Volume 65

Elasmobranchs in the Dutch Caribbean: Current Population Status, Fisheries, and Conservation

Van Beek, I.J.M., A.O. Debrot, and M. de Graff
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Date: November, 2012

Pages: 147 - 155

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

City: Santa Marta

Country: Colombia


In the Dutch Caribbean EEZ, at least 27 elasmobranch species have been documented. Of these, nine are listed as “critically endangered” and eight as “near threatened” by the IUCN. Elasmobranchs are not a target fishery in the Dutch Caribbean, but do occur as bycatch in artisanal fisheries. Sharks are considered nuisance species by fishermen. Most sharks caught are not discarded, but consumed locally, used as bait, or (reportedly) killed and discarded at sea on the two islands where landing of sharks is illegal (Bonaire and St. Maarten). Based on recent data, published sport diver accounts, and anecdotal accounts, it is clear that shark populations in most areas of the Dutch Caribbean have been strongly depleted in the last half century. Two of the six islands have implemented regulation to protect sharks due to their ecological importance and economic value. Two other islands have implemented fish- and fisheries monitoring programmes. The fisheries monitoring includes port sampling with low numbers of shark landings, and on-board sampling with bycatch of sharks on each fishing trip. The fish monitoring has introduced the use of stereo-Baited Remote Underwater Video, a new method for long-term monitoring of fish species composition and relative abundance of sharks. We conclude there is an urgent need to better cooperate with fishermen to make fisheries and conservation measures more effective and to conduct research on gear modifications and fishing methods to mitigate bycatch of sharks. We also conclude that local fisheries and conservation measures cannot resolve the depletion of shark populations in the Dutch Caribbean due to the (semi-)pelagic habitat use across EEZ borders by most shark species.

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