Volume 72

An Evaluation of the Baitfish Fisheries in Bermuda

Pitt, J; J.L. Welch
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 340-341

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


Small fishes are an important link in the food chain, but are exploited by commercial and recreational fishers for bait. In Bermuda, baitfish landings have declined, but it is unclear whether this indicates population declines or altered fishing practices. Current management restricts the size and type of nets used, and prohibits net fishing in 4 bays. We analysed landings data for seasonal and long-term trends, and found three modes of commercial bait fishing. We then surveyed commercial and recreational fishers to examine bait fishing and bait use practices, and attitudes to alternative baits. Interviews with specialist commercial bait fishers highlighted debris items hindering use of seine nets and seasonality of bait markets as driving where and when they fish. Shifts in the depth distribution of large bait species and in the peak abundance of Dwarf herring have made it difficult to serve markets in the spring. Young Redear herring are targeted to compensate. A mail survey of other commercial fishers received 15 responses (8%). Most catch some bait themselves but also purchase bait from other fishers or retailers. About 63% of commercial fishers utilise scraps for chum; of the remainder, half were interested in this for their own fishing or to sell. Other sources of chum are being explored. A roving shoreline survey and concurrent online survey of recreational fishers garnered 41 responses. Most recreational fishers (75%) catch at least some bait themselves, and 92% expressed interest in purchasing chum alternatives. Amongst recreational fishers, awareness of the bays closed to net fishing was poor, at 55%. The consensus is that the smaller baitfish species remain relatively abundant, but that the Round sardinella and Threadfin herring have declined. This information will inform future management of these species.

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