Billfish species contributie to the Caribbean economies, livelihoods and food security through two very distinct fisheries — commercial and recreational. Billfish are also important incidental bycatch species from large-scale tuna longline fisheries operating both within and beyond national jurisdictions. Declining trends due to overfishing have been recognized in most billfish species across the Atlantic. This represents a threat to the fisheries sector and to the overall sustainability of respective contributions to regional economies.
The Caribbean Billfish Project is a $1.95 million project component of the GEF-funded, World Bank implemented, Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation Models for Innovation and Reform. The project aims to develop business plans for one or more long-term pilot projects aimed at sustainable management and conservation of billfish within the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. The divergence in value between the commercial and recreational subsectors represents a significant ‘entry point’ and opportunity for conservation and value creation which this project aims to exploit. The completed business plans will incorporate the economic, technical and financial rationale and feasibility to attract investment involving private and public capital.
The three-year Caribbean Billfish Project consists of the following four components:
1. Generating value and conservation outcomes through innovative management.
2. Strengthening regional billfish management and conservation planning.
3. A functional and responsive Consortium on Billfish Management and Conservation.
4. Business plans developed for pilot investments in sustainable management and conservation of billfish.
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has been selected as the lead recreational fishing organization for the project and will provide scientific advice on measures concerning the conservation and management of billfish resources including biological, social and economic aspects of billfish fisheries in the Caribbean. IGFA will also establish and serve as the Secretariat for the Consortium on Billfish Management and Conservation (CBMC) in the Western Central Atlantic. The CBMC will be comprised of relevant organizations (RFB/RFMOs, INGOs, CSOs and private sector representatives) that will work together with an agreed work plan and budget that responds to project needs.
Some activities that are scheduled to take place in the coming months include:
- May 2015 – Workshop on Creating Fisheries Value by Reforming Management Institutions Across Small Scale Billfish Fisheries in the Caribbean: A Brainstorming Session and Recruitment of Collaborators. At the North American Association of Fisheries Economists (NAAFE), 8th Biennial Forum, Ketchikan, Alaska.
- June-July 2015 – Assessment study of the economic impact of recreational fisheries in the Bahamas.
- September 2015 — First meeting of the Consortium on Billfish Management and Conservation at the IGFA headquarters in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.
- November 2015 — Second Regional Workshop on Billfish management and conservation, to be held in parallel with Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) 68th annual conference in Panama City, Panama.