COMMONWEALTH of THE
Fig. 1. The Bahamas’s Flag.
Fig. 2. Map of the Bahamas 1.
Fig. 3. Map of the Bahamas’ EEZ2.
Geographic Coordinates: 24 15 N, 76 00 W 1
Terrestrial extent: 10,070 km2 1
Coastline: 3,542 km 1
EEZ area: 654,715 km2 2
Shelf area: 106,323 km² 2
Marine Fisheries Landings (production in tons):
Other countries operating in this EEZ: There are periodically arrests of foreign fishing
vessels in Bahamian waters. From 1997 to 1998, there were nine arrests, most were from
CIA World Factbook
Sea Around Us Project website http://www.seaaroundus.org
the Dominican Republic, but sometimes others are from Cuba, Honduras, and the US
Government agency for marine fisheries:
Government agency for the protection of marine environment:
Population: 303,770 (July 2006 est.) 1
Description: In 1492, Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Bahamas and the
Lucayan Indians inhabited the islands. In 1647, British settlement of the islands began
the islands became a colony in 1783. The Bahamas obtained independence from the UK
in 1973 and the nation has prospered due to tourism and international banking ever since.
The Bahamas are members of Caricom and FAO.
The Fisheries of the Bahamas
The fishing industry is extremely important to the Bahamas. In 1995, fisheries
contributed 2.25% to the GDP, making it economically more important than agriculture,
banking, and insurance (Anon., 1998). Most of the fisheries exports go to the US, and in
1997 these exports were valued at B$62.7 million.
In 1991, 52% of the total weight and 83% of the total value of the recorded commercial
landings were spiny lobster (Villegas, 1992). Now, 95% of fishermen are believed to
target spiny lobsters (Gittens, 2004). Other important commercial fisheries include conch
(11% of the weight landed in the same period), groupers (13%), and snappers (9%).
Jacks, grunts, and sponges are targeted less often by the commercial fisheries. The sport
fisheries tend to target medium and large migratory pelagic fish such as dolphin,
barracuda, wahoo, and blue marlin.
1. What fisheries exist in this territory and what are the target species?
There are three main commercial fisheries in the Bahamas: spiny lobsters, queen conch,
and scalefish (Appendix 1).
Spiny Lobster: The Bahamian spiny lobster fishery is the fourth largest in the world
(Anon., 1998). In 1997, the fishery produced 5.7 million pounds of frozen tails, which
was between 6,450 to 7,700 tons live weight. In 2002, the most recent fishing mortality
rates available indicated that the stock was close to being fully exploited (Gittens and
Braynen, 2002). The stock biomass abundance also showed a declining trend.
Queen Conch: In the Exuma Cays, the shallow water conch populations are heavily
overfished (Gascoigne, 2002). The deep water populations are also reaching the point of
overfishing. In 1997, conch landings were 1.43 million pounds (Anon., 1998). Since
queen conch is listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Flora and Fauna (CITES) as a species at risk of overexploitation, the Bahamas has an
export quota of 450,000 pounds meat weight. Thus of the 1.43 million pounds landed in
1997, only 360,000 of those pounds were exported.
Scalefish: Scalefish includes mainly reef associated fin fish species such as grouper,
snapper, jacks, grunts, hogfish, triggerfish, and other species (Anon., 1998). Surveys at
Long Island suggest that the known grouper spawning aggregations around the Bahamas
have collapsed or are near collapse (Gascoigne, 2002). The High Cay spawning
aggregation also seems to be in decline. The effects of fishing, especially of Nassau
grouper, are also obvious from comparisons between inside and outside the Exuma Cays
Land and Sea Park.
2. What are the specific vessel and gear types used in each fishery?
In 1992, the Bahamas had a fleet of 305 boats that ranged in length from 20 to 90ft (6-
27m) (Villegas, 1992). In 1995, it was estimated that there were 4,000 small boats and
vessels in addition to the registered boats that were 11 to 100ft (Gittens, 2004).
Furthermore, approximately 9,300 people are employed full-time as fishermen and
12,000 fishermen are employed part-time (Anon., 1998). Many of the fishermen use
hand lines and fish traps as their main types of fishing gear.
Spiny lobster are harvested by spear, lobster hook, compressors, lobster traps, and casitas
(Gittens, 2004). A casita is made of a sheet of zinc placed on concrete blocks or wood.
Lobsters are attracted to casitas because they create a safe place to live. A license is
required to use compressors and lobster traps. Many small vessels that fish for lobster
work with a large vessel that acts as the base of operations. This way the small boats can
stay at sea for up to four weeks at a time. Almost all lobster landings are just the tails,
thus the head and legs are being wasted.
Conchs are collected mainly by hand harvest, both hookah and free diving (Gittens,
2004). A few fishermen use a conch staff, which is a pole that can be up to 9m long with
two prongs at the end, to capture conch.
3. Where and when are the specific gear types deployed for each of these fisheries
(seasonality, trip duration, etc)?
Many of the commercial fishing operations fish inside the 200 mile zone that is reserved
for Bahamians (Appendix 2) (Villegas, 1992). In particular, the main fishing areas for
the licensed commercial fishing vessels landing at Nassau are Berry Island and South
Andros, where more than half of the recorded effort exerted takes place. Sport fishermen
tend to prefer locations like Cat Cay, Abaco, and Berry Islands. Most of the crayfish
(spiny lobster) are landed in Abaco, Nassau, and Eleuthera.
4. What species of marine mammals, sea turtles, and sea birds occur and maybe at
risk for capture or interaction with fisheries?
The Bahamas’ marine mammal survey began in 1991 (Balcomb and Claridge, 1997).
Since then, there have been over 200 encounters with fourteen species of dolphins and
whales. The survey has also collected 700 sightings reports from other boaters, which
raises the total number of species encountered to seventeen. In 1997 alone, there were
reports of twelve different species (Appendix 3).
According to the Sea Around Us website, there are thirty species of marine mammals that
can be encountered in the Bahamas (Appendix 3).
No information was found regarding the bycatch of marine mammals.
Five species of sea turtle are found in Bahamian waters, which are green (Chelonia
mydas), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback
(Dermochelys coriacea), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olicacea) (Anon., 2006).
No information was found regarding the bycatch of sea turtles.
Many different species of seabirds can be found in the Bahamas, particularly on San
Salvador Island (Hayes, 2005). Species include Audubon’s shearwater, white-tailed
tropicbird, magnificent fridatebird, brown booby, red-footed booby, double-crested
cormorant, laughing gull, brown noddy, gull-billed tern, royal tern, roseate tern, bridled
tern, sooty tern, and least tern.
No information could be found regarding seabird bycatch in the Bahamas.
5. What collection methods (observer programs, etc.) exist for gathering fishing
effort and bycatch data for each fishery?
In 1992, the Bahamas began administering a fisheries survey (Villegas, 1992).
Information concerning fishing sites, vessels, gear, units, fishermen, and landings are
recorded. In addition, information is being collected using a fisheries census regarding
sport fishing boats, aquaculture, fish processing plants, and buying stations.
The Department of Fisheries collects landings data indirectly through purchases by
licensed fish buyers and processors, who submit monthly purchase reports (Anon., 1998).
Two data collectors are responsible for collecting landings data for conch and lobster by
interviewing fishermen and inspecting their catch (Gittens, 2004). This data is limited
because there are multiple landing sites on several different islands and only two data
6. What policy/regulatory framework exists to guide fisheries or bycatch
Maritime Boundaries/EEZ Delimitation Agreements:
There is disagreement between the Bahamas and the United States on the alignment of
the maritime boundary (CIA World Factbook).
The Cartagena Convention has not been signed or ratified by the Bahamas (Anon., 2003).
Multi-lateral Treaties/Agreements of Relevance:
UNCLOS: The Bahamas is involved in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The
Bahamas signed on 29 July 1983 (Anon., 2003).
UN Fish Stocks Agreement: The Bahamas signed the UN Fish Stocks Agreement on
January 16, 1997 (Mahon, 2003).
FAO Code of Conduct: The Bahamas is involved in the FAO Code of Conduct (Mahon,
CITES: The Bahamas is a contracting member to the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Anon., 2003).
CBD: The Bahamas is a contracting member to the Convention on Biological Diversity
CMS: The Bahamas is not involved in the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory
Species of Wild Animals (Anon., 2003).
MARPOL: The Bahamas has accepted four annexes to the International Convention for
the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Anon., 2003).
IAC: The Bahamas is not involved in the Inter American Convention (Anon., 2001).
IWC: The Bahamas is not a member of the International Whaling Commission (Anon. 2,
For a list of all environment-related treaties and conventions to which the Bahamas is a
member, see Appendix 4.
7. Are there other individuals in relevant government agencies or non-government
organizations that may be able to assist us with information on bycatch?
No information found.
8. What documents (journal articles, grey literature, agency reports) describe
fisheries and bycatch in this area?
Anon. (1998). “Fisheries management action plan for the Bahamas.” The Bahamas Reef
Environment Educational Foundation and Macalister Elliott and Partners Ltd.
Accessed: 24 August 2006. <http://www.breef.org/fisheries.pdf>
Anon. (2001). “Newsletter.” Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire. Accessed: 16 August
Anon. (2003). “Convention and Protocols Status Page.” Caribbean Environment
Programme. Accessed: 10 August 2006.
Anon. (2006). “Turtles.” Ardastra. Accessed: 31 August 2006.
Anon. 2. (2006). “International convention for the regulation of whaling.” International
Whaling Commission. Accessed: 16 August 2006.
Balcomb, K. and D. Claridge. (1997). “Ground truth research report: Bahamas marine
mammal survey.” Abaco Bahamas. Accessed: 29 August 2006.
Gascoigne, J. (2002). “Nassau grouper and queen conch in the Bahamas: status and
management options.” The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation.
Accessed: 24 August 2006. <http://www.breef.org/grouperfull.pdf>
Gittens, L. (2004). “National Report – The Bahamas.” CRFM Fishery Report. 11: 159 –
Gittens, L. and M. T. Braynen. (2002). “Report on the spiny lobster fisheries of the
Bahamas.” FAO. Accessed: 24 August 2006.
Hayes, W. (2005). “Research on behavioral ecology and conservation of Bahamians
seabirds.” Loma Linda University. Accessed: 5 September 2006.
Mahon, R. (2003). “International arrangements and agreements.” FAO. Accessed: 10
August 2006. <http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5308e/y5308e0g.htm>
Villegas, Luis. (1992). “Description of the fisheries survey in the Bahamas.” FAO.
Accessed: 23 August 2006.
Appendix 1. Fisheries and associated gear types. “I “ denotes industrial, “A” for artisanal fisheries and X undetermined.
Gillnets / Falling Hand
Longline Trawls Seine nets Traps Hook & line
entangling nets gear Harvest
Fishery by (free
Mid- Boat / Fyke Cast or
Pelagic Demersal Drift Anchored Bottom Beach Purse Pots Troll scuba,
Water Circle nets nets pole
A A A
Deep Slope /
(lobster, A A
Appendix 2. Fishing effort by gear
Gear type Longline Gillnet Trawl
Artisanal / Industrial Artisanal
Target species Coastal Pelagics
Vessel Classification / Category
Vessel length (m) < 6.1m
Number of vessels
Gear Used (materials)
How gear deployed
(including demersal / pelagic,
set / drift, mid-water / bottom)
Where gear deployed / area fished
Fishing seasons (months)
Avg. trip duration (hours /days)
Total days fished per month / year
Number of fishing trips per year
Net mesh size(s):
Foot rope length &
Gear/vessel effort Hook size/type: Net mesh size: Head rope length:
(gear & trip information) Number of hooks: Net length & width: Horizontal opening
Tow (trawl) or haul
Number of sets / hauls / soaks /
tows per day and per trip
Duration / Number of hours
per set / soak / tow
Total number of hours towed per
Appendix 3 . Marine mammal species sighted in Bahamian waters in 1997 (Balcomb and
Common Name Scientific Name
Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Atlantic spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis
Pan-tropical spotted dolphin Stenella attenuata
Striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba
Fraser's dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei
Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus
Melon-headed whale Peponocephala electra
Dense-beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris
Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris
Dwarf sperm whale Kogia sima
Sperm whale Physeter catodon
West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus
Potential marine mammals that inhabit Bahamian waters (Sea Around Us).
Common Name Scientific Name
Dwarf minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Sei whale Balaenoptera borealis
Brydes whale Balaenoptera brydei
Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus
Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus
Short beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis
North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis
Pygmy killer whale Feresa attenuata
Short-finned pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus
Rissos dolphin Grampus griseus
Gray seal Halichoerus grypus
Pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps
Dwarf sperm whale Kogia simus
Frasers dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei
Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae
Blainvilles beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris
Gervais beaked whale Mesoplodon europaeus
Trues beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus
Killer whale Orcinus orca
Melon-headed whale Peponocephala electra
Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus
False killer whale Pseudorca crassidens
Pantropical spotted dolphin Stenella attenuata
Clymene dolphin Stenella clymene
Striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba
Atlantic spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis
Spinner dolphin Stenella longirostris
Rough-toothed dolphin Steno bredanensis
Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Cuviers beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris
Appendix 4 2 Environment-related Treaties and Conventions to which the Bahamas is a
Member (Sea Around Us).
Short Title Long Title
CARICOM Caribbean Community
Convention on Biological
Convention on International
CITES Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora
Convention on the International
International Convention for the
MARPOL 73/78 Prevention of Pollution from
Conservation and Management
Stradd. /Highly Migr. Fish St.
of Straddling Fish Stocks and
Highly Migratory Fish Stocks
United Nations Convention on
the Law of the Sea
Western Central Atlantic Fishery