The Decline of the Sea Urchin, Tripneustes ventricosus, Fishery of
Barbados: A Survey of Fishermen and Consumers
ROBERT E. SCHEIBLING and PHILIP V. MLADENOV
Introduction In Barbados, West Indies, a local but sumers. Since landings are not recorded
economically important fishery for the and quantitative records of sea urchin
Sea urchins are harvested for their go sea urchin Tripneustes ventricosus has abundance in Barbados do not exist, this
nads, which are a highly prized delicacy existed for more than a century. Barbadi is the only means of obtaining such infor
in parts of Asia, the Mediterranean, and ans consider the gonads of both sexes a mation. Moreover, these interviews pro
the Caribbean. Worldwide, the sea delicacy and large numbers of these "sea vide a basis for assessing the cause and
urchin fishery is the most important of all eggs" have been fished each year and consequences of the decline, and the po
of the echinoderm fisheries, with re sold as food. Since 1879, the Barbados tential for rehabilitation of the fishery.
ported landings of 47,560 metric tons (t) Government has imposed a closed season
(live weight) in 1982 (Sloan, 1985). In for the fishery from May to August, the Methods
addition, artisanal sea urchin fisheries peak of the breeding season (Lewis,
along the coasts of many tropical coun 1958), in an effort to conserve it (Bair,
tries go largely unrecorded. These fish 1962). However, the abundance of these We interviewed 40 sea urchin fisher
eries make important contributions to sea urchins in Barbados has declined dra men using a prepared questionnaire
local economies, and some may have the matically over the past decade, and the (copies available from the first author).
potential to be expanded to meet certain fishery has virtually collapsed. The questionnaire was divided into three
export markets. At present, Japan is the In this study we document the recent parts: I) Personal information and fishing
greatest consumer of sea urchin roe, im decline of the Barbados sea urchin fish and marketing practices, 2) questions
porting it from at least 13 countries ery and its socioeconomic impact by in pertaining to the decline in the fishery,
(Sloan, 1985). terviewing both fishermen and con and 3) questions pertaining to the cause
of the decline and the potential for reha
bilitation. The intervi~wees ranged in age
from 21 to 77 years (X = 43 years). The
majority were veteran fishermen-37
(52 percent) had fished sea urchins for
ABSTRACT-For over a century, Bar tially ($25-45 Bds/liter in 1985), there has ~ 10 years, 25 (63 pecent) had fished
badians have fished the sea urchin, Trip been a major loss of employment and in >20 years; only 3 (6 percent) had fished
neustes ventricosus, for its roe which they come from this fishery.
consider a traditional delicacy. However, Overfishing appears to be a major cause <5 years. The interviews were con
the abundance of these sea urchins has de of the decline of T. ventricosus. A govern ducted at major fishing centers (Brid
clined drastically in recent years resulting ment-imposed closed season during the getown, Oistins), as well as in smaller
in the collapse of this fishery. Interviews peak breeding period of these sea urchins villages (Silver Sands, Long Bay,
with sea urchin fishermen and consumers (between May and August) is not enforced
and generally unheeded. Pollution may Skeete's Bay, Conset Bay) (Fig. I). We
document this decline and its socioeco
nomic impact. have contributed to the decline through the enlisted the assistance of one fisherman,
The depopulation of T. ventricosus oc deterioration of natural habitats, particu Tim Jones of Long Bay, who acted as our
curred along the south and southeast coasts larly the seaweed and seagrass beds upon liaison in soliciting interviewees. Before
of Barbados in the late 1970' s and along which these sea urchins depend for food an interview, fishermen were told only
the east coast in the early 1980' s. Prior to and shelter.
this decline, sea urchins were intensively Recovery of populations of T. ventrico that we were researchers from Canadian
harvested: Average catches exceeded sus is contingent upon recruitment via
1,000 sea urchins per person per day dur planktonic larvae; however, little is known
ing the height of the fishing season, provid about the mechanisms of recruitment and
Robert E. Scheibling is with the Biology Depart
ing an average income of nearly $400 Bds the ecology of the early life history stages. ment, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Sco
(or US $200) per person per week. At Artificial enhancement of recruitment, by tia, Canada, B3H 4J I. Philip V. Mladenov is
present, sea urchins are rare to absent on seeding natural habitats with laboratory with the Biology Department, Mount Allison
traditional fishing grounds, and although cultured juveniles, is a potential means of University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada,
their market value has increased substan- rehabilitating the sea urchin fishery. EOA 3CO.
62 Marine Fisheries Review
Figure I.-Places and
subareas (A, B, C) of sea
urchin fishing grounds re
ferred to in the text.
universities, unaligned with the Barbados Ragged Point
Government, and that we wished to ac
quire information about the sea urchin
fishery that may aid in attaining research B
Consumer Interviews Crane Beach
Sixty Barbadian consumers were inter
viewed by anthropology students from
Union College, N. Y., using a prepared
questionnaire (copies available from the A
first author). The questionnaire was
aimed at examining consumer preference
for sea urchins and consumption habits.
The respondents, representing various
socioeconomic groups and occupational
categories, were from the four northern
parishes: S1. Lucy (26), S1. Peter (18),
51. Andrew (9), 51. James (7). powered fishing boat ("day boat"). The heavy wave action. In the past many sea
number of fishermen per boat ranges urchins were collected in shallow
Results from 2 to 6 with an average of 4 (N = 20 nearshore areas by wading with net bags
respondents l ). Sixty-five percent of the or rafts.
Fishing Methods fishermen interviewed used both the
pole-and-bag method and boats to fish for Fishing Grounds
Fishermen collect Tripneustes ventri sea urchins; 25 percent used the pole
cosus by skin diving with mask, snorkel, and-bag method exclusively. The current Tripneustes ventricosus
and fins. They swim out from shore, In general, fishing methods have fishing grounds range from Silver Sands
singly or in pairs, with a floating log changed very little. The face mask and on the south coast to Bath on the east
("pole") from which they suspend large fins were introduced about 15-20 years coast (Fig. I). This area is partitioned
net bags or sacks. Sea urchins, 7-10 cm ago. Although scuba is now available into three subareas for the purpose of this
in diameter, are scraped off the rocky (and used by some spear fishermen) it is study: Area A, Silver Sands to Crane
bottom with a small iron rod and col not used in the collection of sea urchins. Beach; Area B, Crane Beach to Ragged
lected in the bags which, when full, are The increasing scarcity of sea urchins has Point; Area C, Ragged Point to Bath.
floated back to shore on the pole. Alter resulted in a greater dependence on boats Ninety-five percent of the fishermen
natively, sea urchins may be collected in for fishing remote populations in areas of interviewed fished in Area B and/or Area
floating wooden boxes or rafts. C. Three respondents indicated that, in
Fishermen may also work in teams recent years, they had ventured as far as
1Where not all interviewees provided answers to
from a boat, either a small rowboat a question, the number of respondents (N) is River Bay on the north coast to fish sea
("Moses") or a larger (-20-foot) diesel given. urchins. Sea urchins also were fished ex
49(3), 1987 63
Closed season of the season in September. Therefore the be discarded on the fishing grounds, al
100 I I
decline in the number of fishermen fish though a number of fishermen that we
Cl ing in November and December may re interviewed denounced this practice,
flect a decrease in the abundance of sea claiming that it caused the sea urchins to
~u:: 60 urchins due to intensive fishing at the migrate away from the area. There may
E~ 50 start of the season. A marked decrease in be some truth to this contention, since
~ E 40 the number of sea urchin fishermen oc other species of sea urchins have been
curs after December, when many begin shown to be repelled by the scent of
fishing for flying fish, Cypselurus wounded conspecifics in laboratory
cyanopterus. (Tegner and Levin, 1983; Mann et aI.,
The average (±S.D.) number of sea 1984) and field (Snyder and Synder,
Figure 2.-Percentage of sea urchin urchin fishing days per week reported by 1970; Vadas et aI., 1986) studies.
fishermen fishing in each month respondents (N=24) was 5 (± 1) days. The catch is sold fresh on the beach
when Tripneustes ventricosus were Since this did not include 14 respondents directly to local consumers or to vendors
last abundant. who said that they fished every day that ("hawkers") who market the roe in the
weather permitted, this may be a conser streets. Twenty percent of the fishermen
vative estimate of fishing frequency, at we interviewed sold to hawkers. Occa
least at the height of the fishing season. sionally, sea urchin roe also is sold to
restaurants. The current price of the roe,
tensively at Stroud Bay on the north coast
Marketing quoted by the fishermen, ranged from $3
in the early 1980's.2 Sea urchins are fished in the morning, 6 Bds per shell (average: $4.77 Bds;
In Barbados, T. ventricosus occurs on usually during a 3- to 4-hour period. Nor N=22 respondents) or $25-45 Bds per
patch reefs composed mainly of coral mally, the catch is brought ashore where litre container (average: $37.30 Bds;
rubble, but often with scattered live several helpers may assist in removing N= 14) .4 The price of roe has increased
corals, algae (mainly Dictyota spp.), or the roe. The test of the sea urchin is markedly in recent years. Fishermen re
sea grass (mainly Thalassia testudinum). cracked open by hitting it with a spoon. called that a shell generally sold for $1-2
At present, sea urchins are fished at The gut is removed and the five gonads Bds in the early 1980's.
depths of 5-8 m in areas immediately are scooped out with the spoon and Fishery Decline
within or beyond the offshore barrier reef washed in sea water. The roe is then
along the southeast and east coasts of packed into intact cleaned tests through In recent years there has been a
Barbados. an opening in the oral region, and a leaf catastrophic decline in ventricosus stocks
of the sea grape, Coccoloha uvifera, in Barbados, and at present (1986) the
fashioned into a cone and filled with roe, fishery has effectively collapsed. Ac
Most of the fishing for T. ventricosus is then placed over the oral region of the cording to fishermen, this decline oc
is concentrated in the first half of the sea test (Fig. 3). Each "shell" as it is called, curred initially along the south (Area A)
son between September and December contains the roe of about 15 sea urchins 3 , and southeast (Area B) coasts between
(Fig. 2). Sixty-five percent of fishermen although the number of sea urchins the middle 1970's and early 1980's, and
interviewed admitted that they fished in needed to fill a shell may vary according extended to the east coast (Area C) in the
the closed season, mainly in July and Au to their size and reproductive condition. early 1980's (Table 1). In general, fisher
gust. This may be a conservative estimate The unused tests are discarded in the sea men noted that the decline of sea urchins
since some respondents may have been or buried in large pits dug in the beach along the south and southeast coasts was
reluctant to admit to illegal fishing. All sand. gradual, occurring over 2 or more years,
respondents claimed that fishing in July In recent years, many fishermen have whereas on the east coast it occurred
and August (known locally as "stealing elected to forego the traditional method within 1 or 2 years.
season") is a'common practice among sea of preparing shells, and they now pack The dramatic decrease in abundance of
urchin fishermen. age the roe in 1 or 2 liter plastic ice cream sea urchins is reflected by the dwindling
September and October represent the containers. One liter is equal to about 10 catches in recent years. The average
height of the sea urchin fishing season shells. 3 catch rate reported by fishermen for the
when virtually all of the fishermen are When boats are used, the roe may be period when sea urchins were last abun
active. Eighty-seven percent of respond removed at sea by "crackers" who contin dant (late 1970's and early 1980's) was
ents (N = 30) claimed that sea urchins ually process the catch as it is brought 78.7±37.7 shells per person per day
were most abundant at or before the start aboard. The cleaned tests and guts may (range=30-150 shells per person per day;
2Stephen Willoughby, Fisheries Division, Min
istry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bar 3Tim Jones, sea urchin fisherman, Long Bay,
bados. Personal commun. Barbados. Personal commun. 4In 1986, $1.00 Bds = US $0.50.
64 Marine Fisheries Review
Table 1.-The estimated period of decline in abundance
of rr/pneusles venlr/cosus around Barbados based on
interviews with fishermen.
Avg. year No. of re-
Area of decline Range spondents
A. Silver Sands 1978 1973-81 11
B. Crane Beach! 1979 1 1975-83 12
Sam Lord's Castle
C. East Coast 1982 1981-83 14
1Five respondents (not included) reported that the decline
occurred in the late 1970's-early 1980's.
N=29 respondents). This is equivalent to
about 8 liters (fresh roe) per person per
day or 1,180 sea urchins per person per
day _ In contrast, all of the fishermen in
terviewed agreed that, at present, sea
urchins are rare to absent on traditional
fishing grounds. The average catch rate
reported by those still fishing was
9.4±7.1 shells per person per day (range:
2-24 shells per person per day; N=9).
This is equivalent to about 0.9 liters
(fresh roe) per person day or 140 sea
urchins per person per day.
Aside from this drastic decrease in the
abundance of sea urchins, many fisher
men also noted qualitative changes in the Figure 3.-Marketing of Tripneustes ventricosus in Barbados. From left to right: The
resource in recent years_ Thirty-eight traditional "shell" with a sea grape leaf cone, shell with leaf removed to show test filled
percent of respondents (N = 34) claimed with roe, and an intact sea urchin. All specimens are about 6 cm in horizontal test
that the size of sea urchins that they diameter.
fished had decreased, 34 percent (N=32)
claimed that the amount of roe per sea
urchin had decreased, and 49 percent
(N = 37) claimed that sea urchins had be
come less palatable, or "bitter", as the
stock declined. Decreases in size, go pollution and effluents from hotels, such (N = 31) suggested a total ban on fishing
nadal content, and palatability were at as chlorinated swimming pool water. A for 1-5 years, and 29 percent called for
tributed mainly to a reduction in the few felt that erosion of the coastline, due stricter enforcement of the closed season.
quantity and quality of algae ("moss") to the formation of sea walls and groins, Twenty-three percent felt that the gov
upon which the sea urchins feed. had caused increased sedimentation and a ernment should investigate means of
reduction in algal cover. reestablishing sea urchin stocks, includ
Cause of the Decline Twenty-two percent of fishermen ing transplantation of reproductive indi
Sixty-two percent of the fishermen in claimed that overfishing was the cause of viduals to depleted areas. Two of the
terviewed believed that pollution was the the decline of sea urchin stocks. The re respondents recounted previous trans
major cause of, or contributing factor to, maining 16 percent cited various other plantation efforts, initiated by sea urchin
the T. ventricosus decline in Barbados. factors including fishing with dynamite, fishermen in the 1950's, in which popu
Many felt that pollution acted to reduce offshore migration of the sea urchins, and lations were reestablished via recruitment
algae, an important source of food and a disease. in artificially restocked areas. Scheibling
shelter for juvenile sea urchins. Some and Johnson (1985) relate a similar ac
Rehabilitation count. s
claimed that herbicides used in the sugar
cane industry killed off sea urchins in When fishermen were asked what
5Copies of reports to the Fisheries Division of
areas of freshwater runoff (e.g., Conset could be done to rehabilitate the sea Barbados are available from the senior author
Bay and Bath). Others blamed oil urchin fishery, 42 percent of respondents upon request.
49(3), /987 65
Socioeconomic Impact Table 2.-Eatlmated numbers of sea urchin fishermen like the roe or found it otherwise unac
In three major fishing areas around Barbados, both ba
of the Decline fore and after the decline In sea urchin abundance. Dale ceptable (rating" 1"). One-third of these
are means, with ranges and sample sizes (number of consumers abstained from eating sea
respondents) In parentheses, based on Intervl_s with
IIshermen. urchin roe for religious reasons.
The collapse of the sea urchin fishery When consumers were asked to com
Number of fishermen
of Barbados has resulted in a major loss pare sea urchin roe with fish, 30 percent
of employment. Most of the fishermen Pre- Post· % de-
preferred the roe over most (8 percent) or
Area decline decline crease
interviewed claimed that they now fished all (22 percent) fish, i.e., a rating of "4"
less frequently or had stopped altogether. A. Silver Sands! 150 (100· 7 (0-12;7) 95
or "5" respectively on our 5-point scale.
Table 2 shows a dramatic decline in the Fifty-eight percent of consumers liked
estimated number of sea urchin fisher B. Sam Lord's 46 (30- 11 (5-25;7) 76
Castle/Long Bay 100;4) sea urchin roe as much as fish (rating
men in three major fishing areas. Esti "3"). The average numerical rating was
C. Skeete's Bay/ 41 (20- 3 (0-8;9) 93
mates of numbers of fishermen in the past Conset Bay 100;6) 2.9.
(i.e., when sea urchins were last abun All consumers interviewed noted that
dant) are only rough approximations. sea urchin roe had become much less
Many of the fishermen interviewed sim available and much more expensive in
ply stated that there were "innumerable" recent years. In the past, the roe was
people fishing sea urchins in the past. eaten an average of 4 days per week
The Fisheries Division of Barbados has (N=35 respondents). In contrast, 69 per
estimated that the number of people em is expected to place additional pressure cent of consumers (N=33 respondents)
ployed by the sea urchin fishery has been on other resources, most notably flying in 1986 claimed that they now no longer
reduced from "over I ,000" in the early fish, as sea urchin fishermen attempt to ate sea urchin roe and 23 percent ate it
1970's to "less than 100" at present. 6 compensate for their loss of income. The only 1 day per week.
Sixty-three percent of the responding flying fish and sea urchin fisheries appear The consumers sampled in this study
fishermen (N = 30) claimed that sea to have been complementary: 68 percent lived in the northern part of Barbados, an
urchins, when abundant in the past, ac of the sea urchin fishermen interviewed area distant from the main sea urchin
counted for a major portion (>50 per also fished flying fish. Most indicated fishing areas around the south and south
cent) of their yearly income. The average that they usually stopped sea urchin fish east coasts. Therefore, our estimates of
(±S.D.) weekly income reported was ing around the middle of December when sea urchin roe consumption may be lower
$386 Bds (± 164) per week (range: $100 the flying fish season began. Twenty per than that for consumers in the southern
700 Bds; N=29 respondents) during the cent also earned income from spear fish part of the country. Although sea urchin
fishing season. This closely approxi ing and shell collecting, 5 percent from fishermen may represent a bias in the
mates an indirect estimate of $395 Bds farming, and 7 percent from miscella other direction, 98 percent of those inter
per week based on the estimated catch neous jobs. viewed (N=40) ate the roe and consid
rate (79 shells per person per day and Aside from the loss of employment ered it a delicacy. Ninety-three percent of
fishing frequency (5 days per week) and income, the collapse of the sea the fishermen claimed that they ate the
given above, and assuming a previous urchin fishery represents the loss of an roe whenever they caught sea urchins.
market value of $1 Bds per shell (in about important food resource. Barbadians Eighty-eight percent reported that all, or
1980). In contrast, 77 percent of the fish have long cherished sea urchin roe as a nearly all, members of their family ate
ermen reported they presently (1985-86 traditional delicacy (Nutting, 1919). It sea urchin roe, and 10 percent reported
season) had no income from this fishery, may be eaten raw, fried with seasoning, that most members of their family ate it.
and the remaining 23 percent claimed steamed, or baked in a pudding. Seventy
that sea urchins accounted for only a two percent of the consumers inter
minor portion «25 percent) of their viewed (N=60) rated sea urchin roe as
yearly income. The average present in
"good" (28 percent) or "excellent" (44
come reported was $21 Bds per week percent), i.e., a "3" or "4" rating, respec Decline in Sea
(range: $0-100 Bds, N=34 respondents). tively, on our 4-point scale. The average
Therefore, despite the dramatic rise in
numerical rating was 3.0. Positive evalu
market value of sea urchin roe over the ations generally were based on taste and As revealed by fishermen interviews,
last 5 years, there has been a serious loss nutritional value, although three (male) there has been a major decline in T. ven
of employment income from sea urchin respondents intimated that consumption tricosus abundance at Barbados over the
fishing. of sea urchin roe enhanced sexual past decade. Recent surveys of tradi
The collapse of the sea urchin fishery performance. Seventy-two percent of the tional fishing grounds have confirmed
consumer respondents (N = 53) believed fishermen's reports that these sea urchins
that sea urchin roe was an important com are rare to absent in areas where they
6Stephen Willoughby, Fisheries Division, Bar ponent of their diet in the past. Only 15 were once extremely plentiful (Scheib
bados. Personal commun. percent of the consumers either did not ling and Johnson, 1985; Scheibling et aI.,
66 Marine Fisheries Review
1985). A few localized aggregations of they have since all but disappeared. With ing the other 4 months of the season as
T. ventricosus stilI exist in some of the the elimination of the west coast popula well as closed season fishing) to give an
more remote and inaccessible areas. tions, sea urchin fishing was limited estimated total catch of 45 million sea
Densities within these aggregations range largely to the south and east coasts. The urchins per year. To estimate the areal
from 0.4 to 3.8 individuals/m2 , which recent decline of sea urchin populations extent of the sea urchin fishing grounds,
may be indicative of natural densities of in these latter areas marks the culmina we multiplied the length of the coastline
these sea urchins in the absence of inten tion of a long-term trend which now ex between Silver Sands and Bath, 34 krn
sive fishing pressure (Scheibling and tends islandwide. (measured by digitizing the coastline on a
Johnson, 1985). At other islands where map of scale I :50,(00), by I krn, the
they are not fished, average densities of Cause of the Decline estimated average offshore range of T.
T. ventricosus in seagrass, Thalassia tes ventricosus. This gave an estimated area
tudinum, beds ranged from 0.6 to 1.2 An understanding of the factors which of 34 krn 2 . Dividing the estimated annual
individuals/m 2 (Scheibling, 1982; have brought about the T. ventricosus de catch by this area gives a catch density of
Keller, 1983; Tertschnig, 1985). Com cline in Barbados is of crucial importance 1.3 individuals per m2, which seems to
parative data on the abundance of T. ven in assessing the potential for recovery of be a reasonable reflection of the prede
tricosus at Barbados in the past are lack the fishery. The spatial and temporal pat cline level of abundance. Although these
ing, although fishermen frequently tern of depopulation suggests that over calculations are only crude approxima
reported that they were so abundant "that fishing has been a major cause of, or con tions, they do indicate that sea urchin
it would be difficult to place one's hand tributing factor to, the demise of these populations were subjected to intense
upon the bottom without touching a sea sea urchins. The decline in sea urchin
fishing pressure in the past.
urchin." populations seems to have occurred ini
Interestingly, although only 22 percent
There is evidence of past declines in tially in the most accessible areas and
of the fishermen that we interviewed be
the Barbadian T. ventricosus fishery. In spread progressively to more remote
lieved that overfishing was the cause of
the late nineteenth century, complaints areas. It is quite possible that once sea
the decline in sea urchins, 71 percent
about declining numbers of sea urchins urchin populations were depleted on the
thought that strict regulatory measures,
prompted the government to pass the Sea sheltered west coast, fishing intensified
such as a total ban on fishing or rigid
Egg Preservation Act of 1879 which pro firstly along the south coast and then
hibited fishing during what was believed along the more exposed southeast, east, enforcement of the closed season, would
to be the spawning period, April to Au and north coasts, as fishermen ventured enable the stock to recover.
gust (Bair, 1962). This legislation was further afield in search of exploitable Most fishermen felt that pollution has
reinforced by the Fisheries Regulation stocks. The gradual decline in T. ventri caused the decline in T. ventricosus, ei
Act of 1904-05, again in response to cosus along the south and southeast ther directly or indirectly by reducing the
complaints of decline, with more severe coasts in the late 1970's was followed by abundance of seaweeds and sea grasses.
penalties (fines and imprisonment) for a rapid decline on the east coast in the Although pollution of coastal habitats by
the fishing, sale, or purchase of sea early 1980's due to a dramatic increase in terrestrial effluents is a growing problem
urchins during the closed season (Bair, fishing pressure on the only remaining in Barbados (Lewis, 1985; Tomascik and
1962). populations. Sander, 1985), sea urchin populations
Fourteen of the fishermen we inter To estimate the extent of fishing pres have been depleted in areas (such as the
viewed recalled previous declines in the sure on T. ventricosus in the early 1970's southeast and east coast) which are re
abundance of T. ventricosus along the we made the following assumptions mote from major sources of pollution.
south or east coasts, which they placed based on interview data: I) There were Moreover, the existence of dense popula
between 20 and 40 years ago. However, 500 sea urchin fishermen (this is about tions of these sea urchins in areas that are
they also noted that sea urchins were twice the average number given for three least accessible to fishermen also points
scarce only for 1 or 2 years, after which major centers in Table 2 and about half of to overfishing rather than pollution as a
they returned to former levels of abun the number estimated by the Fisheries Di major factor. It seems likely, however,
dance. Brown (1942) reported that the vision, Barbados); 2) on average 71.5 that a general deterioration in habitat
1941 season "was a poor one." percent of these fishermen were fishing quality, due to chemical pollution, silta
Between 1954 and 1957, Lewis (1958) during the first 4 months of the season tion, dynamiting, and other anthropo
studied a population of T. ventricosus (September to December, Table I); 3) genic changes in the environment, may
near Speightstown on the west coast of each fished an average of 5 days per have reduced the resilience of sea urchin
Barbados. Although sea urchins were week; and 4) the average catch rate was populations to intensive fishing, thereby
abundant and commercially exploited 1,180 sea urchins per person per day. precipitating the catastrophic decline that
along parts of the west coast at that time 7 , This gave an estimate of 34 million sea occurred over the past decade.
urchins caught during the height of the In 1983, an outbreak of disease caused
season. We then assumed that this repre mass mortalities of another sea urchin,
71. B. Lewis, Redpath Museum, McGill Univer sented about 75 percent of the total an Diadema antillarum , at Barbados (Hunte
sity, Montreal, Que., Can. Personal Comrnun. nual catch (which included catches dur et aI., 1986) and throughout the
49(3), 1987 67
Caribbean (Lessios et aI., 1984a). A few tant implications for assessing the poten ment policies and assessment of the
of the fishermen that we interviewed tial for recovery and in formulating future potential for recovery of the sea urchin
claimed to have seen T. ventricosus with management strategies. If recruits origi fishery .
characteristic symptoms of disease (ex nate from local breeding populations,
tensive spine loss, loss of attachment to then overfishing these populations, espe
the substratum), although these observa cially during the peak spawning period,
tions were not coincident with the D . an would lead to an accelerated decline in The occurrence of dense aggregations
tillarum die-off. In other parts of the stocks. Conversely, if recruits are of T. ventricosus in a few remote areas
Caribbean, T. ventricosus, T. williamsi, derived from distant populations, fishing around Barbados (Scheibling and John
and other sea urchin species apparently of local stocks should not have as great an son, 1985) suggests that large popula
were unaffected by the disease which impact, unless the presence of adults en tions of sea urchins can be reestablished
devastated D . antillarum (Lessios et aI., hances larval settlement and/or postmeta in coastal habitats, at least along the less
1984b). In any event, the major T. ven morphic survival (Tegner and Dayton, developed southeast and east coasts. For
tricosus decline in Barbados preceded the 1977). this to occur, remedial measures should
1983 epizootic and cannot be attributed Tripneustes ventricosus juveniles may be implemented to prevent any further
to it. occur in habitats differing from those of depletion of the resource and to facilitate
adults. Off Sam Lord's Castle, we found the recovery of populations. Such mea
Recruitment and Recovery
juveniles on sand flats, whereas adults sures may include: 1) A moratorium on
The potential for recovery of T. ventri occupied rubble reefs (Scheibling and sea urchin fishing for at least 1 year, 2)
cosus populations in Barbados is contin Johnson, 1985; Scheibling et aI., 1985). establishment of reserves where sea
gent upon recruitment via planktonic lar Lewis (1958) found recently settled T. urchin fishing is prohibited, and 3) strict
vae. Unfortunately, information on ventricosus juveniles under rocks and in enforcement of the closed season.
recruitment and early life history of this crevices in shallow rock flats on the west Although most of the fishermen agreed
species is lacking. Lewis (1958) found coast of Barbados. Aggregations of juve that such measures could potentially re
that recruitment was seasonal in Bar niles also have been found in shallow habilitate the sea urchin fishery, they also
bados. Metamorphosing larvae were wave-exposed areas in the Bahamas expressed grave doubts that they could be
common in the plankton between June (Moore et aI., 1963) and in St. Croix, enforced. The general feeling was that
and August, and recently settled juve U.S. Virgin Islands (Scheibling, per one could not prevent a poor man, whose
niles were abundant in September. Lewis sonal observ.), and in seagrass beds in livelihood depended on his catch, from
inferred a planktonic larval period of Bermuda (McPherson, 1965; Tertschnig, fishing sea urchins as long as they were
about 1 month based on the occurrence of 1985). available. The sporadic and apparently
successive larval stages in a series of Predation on juveniles may be impor unsuccessful attempts of the government
plankton samples. This is consistent with tant in limiting recruitment to adult popu to impose a closed season attest to the
our recent laboratory studies (Mladenov lations of T. ventricosus . The cryptic be difficulties of acceptance and enforce
and Scheibling, unpubl. data) and those haviour of juveniles presumably is a ment of such regulatory measures.
of Mortensen (1921), in which cultured means of avoiding visual predators such An alternative approach would be to
larvae took 3-4 weeks to reach a final as fish. Keller (1983) found that recruit artificially enhance T. ventricosus re
stage of development, although meta ment of T. ventricosus in seagrass beds at cruitment by aquacultural techniques.
morphosis has not been observed in labo Jamaica occurred only in cages which ex Larvae and early juvenile stages could be
ratory cultures. cluded fish. Barbadian fishermen report reared in the laboratory and juveniles
The relatively long planktonic larval that reef fish, particularly the queen trig could be released in large numbers in se
stage (probably greater than I month) in gerfish, Balistes vetula, are important lected natural habitats or protective en
creases the likelihood of long-distance predators of juvenile T. ventricosus, and closures in the field (e.g., cages or rafts).
dispersal of T. ventricosus by ocean cur this could account for the scarcity of ju Techniques for rearing T. ventricosus
rents. Barbados receives oceanic water veniles on reefs where adults are abun larvae are being developed (Mladenov et
from the Amazon River region, via the dant. The rapid growth rate of juveniles aI., 1985, Mladenov and Scheibling, un
Guiana current, and from the North may enable T. ventricosus to escape in publ. data), and juveniles have been
Equatorial Current (Borstad, 1982). size from fish predators. Lewis (1958) grown in the laboratory and in field en
Therefore, larvae recruiting in Barbados showed that T. ventricosus attained re closures on a variety of algal foods
may originate from populations off the productive maturity at 40-60 mm test (Lewis, 1958; Lilly, 1975). Moreover,
coast of South America. Alternatively, diameter and grew 60-80 mm in their first fishermen claim to have successfully re
local oceanographic features, such as year. A better understanding of recruit stocked areas by transplanting breeding
eddy systems (Emery, 1972), may retain ment patterns and factors influencing adults. Therefore, in our view, artificial
even long-lived larvae from local popula growth and survival of the early life his stock enhancement through aquaculture
tions in the vicinity of Barbados. tory stages of T. ventricosus is impera presents a feasible and promising means
Clearly these alternatives have impor tive for the formulation of sound manage of rehabilitating the fishery in areas
68 Marine Fisheries Review
where pollution and food supply are not dents of Union College for their assis K. Brady. 1985. Development of the edible
sea urchin Tripneustes ventricosus. Report to
limiting factors. tance, and Wayne Hunte for the generous Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture,
The recent collapse of the sea urchin use of facilities at Bellairs Research Insti Food and Consumer Affairs, Barbados, 18 p.
Moore, H. B., T. Jutare, J. A. Jones, B. F.
fishery in Barbados has socioeconomic tute, Barbados. McPherson, and C. F. E. Roper. 1963. A
ramifications which transcend the loss of contribution to the biology of Tripneustes es
employment and hardship for the fisher culentus. Bull. Mar. Sci. 13:267-281.
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49(3), 1987 69