Experts from around the Caribbean agreed on a landmark set of principles meant to manage and conserve the Spiny Lobster resource during the First Meeting of the OSPESCA/WECAFC/CRFM/CFMC Working Group on Spiny Lobster, held from 21 – 23 October 2014 in the City of Panama. This agreement represents the hard work of over 40 key stakeholders from 15 members of FAO’s Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) to develop a shared vision on the management of lobster at a regional level.
FAO estimates that the lobster resource in the Wider Caribbean Region contributes annually some USD 500 million in export earnings to the Caribbean economies. The total volume of spiny lobster catches in the Caribbean region is estimated at around 28 000 tonnes annually, but this figure may be an underestimation as considerable lobster landings for domestic consumption are not recorded. In several countries the resource undergoes heavy exploitation, and while national management measures are in place in many countries, a more coherent and coordinated regional approach under the aegis of WECAFC is required.
The experts validated and agreed on advice generated and adopted at the sub-regional levels of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization for the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA), including stock assessment methodologies, the OSPESCA Regulation OSP -02-09 and the draft MASPLESCA Plan. The latter was prepared with support from the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) project. The measures proposed to the political level of WECAFC by the Working Group are inter alia a closed season for lobster fisheries, establish a maximum number of lobster traps, ensure that each trap used contains an escape possibility for juvenile lobsters and a bio-degradable panel that opens when a trap is lost and prohibition of catch, storage and sale of lobster in its reproductive and molt phases. Experts also discussed steps for the sharing of scientific data and information in order to enhance regional scientific cooperation.
“This is the first meeting of the newly created joint working group, and I have to say that the results of the meeting are beyond our expectations, said Raymon Van Anrooy, Secretary of the Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC) – “Expert findings presented were of high level and everybody showed an incredible level of attention and interest, we have clearly seen that stakeholders in the region are sharing the same concerns and vision, from fishers to governments. There is a genuine and widespread interest in ensuring a sustainable future for the lobster fisheries in the region”.
This information is mainly for Saba and St. Eustatius, where there is much fishing for lobsters. Bonaire already meets the proposed measures and moreover the amount around of lobsters around the island declined in such a wasy that commercial fishing is no longer possible.
More information about the meeting can be obtained from the WECAFC Secretariat atWECAFC-Secretariat@fao.org
 The meeting brought together participants from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Caribbean Netherlands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the United States of America, including fisheries authorities, fishers organizations, NGOs and lobster researchers.