Volume 61

Using Lessons Learned from Six Years of Reef Fish Spawning Aggregation Site Validation, Collaboration, and Outreach in St.Croix, USVI

Weber, J. and J. Brown.
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Date: November, 2008

Pages: 320-323

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

City: Gosier

Country: Guadeloupe


Fragmented knowledge of spawning resources and inadequate protection of aggregation sites has contributed to drastic reductions in reef fish biomass and fish landings on St. Croix. In 2002, The Nature Conservancy initiated a collaborative effort with local fishermen to identify, validate, and study aggregations of reef and pelagic fishes with incorporation of traditional knowledge, utilization of adaptive bathymetric systems methodology, and involvement of fishermen on in-water research. Concurrently, fishermen were engaged in conservation planning forums, trained in spawning aggregations research, and participated in site visits to learn from successfully managed Caribbean fisheries. Initial results from this collaboration were positive; however, maintenance of a high level of community participation and trust between resource mangers, fishermen and conservation organizations eroded due to a number of contentious fisheries issues. Research was modified to reduce stakeholder conflict, thus resulting in reduced participation by fishermen and limited spatial scale of spawning site validation. Analyzing results from multi-year monitoring of spawning sites takes this into consideration and has been useful in determining future research priorities. The value of examining the factors contributing to the controversial atmosphere of spawning aggregation research and engagement of local fishermen in resource management activities benefits future protected area planning and fisheries conservation decisions. With lessons learned from St. Croix, sustainable harvest of reef fish and recovery of several reef species will rely on continued education and outreach efforts.

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