Volume 69

Defining the Spear Fishery of Trinidad

Bachew, D., and H.A. Oxenford
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Date: November, 2016

Pages: 64 - 72

Event: Proceedings of the Sixty eigth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Grand Cayman

Country: Cayman Islands


Research on the spear fishery of Trinidad has been extremely limited to date. As such the fishery’s characteristics and its contribution to the island’s fishing industry and food security is relatively unknown. This study is the first island-wide study of the spear fishery and aims to provide novel detailed information, as well as update previous documented knowledge of the fishery in the northwest of Trinidad. The research was focused on the extent of the spear fishery, spearfisher demographics, fishing practices and effort, catch and economic data and management suggestions by fishers. Data were collected from 105 spearfishers between July and September 2016 using a standard questionnaire. Results indicate a minimum of 271 active spearfishers in Trinidad with perhaps as many as 600 in total. The spear fishery is predominantly recreational and the majority of spearfishers are male between the ages of 30-40 years. Spear fishers use dive sites all around the island, but the most popular spear fishing grounds lie along the north coast. Fishers access their grounds by swimming from shore or by boat, and spear fish by free diving and/or with the use of SCUBA gear. The main spearfishing season is during the summer months, due to the most suitable conditions being at this time of year. The spear fishery targets a variety of species including shallow shelf reef species, deep slope species and both small and large pelagic species. A very crude estimate of total annual landings based on the interview data from 92 fishers lies somewhere between 102 - 460 mt for the 271 active fishers identified. On average, individual spearfisher’s stated expenses are TT$6,857 (I US$ = 6.7 TT$) on initial gear, a further TT$3,833 on gear and maintenance annually and TT$832 per spearfishing trip. Spearfishers are aware that there is currently no policy or regulations for spearfishing in the country, and most stated that they would be open to a ‘best practices guidebook’ for spearfishing in Trinidad and Tobago that covered diver safety and sustainable harvesting issues. The most common suggestions for management attention given by spearfishers included species-specific bag and size limits and closed seasons to protect vulnerable spawning periods.

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