IGFA at World Recreational Fishing Conference

On July 16-20, 2017, IGFA's conservation director and coordinator attended the 8th World Recreational Fishing Conference (WRFC) in Victoria, British Columbia where 400 attendees from 21 countries came together for four days of presentations, workshops, and social activities. The WRFC is held every three years with the purpose of sharing information between academics, managers, and industry leaders while fostering new collaborations to ensure the future of recreational fishing is healthy and sustainable.

During the conference, IGFA in conjunction with Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) sponsored a session on the Caribbean Billfish Project. The purpose of this session was to provide updates on the Caribbean Billfish Project, which aims to test innovative fishery management tools that recognize and leverage differences in value between commercial and recreational fisheries to support sustainable management interventions. Resultant business plans will pursue the sustainable management and conservation of billfish species in the Caribbean and broader Western Central Atlantic Ocean region.

There were a total of five presentations given during the workshop followed by a discussion session.

The first presentation, given by Food and Agriculture Organization’s Roy Bealey, provided an overview of the Caribbean Billfish Project’s objectives, progress and evolving concepts.

The take home messages:

  • There are over 220 million recreational anglers globally and growing with expenditures estimated at over $190 billion per year. It's becoming increasingly common for recreational fisheries to have higher and more sustainable values than extractive commercial fisheries
  • Atlantic billfish stocks are already in remarkably poor shape. They continue to face concerning commercial harvest pressure and they are also increasingly being targeted around Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the Caribbean
  • Regional management needs strengthening; being labelled as bycatch makes data reporting relatively poor for these stocks which restricts fisheries managers' capacity to institute and enforce sustainable management interventions
  • Legislative frameworks are typically outdated in the Caribbean
  • The region is typically data poor and sport fishery data could potenetially help fill the gaps
  • ICCAT quotas don't reflect the urgency of billfish stock conditions
  • What’s next: continue evaluating  novel management funding options and sustainable sportfishing tourism opportunities in the region; Collect commmercial and recreational fisheries data to allow a more holistic fishery management approach; Develop business cases to support continuation and expansion of successful efforts

The second presentation by Brad Gentner of Gentner Consulting (GCG) outlined the challenges and opportunities of using rights based management approaches to sustainably increase wealth in shared commercial and recreational HMS fisheries.

The take home messages:

  • Rights based management can improve the triple bottom line, ecosystem, economic and social outcomes
  • Rights, or tenure based strategies exist on a continuum from weak, community based rights to strong individual rights and they should thus be applied in context
  • Almost all fisheries already have rights in place and it’s best to build off those rights wherever possible
  • It's important to design new management techniques from the bottom up (working with the fishers) for the incentives and new mechanisms to work over the short and long term
  • Strong individual harvest rights have many social and livelihood downsides for both small scale fishers and recreational anglers
  • Recreational anglers are driven/motivated by the opportunity to catch and/or harvest fish. However, focusing on only catch or harvest based rights for recreational anglers ignores the "opportunity values" linked with access to fishing areas, which undermines the broader value seen for recreational fishing
  • Strong individual rights induce fleet consolidation and a reduction in fishery jobs which runs contrary to livelihood goals in small scale fisheries
  • In the Caribbean, recreationally caught billfish have higher financial value than commercially caught billfish, a potential driver for conservation
  • The overarching recommendation is to seek a solution whereby the benefiter, recreational anglers and the diversity of industries they support in this case, contribute towards a billfish conservation fund that enhances sustainability by reducing billfish harvests while improving commercial fisheries financial (another fund financing opportunity) and environmental efficiency; Maximize value per commercial harvest while simultaneously improving management and minimizing bycatch effects
  • Some investments that could be pursued using the conservation fund: solutions: test new gears like circle hooks and green sticks that can reduce billfish harvest or improve the opportunity for live releases of billfish; Compensate FAD owners for exclusive right to fish on FADs or fund FAD licensing and limited entry mechanisms; Identify and protect billfish core spawning and/or important habitat areas

The third presentation, also given by Brad Gentner, outlined a survey he conducted to explore the demand for recreational billfish trips and an angler’s willingness to pay for improved billfish fishing opportunities in the Caribbean. The goal of the survey is to help develop a “value proposition” or an investor’s potential return on investment.

The take home messages:

  • A survey was chosen because there is limited data on recreational fishing for Caribbean billfish and the economic data that exists is dated or from another region
  • Estimates obtained from outside the region show that recreational anglers assign very high values for billfish angling opportunities
  • Billfish anglers generate a lot of local wealth for the opportunity to fish, not just to catch or harvest
  • Anglers also spend significant finances on transportation, food, lodging, and charter fees when traveling to conduct their sport
  • The survey will also explore what types of policy interventions would be preferred by the recreational fishing community to ensure billfish will be available in future generations
  • The survey will be online and is being developed

The fourth presentation by University of Miami’s Dr. Nelson Ehrhardt  and describe his and collaborators Bruce Pohlot, Mark Fitchett, and Julie Brown work. Dr. Ehrhardt discussed billfish as valuable top predators and options for rescuing them from exploitation via regulated recreational fisheries.

The take home messages:

  • Atlantic billfish landings in tuna fisheries are not significant (o.8%) when compared with tuna landings, but the landings are large enough to generate overfishing and overfished conditions. This is due to differences in life history characteristics that make tunas more resilient to exploitation than billfish species
  • There are strong interactions between recreational and commercial fisheries. For example, when Panama refitted their shrimp trawlers into coastal longliners, recreational sailfish landings  significantly decreased in Costa Rica and Panama. Therefore, the same situation may be occurring in the Caribbean with expanding pelagic and FAD fisheries; There is an urgent need to better regulate unsustainable commercial fishing efforts capturing billfish in the region
  • Where areas of high seasonal billfish abundance (hot spots) occur, they are often conspicuous and there are opportunities to control harvests in those areas
  • Decreasing trends in billfish abundance are resulting in decreased trophy sizes for billfish. Therefore, the two most important driving forces of recreational fishing services (catch rates and the size of individual fish) are affected by present day billfish exploitation patterns
  • Billfish recreational fisheries have a major economic impact on coastline real estate development. In Costa Rica, where there are significant recreational fishing hotspots, billfish have attracted many new investments and 20 new marinas are planned with over 3,000 new boat slips in coming years
  • There is an urgent need of regional billfish conservation initiatives that are fully enforced by countries having seasonal access to valuable shared billfish resources

The final presentation was given by Brad Gentner on Fishery Performance Indicators (FPIs), a rapid assessment tool used to assess enabling and livelihood conditions in data poor countries like the pilot countries chosen for the Caribbean Billfish Project. A research team, led by GCG, visited both Grenada and Dominican Republic (DR), the two pilot countries in the CBP. With the assistance of local fishery and Project representatives, the team conducted the FPIs through a series of candid discussions with local fishermen.

The take home messages:

  • GCG and the research team profiled: Grenada recreational fishery; Grenada pelagic longline fishery; Grenada pelagic FAD fishery; DR recreational fishery; DR pelagic FAD fishery
  • There is no data in either country for recreational fishing, but there is good commercial landings data in both pilot countries
  • Both countries are keen to invest in better fishery management and there are definitely areas for investment to improve triple bottom line outcomes for all sectors
  • Grenada has a small local/permanent recreational fishery that is difficult and costly to travel to from the US, the primary billfish tourism market; However, it does attract many regional fishers to its relatively rich waters, particularly during the annual billfish tournament
  • The DR has more hotels, flights, and better roads, which has resulted in a more even, year-round fishery (less recreational fishery risk)
  • The DR commercial pelagic FAD fishery (that has intense conflicts with recreational fishers) is a very low value fishery, the efficiency of which could be improved through value chain enhancements
  • The DR is a world renowned billfish destination and was rated the #2 billfish destination last year by Billfish Magazine. There is political will to pursue changes and rights based management is already being informally used by members of the FAD fishery