Precautionary assessment and management of dolphinfish in the Caribbean
R. Mahon and H.A. Oxenford

Dolphinfish in the Caribbean are fast growing and short-lived, living for about 12 to 18 months in the southern Caribbean and a maximum of 2-3 years in the north of the region. They are believed to be highly migratory, are seasonally abundant, and likely to have a more complex stock structure than the larger oceanic epipelagic species. Most of the information on dolphinfish in the western central Atlantic comes from studies in the waters of the USA and the eastern Caribbean, and there is a general paucity of information particularly for stock-based management of this species. No Caribbean country undertakes regular assessment of dolphinfish, or has put in place any species-specific management program. Yield-per-recruit analyses for this species in the eastern Caribbean suggest that maximization of Y/R is likely to lead to very low levels of mature stock biomass. A stock recruitment analysis does not show any dependency of recruitment on stock size within the observed stock size range. This suggests that recruitment failure could be sudden at some threshold below the minimum observed stock size, probably at about one third of the average observed stock size. Given the trends observed in landings of dolphinfish, a precautionary approach to management is needed for this species in the western central Atlantic. Given the migratory, shared nature of the dolphinfish resource, a regional approach to assessment and management is required. However, the institutional basis for this approach does not currently exist within the region in a form that is functional. The membership of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) does not include any of the small island states where dolphinfish is of primary importance. ICCAT would need to establish a regional presence in order to serve the needs of Caribbean states. The FAO Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) does not operate in a mode which would allow it to address this issue. The Association of Caribbean States is too new to address it within the near future. Subregional organizations with fisheries programs, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), represent only a subset of states. However, given the ratification of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the recent International Agreement on Highly Migratory Stocks and Straddling Stocks, these organisations could take the initiative to establish a regional management programme for dolphinfish.

Contents of this volume Sci. Mar. 63(3-4) : 429-438 Back PDF
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