES quota for Queen conch, even though the TCI are not a member to that convention, along with national gear and size restrictions.

In addition, as the tourism industry develops, new pressure is being applied to finfish stocks even though very little is known on the status of the stocks.

Management applied to main fisheriesEven though the Queen conch is fished extensively throughout TCI, its population is considered stable, mainly because the TCI Governments have adopted a precautionary approach to fisheries management. Though the TCI are not a party to CITES, Strombus gigas is listed on Appendix II of that Convention, which submits international trade in that species to a special permit procedure. A good portion of the Queen conch harvested in the TCI is exported to the United States of America, which, since it is a Party to CITES, requires that the TCI abide by the restrictions and conservation measures adopted by CITES. As a result, the TCI is actively implementing CITES protocols. In addition, conch fishing is restricted to an open fishing season and minimum catch sizes designed to avoid the harvesting of immature juveniles.

Management objectives

Ensure sustainable utilization of the natural resources of the TCI, and protect and promote biodiversity and economic prosperity through a sustainable fishing industry and environmentally sustainable development, a protected areas system and improved maritime affairs.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

For spiny lobster, the management measures are: minimum carapace length of 3.25 inches, minimum tail weight of 5 ounces, no egg bearing lobsters, no moulting/soft shelled lobsters. No person shall harvest lobsters by means that will prevent the lobster from being returned alive (unless by means of a hook); minimum trap mesh-size of 1.5 inches, traps must have a panel which would deteriorate within 6 weeks if left in the water continuously; no person shall leave pots unattended in-water for a period exceeding 48 hours; traps must be marked with the owner's licence number; no person shall use bleach or any other noxious substances for the harvest of lobster. A commercial fishing vessel licence is needed. Commercial fisherman's licence (available to native commercial fishers), assistant commercial fisherman's licence (available to foreign commercial fishers), sports fishing licence, closed areas (protected areas), closed season (April - July).

For Queen lobster, the management measures are: minimum shell spiral length of 7 inches, minimum conch meat weight of 8 ounces. Commercial fishers’ and vessel licence, assistant fishers’ licence, recreational fishing licence, closed areas (protected areas), export season (October - July), national harvest quota for exports (500 000 lbs), national harvest quota for local consumption (320 000 lbs).

For all other fish species, there are no catch restrictions, apart from the licence for the fishing vessel and for the fisher, and the prohibition to fish in protected areas. There are many national parks and nature reserves at Providenciales, and it is illegal and a criminal offence to fish, or collect conch or lobster in these regions. North and Middle Caicos mainly have three protected areas that impact fishers: the East Bay Islands National Park near the Bottle Creek Lagoon, the Vine Point and Ocean Hole Nature Preserve, and the Ramsar North, Middle and East Caicos Nature Preserve.

Fishing communitiesSince the abandonment of the sea salt industry in the mid-1900s, small-scale commercial fishing has been the mainstay of the South Caicos economy. In other islands, the importance of fisheries has decline against tourism, but fishing is still the cultural backbone of many coastal communities in TCI.
Inland sub-sectorThere are no inland fisheries in the country.

Aquaculture sub-sectorThe many islands of the TCI offer untapped potential as it relates to arable land and bountiful oceans. Indeed, areas such as mariculture have been identified as attractive investment. Demand for local fish by the thriving tourism industry well exceeds supply.

Considering the high cost of fin and shellfish, the potential for the establishment of aquaculture farms is tremendous. Queen conch (Strombus gigas) from the TCI Conch Farm has already proven its worth on the US market. However, the Conch Farm closed until further notice due to damages caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. No other aquaculture exists in the country.

Recreational sub-sectorRecreational fisheries are an attraction for tourist visiting the country but are different depending on the islands. On Providenciales, mainly bonefish recreational fisheries are carried out, together with deep sea sport fishing. Grand Turk is a prime location for deep water fishing. In North and Middle Caicos Tarpon recreational fisheries target bonefish and barracuda. The extensive Caicos Banks shallows off some of the finest salt water flat fishing in the region. South Caicos is ideally situated to access these fishing sites. Bonefish, tarpon and barracuda are plentiful. Due to the very shallow depths at many sites, fan boats are best suited for the conditions. A fishing license is required for all visitors fishing in the TCI.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationQueen conch is a staple of the local cuisine, and is used in conch salad, conch fritters, stews, and other favourite dishes. The product is sold fresh to the local market and frozen to the US market. In 2019, the United States of America imported 50 tonnes of frozen Queen conch meat from TCI, far less than the 150 tonnes in average during previous years. The value of these exports were USD 0.6 million, far below the USD 2.0 million of previous years. While Queen conch exports decreased in recent years, lobster trade expanded. Lobster tails are frozen and exported. The United States of America are the main market and reported imports of this product from TCI for USD 0.9 million.

Fish marketsThe domestic market, both the local consumers and the tourist industry, is an important outlet for the finfish production of the country. Spiny lobster goes mainly to the export market (United States of America), while Queen conch is divided between the local and the export market.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyFisheries are no longer the primary industry of the TCI, ranking a mere third in percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) behind tourism and offshore banking, for an estimated 10 percent of the total GDP. Nevertheless, a large part of the population still depends on healthy fisheries, either directly or indirectly. This is particularly true in some of the more remote islands, like South Caicos, where up to 70 percent of the population is dependent on this resource.

TradeThe main products exported from Turks and Caicos are Queen conch and spiny lobster. The export earnings are around USD 3.5 million. On the import side, canned sardines and canned tuna are the main products imported, together with frozen pangasius and tilapia fillets. The average import value is around USD 4.5 million, thus Turks and Caicos is a net fish importing country, with a trade deficit of USD 1 million.

Food securityFish plays an important role in the food security of the country, especially in South Caicos. The apparent supply per person is a high 50 kg. However, it has to be considered that the numerous tourists also consume fish, and therefore the real consumption of the local population is probably far lower than this figure. Tourist demand in fact puts a stress on local fish resources, but in recent years, frozen fish fillets from imports feed this important segment of the market.

Employment340 fishers are reported as professional spiny lobster and Queen conch fishers. However, there are numerous part time fishers, who fish for their own consumption. About 10 percent of the population is estimated to get their main income from fisheries.

Rural developmentFisheries have been replaced in recent years by the tourism industry as main employment factor in the country. However, the traditional fisheries plays an important role in the rural coastal communities.

Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesTCI is a small country, and the development and sustainability of the fisheries are difficult to pursue. There are few government officers, and it is difficult for them to control and monitor the fisheries in the whole country.

There are some conflicts between commercial fishermen and recreational fishers, but conflicts seem to be mitigated quite successfully.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe sustainable exploitation of the fisheries resource is the main policy of the government, especially as the recreational sector is an important source of income. Protected Areas are well controlled.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe School for Field Studies from the United States of America focuses in TCI on the health of marine habitats, natural resource conservation, and local livelihoods. Students and faculty engage with the local community as they explore the impacts of environmental threats, commercial fisheries, and increased tourism on the area ecosystems and the small island’s economy.

Foreign aidAs a British Overseas Territory, TCI is not receiving any foreign aid.

Institutional frameworkThe Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) has the responsibility of sustainably managing Protected Areas and Fisheries and overseeing all Maritime Affairs in TCI. DEMA is further mandated to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and maritime affairs of the territory. Towards achieving this goal, all activities and policies are developed without compromising the integrity and the well-being of man and environment.

DEMA sets policy to ensure that natural resources are used wisely and sensibly, towards achieving sustainable development.

Legal frameworkThe revised Law of 2014 gives legal indication on the fisheries legal framework. Under 10.08 Fisheries Protection Ordinance, the law gives indication on the restrictions on fisheries, the licensing of commercial and recreational fishermen, restrictions of fishing gear, restrictions on marketing, processing and export of fishery products, inspection of fishery products, prescribing of penalties. The Fisheries Protection Ordinance indicates that fishing without a licence is prohibited, that each fishing vessel needs a proper licence, describes the types of fishing licences and the procedure to obtain one. The Fishery Protection Ordinance also prohibits the use of explosives, noxious substances, scuba diving equipment and spear guns. It allows the use of Hawaiian slings, only for commercial fishermen with a proper licence. The fishing areas are established under 10.09 Fishery Limits Ordinance.



CITES Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna
DEMA Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs
GDP Gross Domestic Product
TCI Turk and Caicos Islands

10. References

M. A. Rudd (2003) Fisheries Landings and Trade of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Sea Around Us., Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,.
Aylin Ulman, et al. (2015) Reconstruction of total marine fisheries catches for the Turks and Caicos Islands (1950-2012), the Sea Around Us, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Additional information

Meetings & News archive


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