Fishers here have been reliant on reef fishery to supply goods and services for their families and according to the supervising minister in the federal government. Dr. Timothy Harris, the country is faced with the challenge of protecting the reef habitats from becoming an aquatic desert in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and still maintain a source of revenue for hard working fisher folks. In this regard his ministry is advising fishers to abide by our fisheries regulations, at all times.
Harris also indicated that a number of management measures have been initiated to mitigate the potential dilapidation of coral reefs and protect the livelihoods of fishers. Some of the measures include:
- Fisher Training. Fifty fishers being trained in the use of vertical longline or dropline techniques to target demersal fish species instead of reef fish.
- Gear Technology. Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) were deployed. These have decreased fishing efforts by congregating large pelagics around the FADs outside of reef areas. In the month of December 2011 when fishing activity is normally low; 7,180 pounds of fish were caught as a result of fishing these FADs representing EC$ 86,160.00 in gross income to fishers.
- Alternative Livelihoods. The European Union funded ACP Fish II Project has helped to create an aquaculture development strategy for the Federation. The development of aquaculture has already started with the St. Kitts and Nevis Aquaculture Pilot Project and Environment Research (SNAPPER). Aquaculture will relief fishing pressure from reef environs, provide fish protein and generate additional revenue streams for fish farmers by culturing aquatic living organisms in a controlled locality.
- Habitat enhancement through Marine Management Area Development. Government received assistance from the Centre for Resources Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) in collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the OECS to scope the future of fisheries over the next 10 years using the Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries (EAF) management. One of the entry points that was listed was the development of marine protected areas, building on the marine zoning products developed with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy. A marine management area will be established between St. Kitts and Nevis that will restore depleted fish populations, protect important or vulnerable species, enhance fishery productivity by protecting critical spawning, breeding, nursery, and feeding habitats, protect breeding populations which can restock and restore overexploited areas, reduce of the negative impacts of human activities and provide additional sustainable livelihood options to local communities.
The Minister also revealed that St Kitts and Nevis is involved in a pilot project with four other countries namely: Barbados, Belize and Honduras. The role of this research he said is to classify the types of management in use across the region, the role of governance in supporting or constraining effective reef management, and the impact of particular management tools on reef-dependent livelihoods.
He also said that the Department of Marine Resources will use the findings of this research to guide their management approaches to fishing activity within these communities and mobilize resources to enhance the development of fisheries nationwide.