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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. References

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: May, 2018.

The fisheries sector plays both an important economic and social role in Trinidad and Tobago. It constitutes an important source of employment and income and is a significant contributor to food supply and food security. The estimated per capita consumption amounted to 25.9 kg in 2013. The social significance of the sector is emphasized by the fact that most Trinidadian landings come from small-scale fisheries. This sector is a means of livelihood for about 50 000 persons, of which about 10 750 were directly employed in 2012.Fish production is composed almost entirely of marine capture fisheries, the annual catch average has been about 13 000 tonnes in the 2006-2016 period. On average, catches of tuna and tuna-like species are about one fourth of total catches. Aquaculture production is not significant (11 tonnes in 2016). Inshore fisheries resources are heavily fished or overfished.The fishing fleet of around 1 900 vessels operates from about 100  landing sites (65 in Trinidad and 32 in Tobago) some of which are provided with landing, ice and cold storage facilities. The fishing fleet comprises primarily of artisanal boats.Shrimp (Penaeids) is the principal exploited species; finfish, crabs, and squid are caught as by-catch. Most of the fish is marketed fresh in the domestic market and sold directly by the fishermen on the beach to private vendors, middle-men or to consumers. The Port of Spain wholesale market is the main outlet where fish is brought to auction.The balance of trade of fish and fish products has shown a negative inflow since 2002. In 2016, whilst the estimated exports amounted to USD 26.8 million, imports reached a level of USD 41 million. These imports are large quantities of lower-value fish to compensate for the decrease in local supplies. Fish exports consist mainly of high-value species such as shrimp, tuna, snapper, kingfish, dolphin and flying fish in fresh and frozen forms.
General geographic and economic indicators

Shelf area 9 800 km2

Sea Around Us


Length of continental coastline 386 km

World by Map:


Fisheries GVA (2011) 0,06% of National GDP

Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM): Statistics and Information Report 2012

Title: Table 1 – Trinidad and Tobago -General Geographic and Economic Data

3. 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.

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 3.79 4.90 7.30 10.72
  Capture 3.79 4.90 7.30 10.72
    Marine 3.79 4.90 7.30 10.72
FLEET(thousands boats) 1.18 0.99 0.99 0.99
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up
Title: Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics – Trinidad and Tobago

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

Key statistics

Country area5 130km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area5 130km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area0km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.1.37millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area76 866km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statistics

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 sectorTrinidad and Tobago, the southernmost islands of the Caribbean region, occupy a total area of 5 128 km2, of which 4 828 km2 corresponds to Trinidad and only 300 km2 corresponds to Tobago. Tobago is located approximately 32 km to the northeast off Trinidad. The coastline measures 470 km and the shelf area extends to about 204 000 km2.

The fisheries of Trinidad and Tobago are multispecies, multigear and multifleet. Fisheries resources off the two main islands of the archipelagic state differ because of significant ecological differences. Due to its location on the South American shelf, the resources off Trinidad are diverse, including soft-substrate demersal species as well as small coastal pelagic species and large migratory pelagic species. Off Tobago, the prevailing oceanic conditions are favourable to small coastal pelagics and highly migratory pelagic species, and to a lesser extent, reef species. The differences in bathymetry and oceanographic conditions have resulted in greater similarities between the fisheries of Tobago and other northern islands with small shelf areas in the eastern Caribbean, while the fisheries of Trinidad are similar to those off the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The fishing industry has traditionally been an artisanal one, based on resources occurring in the coastal and territorial waters. There has however been a trend toward the development of larger, more industrial vessels targeting resources in areas inaccessible to the artisanal fleet. Fishing vessels can be categorized into fleets based on the characteristics of the vessels and the gears used. Most artisanal vessels operate in near-shore areas as dayboats. Generally the small size of the vessels (which are not equipped for extended stay at sea), manual setting and retrieving of gears, and cultural traditions are major factors which limit the areas of operation. Non-artisanal vessels (which have electronic navigation, fish finding equipment and mechanised operations) fish in areas further offshore, but often compete on the same fishing grounds with the inshore, artisanal vessels. Gillnetting (both multifilament and monofilament) is the main fishing gear, followed by a-la-vive, trawling, banking, trolling, palangue, fishpots, swithering, beach seining and longlining.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileFish production is composed almost entirely of marine capture fisheries and the annual landings has been estimated to be in the region of about 13 000 tonnes in the 2006-2016 period. Two thirds of the catch reported to FAO are either marine fish not specified or demersal fish not specified. Other reports1 give a better breakdown of catches, which indicate that Spanish mackerel is the main species produced accounting for about 20% of catches, followed by sharks (13%), croakers (10%), tunas and bonitos (10%) and shrimp (7%).

Inshore fisheries resources are either heavily fished or overfished, as is the shrimp resource. The landings of the artisanal fleet makes up about 71-77% of total commercial fleet in quantity and about 60% in value terms.

The statistics by the industrial fleet are more detailed. Industrial fisheries is mainly shrimp trawling. Catches of shrimp indicate a downward trend. There is limited entry for the trawler fisheries, with 25 boats. New entry is only possible when one boat retires from fisheries. The trawlers cannot fish on the East Coast, and only 2 months per year on the North Coast, and on the West Coast, they have to stay 2 miles off shore, to give the fishing area to the artisanal fishers.

Although lobster landings are well reported, this is not a major species. Queen conch and flying fish are caught in Tobago. Conch is not exported, rather imported.

1) Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. 2007. Chapter 7 - Fisheries and Aquaculture. In: First Compendium of Environmental Statistics - Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago): Central Statistical Office (CSO), Ministry of Planning and Development.

Landing sitesThere is a total of ninety-eight (98) identifiable fish landing sites utilized by the fishing fleets of the country of which sixty-five (65) are located on the island of Trinidad and thirty-two (32) on the island of Tobago. In Trinidad, the majority of these sites are located on the sheltered West Coast of the island in the Gulf of Paria. On the East Coast which is open to Atlantic Ocean and the prevailing winds, there are nine (9) or 14 per cent of the landing sites with a similar amount, nine (9) or 14 per cent on the North Coast where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet. On the South Coast, in the Columbus Channel which separates the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago from the Republic of Venezuela, there are eight (8) or 12 per cent of the sites. On the island of Tobago, nineteen (19) or 58 per cent of the landing sites are located on the calmer Caribbean Sea on the West Coast while fourteen (14) or 42 per cent are on the more open and windy Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast. These landing sites range from beaches with no infrastructure to others with landing ramps and jetties, and facilities for the storage of fishing gear, equipment, and personal effects of fishers, and the repair of fishing vessels and engines. A few possess structures and facilities to accommodate the wholesale and retail of fish and ice storage and manufacture. While the great majority of these landing sites can accommodate the artisanal fleet, only a limited few can accommodate the semi-industrial and industrial fleets. Three of these are located in Trinidad and one in Tobago. It is to be noted that the relatively more developed landing sites in Trinidad are located on the sheltered western coastline in the Gulf of Paria where most of the fishing fleet operate and are more amenable to infrastructural works due to the somewhat calmer waters and sea conditions. Developments on the other coastlines are adversely affected by heavy sea conditions and rougher waters. A similar situation exists in Tobago where the coastline on the Caribbean Sea may lend itself easily to infrastructural development as compared to the coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.

Fishing practices/systemsIn Trinidad, the main fisheries are the soft-substrate demersal fishery (shrimp and groundfish), the hard-substrate demersal fishery, the coastal pelagic fishery, and the oceanic (highly migratory) pelagic fishery. The coastal pelagic and hard-substrate demersal fisheries are dominant in Tobago. Except for the oceanic (highly migratory) pelagic fishery, all fisheries are coastal.

The soft-substrate demersal fishery targets mainly shrimps and groundfish. Several species of shrimps are caught including Farfantepenaeus subtilis (brown shrimp), F. notialis (pink shrimp), F. brasiliensis (pink-spotted shrimp, hoppers), Litopenaeus schmitti (white/cork shrimp), and Xiphopenaeus kroyeri (honey/jinga shrimp, seabob).Key groundfish species in this fishery are from the families Sciaenidae (e.g. Cynoscion jamaicensis, C. acoupa, Macrodon ancylodon, Micropogonias furnieri), Clupeidae, Engraulidae, Gerreidae (e.g. Diapterus sp.), Lutjanidae (e.g. Lutjanus sp., Rhomboplites aurorubens), Haemulidae (e.g. Haemulon sp., Genyatremus luteus, Orthopristis spp.) and Ariidae (Bagre sp., Arius sp.). Shrimps are caught mainly by trawlnets, while groundfish are either targeted by the artisanal multigear fleet, using gears such as gillnets, fish pots, demersal handlines and demersal longlines, or caught as bycatch in the trawlnets. To a lesser extent, shrimp are also caught by beach/land seines, as part of the artisanal multigear fishery. Trawlnets operate mainly in the Gulf of Paria (west coast of Trinidad), although larger trawlers also operate off the north and the south coasts.

The hard-substrate demersal fishery targets mainly snappers year-round. The main species of snappers caught are Lutjanus synagris (lane snapper), L. purpureus (southern red snapper) and Rhomboplites aurorubens (vermilion snapper). Other snappers of lesser importance in the catch are L. griseus (grey snapper), L. jocu (dog snapper) and L. vivanus (silk snapper/vivanot). Epinehelus sp. and Mycterperca spp. are the main species of groupers caught. Haemulon sp. is also caught and Panuliris sp. is present in the bycatch. The fishery is exploited by both artisanal and semi-industrial multigear fleets, using mainly fish pots and demersal handlines, with demersal longlines to a lesser extent. The same vessels of the artisanal, multigear fleet operating in the soft-substrate demersal fishery also operate in the hard-substrate demersal fishery. There are 15 semi-industrial multigear vessels in Trinidad and 10 in Tobago. Some of these vessels once formed part of the trawl fleet but were subsequently outfitted for pot fishing and target deep-water demersal snappers off the east coast of Trinidad and southeast coast of Tobago.

The coastal pelagic fishery targets Scombridae species, Serra Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus brasiliensis) and king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), in Trinidad, and Exocoetidae (mainly Hirundichthys affinis), Coryphaenidae (Coryphaena hippurus), wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), bigeye scad (Selar crumenophthalmus) and round scad (Decapterus sp.) in Tobago.

The coastal pelagic fishery is the most widespread in Trinidad, operating off all coasts. In Tobago, this fishery operates mainly off the north coast from Pigeon Point to Charlotteville. These fisheries are targeted by the artisanal, multigear fleets in both islands using gillnets, beach or land seines and pelagic handlines. As well, the semi-industrial, multigear fleet (iceboats) in Tobago targets the fishery with pelagic handlines and gillnets. Coastal pelagic fishes are present in the bycatch of the Trinidad semi-industrial, longline fleet which targets highly migratory pelagic species and the Types I and II trawl fleets which target shrimp and groundfish.

Generally, boats in the artisanal multigear fleet of Trinidad are between 7 and 10 m, with outboard engines ranging from 40 to 75 hp while those in Tobago are between 6.7 and 12.1 m with outboard engines of 15 to 100 hp. There are 947 vessels in Trinidad and 126 vessels in Tobago.

Main resourcesSpanish mackerel, sharks, croakers, tuna and shrimp are the main commercial species exploited in Trinidad and Tobago. Shrimp is heavily overexploited, and reduction of fishing effort is recommended.

The tuna resources are reviewed by ICCAT2. Latest reviews indicate that yellowfin resources are fully exploited, but not over exploited in the Caribbean. Most of the demersal fish is overexploited, Whitemouth croaker, groupers and some snappers are heavily overexploited. Among the coastal pelagic resources, King mackerel is likely to be overexploited, while Spanish mackerel is fully exploited. Flyingfish resource in Tobago is fully exploited, with a certain risk of future overexploitation.

2).Please refer to recent ICCAT reports such as Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 73(1): 1-75 (2017) 1 REPORT OF THE 2016 ICCAT YELLOWFIN TUNA DATA PREPARATORY MEETING and Matsumoto T., and Satoh, K. (2016) Stock Assessment for Atlantic Yellowfin Tuna Using a Non-Equilibrium Production Model Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 73(2): 451-474 (2017) 451 for scientific description of the status of the stocks

Management applied to main fisheries

The 1916 Fisheries Act and subsidiary regulations (e.g. regulation of gear; regulation of minimum size of fish caught; protection of turtles; regulation of trawling areas) govern the fisheries management. There are plans to increase the measures in place for the trawl fleet to include for e.g. closed seasons, however, overall, an open access policy prevails.

With regard to fisheries management policies, plans and procedures, in 2016 a draft fisheries management policy was developed and management plans have been drafted for the trawl and hard substrate demersal fisheries.

The Fisheries Division is implementing voluntary compliance – mainly for offshore longline fleet of non-artisanal vessels to meet obligations under ICCAT management recommendations - e.g. provision of fishing data and information (trip reports); refrain from landing blue marlin, white marlin and spearfish, whether live or dead when caught; prohibit the sale of marlins at recreational fishing tournaments.

Additional management measures implemented are:

  • Effort management in the trawl fisheries and non-artisanal pelagic longline and multi-gear fleets. Since 1988, the number of non-artisanal trawlers entering the Trinidad and Tobago Fisheries was restricted to the number existing in the fleet at that time. Fishing licenses are issued to the non-artisanal longline and multi-gear vessels based on the fulfilment of criteria including compliance with national and ICCAT fisheries management measures, reporting of catch and effort data and periodic inspections.

  • Fishing area restrictions for certain fleets. The Fisheries [Control of Demersal (Bottom) Trawling Activities] Regulations of 2004 sets out specific areas within which the trawl fleets can operate and further specifies the season of trawling off Trinidad’s north coast, and prohibits trawling on the east coast of Trinidad and around Tobago. Other regulations prohibit the capture of fish, shellfish, crabs and shrimp from specified areas in the Gulf of Paria and oysters from the Ortoire area of the east coast.

  • The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) operates under Act No. 3 of 2000 which states that the environment is “all land, area beneath the land surface, atmosphere, climate, surface water, ground water, marine and coastal areas, sea bed, wetlands and natural resources within the jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago”. The EMA has declared several areas, some of which are protected under international conventions, as Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs). The Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act 1970, provides for the designation of restricted areas, and the Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Regulations 1973, require the permission of the Minister to enter and remove fauna from the restricted area. The Act is currently applied only to the management of coral reefs. Access of foreign fishing vessels to the archipelagic waters, territorial sea or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Trinidad and Tobago is allowed only through licenses issued by the Minister under the Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1986.

  • Regulation of fishing gear. The Fisheries Regulations and the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations, 1998, 2000 and 2002, provide for gillnet and seine specifications. The Fisheries [Control of Demersal (Bottom) Trawling Activities] Regulations of 2004 provides for specifications for trawl nets. The Fisheries (Conservation of Marine Turtles) Regulations, 1994 mandates the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in non-artisanal trawlers.

  • Catch size limits. The Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1986 provides for the determination of the allowable catch in respect of each fishery in the EEZ, and determination of the proportion to be harvested by citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. the Fisheries Regulations and the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations, 1998, 2000 and 2002, specify the minimum length of fish by species that can be caught.

  • Protection of environmentally sensitive species. The Protection of Turtle and Turtle Eggs (Amendment) Regulations 2011 prohibit the taking, removing or selling of any turtle eggs, as well as the killing, harpooning, or selling of any turtle at any time. The Conservation of Wildlife Act (1958) addresses issues that deal with the conservation and protection of marine mammals, turtles, shorebirds and all other Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS). The Wildlife Section is the National Management Authority for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and within recent times CITES has placed greater emphasis on fish and other aquatic species.

There is a multisectorial Committee appointed by Cabinet to establish an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Framework, Strategies and Action Plan. The draft Fisheries Management Bill includes provisions for fisheries management plans, establishment of a licensing system for implementation of fisheries management measures as well as improved fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance measures.

Inland sub-sectorThe production of food fish from inland sources is small and not statistically reported. The catch consists primarily of tilapia species and cascadura (Hoplosternum littorale). Inland fisheries use various gears including hand collections for crabs, oysters, brackish water species and shellfish.

Aquaculture sub-sectorAquaculture production is not significant and fluctuating. Production increased from negligible amounts in 2009 to peak at approximately 21 tonnes in 2015, to decline again to 5 tonnes in 2017. There is now a total of 37 registered farmers (6 of which are hatchery operators), in 2011 there were only four (4) commercial operators, two (2) of which were hatcheries and two (2) grow out operations. However, some have moved out of business or are not producing for the time being. The cessation of tilapia processing by the state-owned Sugar Cane Feed Centre, the only viable processing facility available to aquaculture farmers, as being a major factor in the downturn of the industry over the past few years.

There are some aquaponics projects in operation in the country. The Aquaculture unit of the Fisheries Division was involved in designing and development of aquaponics systems. Currently small scale model systems suitable for subsistence use or personal ‘backyard’ systems have been conceptualized, designed and built. These small scale systems aim to afford owners a system that can provide vegetable and fish produce for household consumption.

Recreational sub-sectorThere is also an established and internationally-recognized, sport fishing sub-industry. Coastal and offshore recreational fisheries occur largely through tournaments and charter boat arrangements year round.

Recreational charter boat fishing operations began some twenty-five years ago, mainly in Tobago as a consequence of hotels requesting such services for their guests. The operations started with the use of pirogues but have progressed to more highly powered boats commonly referred to as ―sport fishers‖. The industry experienced a boom about seventeen years ago due to demands from expatriates and persons working in the petroleum industry seeking extra-curricular activities. Currently, the industry is supported by tourists, expatriates, and wealthy locals.

Fishing tournaments are organized mainly by the Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association (TTGFA). This Association was established in October 1986, its founders being avid sport fishers and marine environmentalists. The TTGFA‘s main objectives are to encourage the development of fishing as a sport, to assist in the conservation of marine resources and to cooperate with other organizations with similar objectives, to assist in the dissemination of related information and to promote legislation in conservation and maritime affairs.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationThe estimated per capita consumption amounted to 25.9 kg in 2013. The main group of fish consumed in Trinidad and Tobago is pelagic fish with 10 kg per capita in 20133, mainly coming from imports, both as salted herring and as canned mackerel or sardines. Marine fish not specified is mainly coming from domestic production and represents about 8 kg of consumption.

Fish has become very expensive when compared to five years earlier, as supply is limited and demand is quite strong. Doctors are promoting fish consumption with their patients. Fish and beef have now the same price, while poultry (dressed (gutted and plucked) and pork are far lower priced than fish.

The 1998 Fish and Fishery Products Regulations of the parent legislation, the Food and Drug Act, which have been prepared but not yet in place, seek to establish standards and guidelines for the handling, processing, preservation, storage and marketing of fish and fish products for both the domestic and international markets. The main source of products for processing is derived from local production but this is supplemented by imports, including from other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and a foreign owned transhipment company located in Trinidad.

3) Source: FAO unpublished information

Fish marketsMost of the fish is traded fresh in the domestic market and sold directly by the fishermen on the beach to private vendors, middle-men or consumers. There are three (3) major wholesale markets in Trinidad while Tobago has four (4) principal purchasing areas although they cannot be classified as markets in the true sense as those in Trinidad.

In the local domestic market, fish landed at landing sites around the country are generally purchased by processing plants or wholesalers who may resell to supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants or retail vendors. In some cases, at the landing sites, but also in the streets of Port of Spain, fishers or family members are selling directly from vans, with ice boxes.

The Port of Spain wholesale market is the main outlet in the capital city, with some 20 fish stalls. Fish is sold in fresh form at the landing sites, generally from 55 pound ice boxes, so the quality is generally quite good.

There are different types of supermarkets, for lower, medium and higher income classes, most of them have fish counters. The country of origin of the fishery product has to be identified in the packs sold in supermarkets, but sometimes the country of origin indicated on the packs is really the country of processing. Restaurants buy both from importers and from local suppliers, from the latter only once quality is assessed.

While the yellowfin and bigeye tuna catch goes to the USA in chilled form, most of the shrimp stays in the country with some minor exports to neighbouring countries. Bycatch of the tuna fisheries such as swordfish, kingfish and sailfish goes to the local market, just in plastic wrapped packs. The shrimp fisheries has substantial quantities of by-catch, some of which is landed and given away at a low price. This by-catch is a preferred source of animal protein for the poorer strata of the population.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyThe marine fisheries sector accounts for about 15% of Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (which accounts for 3% national GDP). The contribution of fisheries to the GDP has declined over the past 10 years from 1.2% to 0.6%.This decline in importance is also reflected in lower government budget for the fisheries department.

The normal value chain in the country is from the fisher to the wholesaler to the retailer to the consumer. Sometimes the fisher may sell directly in order to get more benefit from the catch, often with a relative of the fisher running a fish selling van business. Sometimes the wholesalers also sell directly to the consumers. It is interesting to note that fish post-harvest is predominantly in the hands of men, very different from other Caribbean islands, where women are the main players of the post-harvest fisheries sector.

While the economic importance of the sector is negligible, the social importance, however, is important. The social significance of the sector is emphasized by the fact that the majority of the landings come from the small-scale fisheries.

TradeThe balance of fish and fish products trade has shown a negative inflow since 2002. In 2015, whilst the estimated exports amounted to US$20.8 million, imports were US$50.0 million. However, while imports were stable, export values have increased quite impressively in recent years. Imports are large quantities of lower-value fish to compensate for the decrease in local supplies. In recent years, Pangasius species have entered the market in a great way, replacing somehow tilapia. China and the United States of America, together with Viet Nam are the main suppliers of the market. China is mainly exporting salted groundfish, replacing Norway and Canada as supplier of this traditional product in the market.

Fish exports consist mainly of high-value species such as shrimp, tuna, snapper, kingfish, dolphinfish and flying fish in fresh and frozen forms. Tuna is exported to the United States of America in chilled form.

None of the fish processing plants of Trinidad and Tobago are authorized to export to the European Union (EU). Trinidad and Tobago has not been able to export fish products to the European Union since 1999.

Food securityFish plays a significant role in food security, being one of the few food products produced in the country and not coming from imports. The share of fish in total animal protein supply is about 17%.

EmploymentThis sector is a means of livelihood for about 50 000 persons, of which about 10 750 were directly employed in 2012. 4 An estimated 60% of whom are fishers, about 19% are involved in the processing industry, another 19% in fish marketing and distribution, and the other 1% in vessel and gear construction and maintenance. The participation of women in the industry is not well documented; however, women are more likely involved in the processing and marketing activities. The FAO estimates put the total number of women involved in the fisheries sector at 1 350. Some fishers, employed with the artisanal fleet in Trinidad, migrate along the coasts, fishing in different areas depending on the seasonality of the Serra Spanish mackerel.

4) Source: FAO unpublished information
Rural developmentIn general, the organization of fishers in Trinidad and Tobago is volatile, with groups set up on an ad hoc basis to address a specific, short-term goal. Once the goal is achieved the organization attains a state of dormancy until another threat is identified. Organizations are of two types, fishing associations or fishing co-operatives. Of the two, the co-operatives are more organized, with formal registration at the Ministry of Labour and Co-Operatives and managed by a Board of Directors. Fishing associations are informal groups with no legally binding commitments.

Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesThe fisheries sector is not properly valued - its actual social and economic contribution to food and nutrition security, livelihoods, well-being of coastal communities, national GDP and ecological contribution to marine biodiversity are not known. Consequently, relatively low national importance is assigned to the fisheries sector compared to other sectors, as reflected in the resources provided for fisheries management.

Since fishing is traditionally viewed as a last resort for employment, policy makers accord higher priority to the social and economic objectives of management compared to the ecological objectives. Consequently, management efforts aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability of the resources that support fisheries may be undermined.

Another important issue is the open access regime and continued subsidization of fisheries that are considered fully exploited or overfished.

The competitive use of the marine space by other sectors is impacting the fisheries. Pollution from land and sea based sources impacts the natural resources as well as habitat destruction and overfishing.

Opportunities include better collaboration with third parties and neighbouring countries, and participation in CRFM and ICCAT.

One important impediment for fisheries management is the general culture and behaviour of fishers who have little recognition for the importance of conserving the living marine resources to ensure that the country’s fisheries are viable and sustainable in the long term. One important role of the government would be in the change of this mentality through capacity building.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

The challenges faced by the government and non-government sector in Trinidad and Tobago are manifold. The key issue is the outdated legislation dating back more than a century. This law constrains Trinidad and Tobago’s ability to: (a) implement international best practices in fisheries management; (b) meet international (legally binding) obligations as a coastal, flag, port and market state; (c) participate fully in regional fisheries management and conservation initiatives.

The other key impediment to effective fisheries management is the significant reduction in the human resource capacity of the Fisheries Division to conduct core activities – including routine data collection to inform fisheries management decision-making. There is also inadequate capacity to conduct fisheries monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement; and inadequate institutional structure to effectively manage fisheries (implement the proposed new Fisheries Management Bill once it becomes law) and to meet international obligations as signatory to a number of fisheries and fisheries-related agreements and conventions.

The main opportunities for the government fisheries policy in the future lies in the approval of the Fisheries Management Bill and its implementation. The accession to the Port State Measures Agreement will help to fight IUU Fishing. The development of a proper national Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing also could be an opportunity to safeguard the domestic fisheries resources.

In 2011, within the Food Security Action Plan of The Ministry of Food Production, Tilapia was designated commodity status with production targets identified for 2012-2015. The aim was to achieve greater self-sufficiency, reduce the food import bill, reduce inflation, create sustainable long term productive employment, contribute to the diversification of the economy and to increase the country’s food security. Consistent with these goals, an enabling environment comprising several initiatives deemed to be critical to increasing Tilapia production was created.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe Fisheries Department implements programmes for collection of fish catch and effort data and fish biological data, as well as economic and socio-economic data on a more ad hoc basis.Such data facilitate the conduct of fish stock assessments and fisheries bio-economic assessments, the results of which inform decision making for fisheries management..

The Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) through it Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Programme conducts research in fisheries, aquaculture, and other aquatic biological resources. A diversified programme in fisheries biology, ecology, conservation technology, genetics, age and growth and physiology emphasizes the integration of laboratory and field studies to develop scientifically sound approaches to the management of aquatic ecosystems.  Research is directed primarily towards the development of information and technology to increase understanding of aquatic ecosystems in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. 

The Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute, based in Trinidad and Tobago, is carrying out research in fishery products’ development. In addition, several universities (University of the West Indies and University of Trinidad and Tobago) are also engaged in fisheries research.

Education and trainingThe Fisheries Division provides training in aquaculture systems, methods and techniques.

CFTDI provides training to meet Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel certification as well as training in food handling, fish processing etc. Over the last three decades CFTDI has continued to operate under the purview of the Ministry of Food Production to deliver training and development programmes to the Fisheries and Maritime sectors, both nationally and regionally. During this period a total of some thirty thousand comprising both national and regional individuals were beneficiaries of the CFTDI’s training programmes and technical services. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/Global Environment Facility (GEF) Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector will include a safety at sea component. This project will also train fishers and fish processors in preparing value added fish products.

Foreign aidIt is important to note that Japan is no longer giving development assistance to Trinidad and Tobago, as this country has passed into a better income category, thus no longer eligible for development assistance from Japan. The Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute had received equipment for its pilot plant in the past..Trinidad and Tobago participates in the following regional projects:
  • FAO/GEF Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector
  • FAO/GEF Sustainable management of bycatch in Latin America and Caribbean trawl fisheries (REBYC-II LAC)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/GEF Project “Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME+): Catalysing Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of shared Living Marine Resources in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems”
  • FAO/Japan Fisheries Management and Marine Conservation within a Changing Ecosystem

Institutional frameworkThe Fisheries Division in Trinidad has overarching legislative responsibility for the management of fisheries in Trinidad and Tobago. The Fisheries Division is housed within the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. The main functions of the Fisheries Division are to:
  • Assess, manage and conserve the marine fisheries resources of Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Manage and develop aquaculture;
  • Provide specialized information services and technical advice; administrative and extension services; training to fishers, persons involved in fish processing and marketing and aquaculturists (fish farmers), in collaboration with the Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute;
  • Administer the marine fisheries and aquaculture incentive programmes; and enforce the fisheries legislation, including fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance;
  • Inspect consignments of imports and exports of live fish for commercial, personal and scientific purposes;
  • Facilitate trade in fish and fish products as well as equipment for operations within the sector;
  • Strengthen fishers’ organizations to promote community empowerment, business development and other opportunities for growth in the sector;
  • Implement state obligations under regional and international fisheries and fisheries-related conventions and agreements; and
  • Participate in the EMA’s process for granting of Certificates of Environmental Clearance.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Act of 1996 granted responsibility to the THA for the management of the fisheries in that island. Under the THA Act, there is a Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries, under which the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries is responsible for the sustainable Management of Tobago’s Marine Resources from the coastline to a distance of 6 nautical miles off shore. The Bill 2018 indicates that THA is responsible for the seabed up to 11 nautical miles off shore. The Department is subdivided into the Fisheries and Aquaculture Unit and the Marine Area Unit. The Fisheries and Aquaculture Unit is responsible for the development and management of the fishing industry in Tobago. Its duties involve resolving conflicts in the Fishing Industry, training fishers, processors, vendors, and other stakeholders in the industry, in new equipment and techniques in fishing and fish marketing and safety measures and monitoring the fish resources surrounding the island. The Marine Areas Unit has responsibility for the marine and coastal resources around Tobago. Some of the duties include developing an integrated coastal zone management plan that would involve methods of including the community members in the management of the marine resources and researching ways and means of reducing pollution and the degradation of the reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds.

Legal frameworkThe basic fisheries legislation is the Fisheries Act Chapter 67:51 of 1916. This Law is thus more than 100 years old, and outdated. The fact that it has not yet been updated underpins the limited importance of fisheries in the country’s economy. The Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone Act, 1986, established the 200 mile EEZ. The country also has a bilateral agreement with Venezuela on the delimitation of waters between the two countries.

A Fisheries Management Bill of 2011 includes the following principles:

  • Good governance principles such as: transparency, participation, accountability, non-discrimination.
  • Management decisions based on scientific advice.
  • Ecosystems approach to fisheries and precautionary approach.

The Bill is being updated under an FAO Technical Cooperation Programme Facility Project entitled Strengthening Fisheries Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago – Focus: IUU Fishing to enable Trinidad and Tobago to meet its international obligations as a coastal, flag, port and market State, with specific reference to addressing IUU Fishing, and complying with the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and. Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (both of which the country is considering becoming signatory to).

Regional and international legal frameworkTrinidad and Tobago is member of the CRFM, ICCAT, and the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC). Trinidad and Tobago is Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) since April 1986 and to the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement since September 2006.

As a member of CRFM, Trinidad and Tobago has participated in the following CRFM policy decisions:

  • Castries Declaration on IUU Fishing (2010);
  • Regional Strategy and Action Plan for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation in Fisheries and Aquaculture (2013);
  • Sub-Regional Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for Flyingfish (2014);
  • Regional Strategy for the Control of the Invasive Lionfish (2014);
  • Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (2014);
  • Regional Strategy on Monitoring, Control and Surveillance to Combat IUU Fishing (2014);
  • St. George’s Declaration on Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (2015);
  • Regional Plan of Action for Caribbean Coral Reefs (2014)
  • Belize Declaration on CRFM and OSPESCA Cooperation for sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources
  • Proposed FMPs for blackfin tuna and Fish Aggregation Devices (FAD) fisheries
  • As a member of the WECAFC, Trinidad and Tobago participated in the
  • Sub-regional FMP for flyingfish •
  • Management of shrimp and groundfish resources
  • Management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas

Trinidad and Tobago has had bilateral fishing agreements with Venezuela and Barbados. The current Trinidad and Tobago/ Venezuela Fishing Agreement provides for a common fishing zone South of Trinidad and North of Venezuela for a range of vessel types from both countries. The Agreement with Barbados, in force for only one year (1990) provided for access by the Barbados fishing fleet to the resources of flyingfish and associated species off Tobago.


CARICOMCaribbean Community
CITESConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CLMECaribbean Large Marine Ecosystem
CRFMCaribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
EMAEnvironmental Management Authority
ESAEnvironmentally Sensitive Area
ESSEnvironmentally Sensitive Species
EEZEconomic Exclusive Zone
EUEuropean Union
FADsFish Aggregation Devices
FAOFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FMPFisheries Management Plan
GDPGross Domestic Product
GEFGlobal Environment Facility
ICCATInternational Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
IMAInstitute of Marine Affairs
IUUIllegal, Unreported and Unregulated
OSPESCAOrganización Latinoamericana de Desarrollo Pesquero
PSMAPort State Measures Agreement
SDGSustainable Development Goal
TEDTurtle Excluder Device
THATobago House of Assembly
TT$Trinidad and Tobago Dollar
UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
US$United States of America Dollar
WECAFCWestern Central Atlantic Fishery Commission

Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources (2007) Chapter 7 - Fisheries and Aquaculture. In: First Compendium of Environmental Statistics - Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago): Central Statistical Office (CSO), Ministry of Planning and Development.
ICCAT (2017) report of the 2016 ICCAT yellowfin tuna data preparatory meeting Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 73(1): 1-75 (2017) 1 .
INFOPESCA, (2018), Market study on Fishery Products and Opportunities for Value Addition, for FAO/GEF Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (in print).
Matsumoto T., and Satoh, K. (2016) Stock Assessment for Atlantic Yellowfin Tuna Using a Non-Equilibrium Production Model Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 73(2): 451-474 (2017) 451 .
Mohammed, E., Ferreira, L., Soomai, S., Martin, L. and Chan A. Shing, C. (2011). Coastal fisheries of Trinidad and Tobago. In S. Salas, R. Chuenpagdee, A. Charles and J.C. Seijo (eds). Coastal fisheries of Latin America and the Caribbean. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 544. Rome, FAO. pp. 315–356.
Mohammed E. (2012) Recreational Fisheries Of The Eastern Caribbean CRFM RESEARCH PAPER COLLECTION. Volume 7, p. 27-94.
Mohammed E., (2017), Current Initiatives for Fisheries Management in Trinidad and Tobago, presentation in Enhancing Ocean Governance in the Caribbean UTT – Maritime Studies Unit, Chaguaramas 29 to 30 June 2017, https://u.tt/uploads/05_Elizabeth_mohammed_FD_final_-_Current_Initiatives_for_Fisheries_Management_in_TT_30Jun17.pdf.


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