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Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability in the ABNJ

The Caribbean Billfish Project in Grenada – with circle hook trials and the launch of the Grenada Game Fishing Association on the agenda

31 October 2017

Grenada, 25-29 September 2017. Roy Bealey, coordinator of the Caribbean Billfish Project under the Common Oceans ABNJ Ocean Partnership Project, travelled to Grenada to finalize discussions regarding planned fishing trials developed for the Caribbean. While in Grenada, opportunity was also given to participate in the official launch of the Grenada Game Fish Association (GGFA) that took place during the mission.  

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At the launch event of the Grenada Game Fish Association
© FAO/Roy Bealey

The Caribbean Billfish Project is determined to reduce billfish mortality and increase billfish stocks in the Caribbean through the development of business models for long-term sustainable management of fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). A series of actions are being conducted to develop conservation actions that protect billfish species from unsustainable harvests, while maximizing their economic value using alternative methods.

In Grenada, plans are underway to run trials in the use of circle hooks on commercial longline vessels that primarily target tunas for export. Circle hooks have been shown to increase the survival of released fish by reducing deep-hooking as they reduce the likelihood of excess damage to gills or stomachs causing mortalities of released fish and other animals. Simultaneously, it increases the survival of tunas on the hooks, which enhances the quality and value of the landed fish by ensuring they’re harvested fresh. This enables improved post-harvest management practices (e.g. bleeding) and reduces the likelihood of scavenging of the catch by other animals. In addition, this method applies particularly well to recreational billfish anglers fishing to catch-and-release, which is also being promoted by many activities of the Project.

During the meeting for the proposed longline trials, participants expressed encouraging willingness to pursue this initiative in recognition of billfish abundance declines suggesting current harvest rates are unsustainable. Grenada's longline fishing industry is also a new member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas', and seeks to set a good example in the region by complying with quota allocations and supporting this Commissions longstanding marlin stock rebuilding plan. Innovative market mechanisms to increase fishers incentives for improving their handling and resultant quality/grade/value of the tunas they sell were also discussed, as well as data reporting and finance requirements.

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Participants during longline trial inception workshop
© FAO/Roy Bealey

One of the Caribbean Billfish Project's objectives includes improving formal linkages between fisheries and tourism authorities, recognizing the value available through sustainable eco-tourism oriented around fishing activities. On this note, potential linkages between the Grenade Tourism Authority (GTA), Fisheries Division, Grenada Game Fish Association (GGFA) and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) were also discussed during the visit, leading to an example agreement provided by GTA. Before returning to Barbados, the official launch of the GGFA took place, followed by a meeting where plans were made to undertake another recreational fishery impact assessment and other valuable Project activities with this new and proactive Association.

After having returned from the island, progress have been made. A longline gear specialist has now been employed, the main vessel was contracted to partake in the trials, and the gears required to run the trials have arrived in Grenada. The circle hooks will be used to improve the grades/values achieved for exported tunas, while providing opportunities to release billfish alive instead of removing them from the ecosystem. 

The Caribbean Billfish Project is one of the subprojects under the Common Oceans ABNJ Ocean Partnerships Project that is funded by the Global Environment facility, and implemented by the World Bank. The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission, at the Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is the executing agency for this project.  

For more information, please contact:

GEF World Bank CI WECAFC Common Oceans IGFA