Volume 71

Traps With Gaps: Testing Fish Traps With Escape Gaps as an Option to Improve the Sustainability of the Reef Fishery In Montserrat

Jason Flower;Andrew Estep;Keinan J. James;Sarah E. Lester;Robin Ramdeen;Dwight Sampson;Lennon R. Thomas;Ute Zischka
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Date: November, 2018

Pages: 187-189

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

City: San Andres Island

Country: Colombia


Caribbean reef fisheries have a history of heavy exploitation and their long-term prosperity is threatened by both unsustainable fishing and habitat degradation. Fish traps are commonly used in the Caribbean and are minimally selective, catching a high diversity of fish, including juveniles and unwanted species. Previous work has focused primarily on the use of mesh size to manage trap fisheries, but the use of escape gaps is also gaining traction. Escape gaps are narrow gaps built into fish traps with the intention of allowing juvenile and narrow bodied fish to escape. We tested traps with (experimental traps) and without (control traps) 1-inch escape gaps in Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles. A total of 40 traps were deployed from March – September 2018 in experimental- control trap pairs placed in close proximity. The traps were fished by local fishers on an apprentice scheme using methods commonly used on the island. We recorded species, length and weight for every fish caught. Doctorfish (Acanthurus chirurgus) and blue tang (A. coeruleus) were the most commonly recorded species. Total biomass and mean length per trap haul for control and experimental traps were compared using t-tests. A linear model was used to control for the effects of depth, time between hauls, and trap location on catch weight and mean length. Initial findings show no significant difference between the total catch weight and mean fish length per haul. However, experimental traps caught proportionally less fish from thin-bodied families such as Acanthuridae, Chaetodontidae, and Monocanthidae, and proportionally more fish from thick-bodied families including Lutjanidae and Ostraciidae. We discuss our results in the context of using escape gaps as an option for improving the sustainability of trap fisheries

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