Unreported catch and tourist demand on local fisheries of small island states: the case of The Bahamas, 1950–2010


Smith, Nicola S., and Dirk Zeller
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Tourism is vital to the economy of small island states like The Bahamas and is closely linked to fisheries. Fish is a protein source for tourists and residents, and both groups expect to catch and eat local fish. To adequately manage these dual demands, we need to know total removals of fish, as well as patterns of demand by tourists and residents in the past and present. Using a reconstruction approach, we performed a comprehensive accounting of fisheries catches in The Bahamas from commercial and noncommercial sectors for 1950–2010 and estimated the demand from tourism over the same period. Our results distinctly contrast with national data supplied to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which presents only commercial landings. Reconstructed total catches (i.e., reported catches and estimates of unreported catches) were 2.6 times the landings presented by the FAO for The Bahamas. This discrepancy was primarily due to unreported catches from the recreational and subsistence fisheries in the FAO data. We found that recreational fishing accounted for 55% of reconstructed total catches. Furthermore, 75% of reconstructed total catches were attributable to tourist demand on fisheries. Incomplete accounting for catches attributed to the tourist industry, therefore, makes it difficult to track potentially unsustainable pressures on fisheries resources.