Bahamas Lobster FIP

Last updated January 20, 2016

FIP Stage

Implementation & Review

Species

Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus)

© Abel Valdivia

Fishery Background

  • Volume – 5.1 million pounds (2008 tail weight)
  • Gear – Traps and casitas (condominiums)
  • Location – primarily located on the Little Bahama Bank, in the northern Bahamas, and on much larger Greater Bahama Bank, situated in the west, south and central areas of the archipelago. The fishery covers an area of approximately 45,000 square miles.

FIP Stakeholders

Some of the stakeholders involved in this FIP include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association (BMEA), the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Friends of the Environment in Abaco, other local NGOs and local fishermen.

Project Background

The Bahamas lobster FIP process began in early 2009 with the completion of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) pre-assessment. A scoping document was subsequently produced that outlines potential strategies for addressing deficiencies identified in the pre-assessment. A FIP stakeholder meeting was held in May 2009 and a follow-up meeting was held in October 2009 to discuss the pre-assessment and to develop a FIP Action Plan, which describes the necessary FIP activities, associated responsible parties and timeframes required to meet the MSC standard. FIP implementation began in June 2010 when the FIP Action Plan was finalized. 

In April 2011, May 2012, and April 2013, WWF held a FIP review meetings in Nassau, Bahamas to present the results of a range of studies related to activities in the Action Plan and to discuss and evaluate the progress of these activities. The outcomes of these reviews were used to update the Action Plan. 

Deficiencies Raised in the Pre-Assessment

In the pre-assessment, a number of MSC performance indicators (PIs) were scored such that the fishery would likely either fail under an MSC full assessment (score less than 60) or pass with conditions (score between 60 and 80). These included lack of data regarding the status of the stock, lack of fishery-specific harvest controls, and a limited ability to provide for monitoring and evaluation of fishery impacts on the stock.

Key Accomplishments

The work done by FIP stakeholders to date has resulted in many accomplishments, some of which include the following:

  • Multiple stakeholder meetings to increase the support and active participation of individuals and organizations;
  • Completion of a stock assessment in 2011, with updates in 2012 and 2013, showing that there is no evidence that the Bahamas spiny lobster stock is overfished, and good levels of recruitment have led to an increase of spawning stock biomass;
  • A study to determine the prevalence and distribution of PaV1 virus within the Caribbean spiny lobster population indicated that a relatively low level of lobsters within the Bahamas are infected;
  • A preliminary study of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing within the Bahamas indicated that the greatest threat of IUU fishing occurred from vessels originating in the Dominican Republic (DR), and that national education and outreach programs conducted by processors and NGO's had been very helpful in reducing the number of illegally-sized lobster caught and lobster tails sold out of season; 
  • Establishment of an effective data collection system;
  • A literature review of the ecosystem impacts of lobster fishing gear (casitas and traps). The study concluded that while there are several aspects of the trap and casitas fisheries in The Bahamas that require further field studies, the impacts of wooden traps, particularly when fished away from reefs, are likely to be minimal to habitats and ecosystems, unless trap gear is left for extended periods of time;
  • Finalization of a FIP Communications Plan and Strategy Memo in July 2012;
  • Formal approval by the Bahamian government of The Bahamas Spiny Lobster Working Group (BSLWG) in December 2012, which is comprised of key stakeholders within the fishery to advise the government on lobster management issues;
  • Completion of a pilot lobster trap fishery bycatch study conducted by observers in March 2013, which indicated that there may be some bycatch in the trap fishery, but additional samples should be taken at other times during the fishing season to reduce bias;
  • Completion of a pilot Smartphone application to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in May 2013;
  • Development of FIP communications materials in October 2013 including: a FIP brochure, a pledge card for restaurants to only buy legal-sized lobsters, and a restaurant survey to determine effective strategies for encouraging restaurants to buy legal-sized lobsters;
  • Agreement by the BSLWG on harvest control rules (HCRs) for the spiny lobster fishery in October 2013 and recommendation of the HCRs to the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources in December 2013; and
  • Approval of the HCRs by the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources in January 2014.

Next Steps

Some FIP activities outlined in the Action Plan still need to be implemented by FIP stakeholders in order for the fishery to meet the MSC standard. If these activities are implemented as planned, it is anticipated that the Bahamian spiny lobster fishery will enter MSC full assessment by October 2014. These activities include:

  • Full government adoption of the HCRs;
  • Review, update and adoption of the Fishery Management Plan (FMP);
  • Development of a plan to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and
  • Implementation of education and outreach activities identified in the communications plan.

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