Making the most of data-poor fisheries: Low cost mapping of small island fisheries to inform policy
Data scarcity in small-scale fisheries hinders the effective management of marine resources. This is particularly true within small island developing states that often have limited capacity for monitoring activities that could inform policy decisions. This study estimates the spatial distribution of fishing activity in the data-poor nearshore reef fisheries of Barbados using low cost interview surveys of fishers combined with a geospatial platform. With data from over 150 fishers in the island's major reef fisheries, the estimated total annual yield ranged from 272.6 to 409.0 mt, with seine fishing accounting for 65% of landings. This estimate is substantially higher than the recorded landings in official databases. Fishing activity is concentrated on the sheltered and heavily populated West Coast of the island. Reef fishing effort decreases markedly during the months associated with the offshore pelagic fishery season, as many fishers switch fisheries during this time and rough sea conditions restrict access to the nearshore windward reefs. The high levels of fishing intensity and low yields per unit of reef area appear to validate anecdotal evidence that the nearshore reefs of Barbados are heavily overexploited. The qualitative nature of interview data and other data gaps hinder the precise estimation of fishing effort and yield, where relative values are likely to be more accurate than absolute values. Nonetheless, the spatially and temporally explicit data generated here demonstrates how simple cost-effective methods can be used to fill important information gaps for marine resource management and spatial planning.