The waters of Trinidad and Tobago have always been very rich in marine life. This attracted a lot of commercial fishing to the country and for many years there was an unquantified level of overfishing. Thanks to increasing research and management, Trinidad and Tobago has regained its status as an important sportfishing destination for billfish and tarpon as well as many other species.
One of the first steps towards conservation in the country, was to declare the Buccoo Reef in Tobago as a marine park in 1973. This created awareness and interest in the people to protect their marine environment.
In 2013 the government, with the help of the Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association (TTGFA), managed to ban the bottom trawling activities. This was a major victory and an important step towards conservation of the marine environment.
Buccoo Reef Marine Park
Photo courtesy Buccoo Reef Trust
The TTGFA's also promotes the release of billfish. In 2014 during a "Marlin Madness Tournament" a new record was achieved at 83 billfish: 66 blue marlins and 17 sailfish. Since the minimum weight is 700 pounds, only one marlin made it to the scale. Catching these many fish in a just few days, shows the abundance of these gamefish in Trinidad and Tobago waters and a properly managed fishing practice.
Implementing a tagging system for billfish in Trinidad and Tobago would help scientists to study the lives and habits of these highly mobile fish species. The migratory habits of the tagged fish could be observed by measuring the distance and direction travelled between tagging and recapture, and this would be linked with environmental factors.
White marlin being tagged and released
Photo courtesy NOAA
The observations would also enable scientists to study the structure of fish stocks and assess whether there is any mixing between populations that are geographically distant from one another. This information is vital to improve the understanding and management of valuable game and sport fish species.
Although most fisheries are declining all over the world, there are some countries that have put in place rigurous laws that guarantee the marine resources will last over time. Australia, for example, with a well established closed season for some species and minimum size restriction for others, has proven to have a successful system.
Even without proper laws in regards to seasons or minimum size, we can still be responsible fishermen by getting informed about the fish we catch. Please refer to the species list to view the size at which our fish reach maturity. By catching fish over the maturity size, we can at be certain the fish has reproduced at least once, thus giving chance to maintain the species over time.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of species also found in the species list, will allow you to make up your mind about wether to keep a fish or not. If the species is categorized as "least concern" it means that accoding to scientific studies, the fish is not considered to have any overfishing susceptibility, for the moment. Whereas if you read vulnerable or endangered, you should act accordingly.
A recent threat that has appeared in our waters is the lionfish, which is a voracios predator competing with local species for food. Although, some groupers have been known to eat them, it has virtually no natural predator in these waters. This species is being battled by the IMA with regular competitions, look up the events on our home page.
If you are interested in learning more, take a look at some of the conservation groups in Trinidad & Tobago:
Photo courtesy Rich Carey
Asclepius Green: Caribbean based non-profit organisation comprised of trained medical, management and sustainability professionals. They use a collaborative 'ideas to action' approach to promote health and well-being for humans, animals and ecosystems. They share a common concern for the relationship with the natural environment and a passion for a sustainable future for the people and islands of the Caribbean.
Environment Tobago: National, environmental, non-governmental, volunteer and membership organization. Established in 1996 and registered under the Companies Act 1995 ET remains a pro-active advocacy group that rallies against negative environmental activities. The organization comprises an elected board of directors - all volunteers, two salaried staff and over three hundred members.
Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville: ERIC is a mission-driven ecological learning and doing centre located in the beautiful village of Charlotteville, on the Caribbean island of Tobago. They dive, tour, teach, research, host and work for a better future for the people, creatures and ecosystems of North East Tobago. As a not-for-profit organisation, all of their proceeds go towards their mission, which is to value and integrate diverse knowledge and experiences to manifest a mutually beneficial community of people and the environment for the responsible stewardship of North-East Tobago, from ridge to village to ocean.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS): Main objective is to sensitize the government and the public in Trinidad and Tobago on the environmental issues impacting the Northern Coast and consequently, the fishermen in the area. FFOS worked together with local fishers to mobilise support and increase awareness of the dangers of improperly regulated shrimp-trawling throughout local communities. Educate the villagers, as well as to gain an understanding of their problems.
GreenTnT.com: Website dedicated to gather environmental information of the country in one place. Provides the people of Trinidad and Tobago the information required to preserve their environment, highlighting areas that need urgent attention, providing a forum to discuss issues, raising the awareness of citizens and giving them the information they need to be the change.
Save Our Sea Turtles (SOS): Registered community based organization, founded in 2000 with a mission to conserve Tobago’s sea turtles and their coastal and marine habitats through research, education and eco-tourism. Activities include: Monitoring and data collection on the three main leatherback nesting beaches, encouraging sustainable economic growth in the community by supporting turtle friendly businesses and tour guides, working with local government, the private sector and the schools to raise awareness of turtle conservation issues locally and nationally.
Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association: Principle objectives are to encourage the development of fishing as a sport; to assist in the conservation of marine resources, to co-operate with other organizations with similar objectives; to assist in the dissemination of knowledge in marine and fishing matters; to promote; legislation for conservation of piscatorial and other maritime affairs and to promote all such causes as are incidental or conducive to the above objectives.