Fisheries Catch Data Collection Program

Collection of catch data is a key source of fishery-dependent information fundamental to managing a fishery. WCS has conducted catch data collection in multiple ways over the past two decades. From 2004 until 2019, data on catch of lobster, conch and finfish was collected monthly from fishers on-site at Glover's Reef. This program was expanded in 2012 to collect data from fishers at the South Water Caye Marine Reserve as well.

The data collected include information on species composition in the catch, length and weight, maturity of each animal, gear type used by the fisherman, fishing effort, and the area fished. From these data, trends in catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) can be observed for the most important commercial species. These catch data are also being used to determine a sustainable level of catch for lobster and conch in these marine reserves.

WCS also piloted a fish market survey program in 2017, which continued until 2020. Community members were hired and trained as citizen scientists in major fishing communities across Belize (Corozal, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Placencia, Hopkins), and visited local landing sites and fish markets to collect data on landed fish. In exchange, fishers received an incentive of phone credit. The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) had a similar program in progress in Toledo District, and collaborated with WCS by contributing to create a nation-wide dataset for analysis.

The study allowed WCS to comprehensively list finfish species locally consumed in Belize and indicate trends of catch composition for finfish families in each community. Morphological characteristics were used to calculate indices of overfishing for each fished species. These indicators use the average size of the fish at the market in comparison with the known size at which each fish species has reached sexual maturity (Lm). This index of overfishing indicates whether fish are, on average, being caught while sexually immature i.e. recruitment overfishing. It was determined that larger, more commercially valuable fish with slower reproduction rates (e.g. large groupers and snappers) tended to exhibit recruitment overfishing, while many smaller species with higher reproductive rates, or species which had become fishery targets only recently due to decline in the high commercial value species, tended to seem less impacted by or more resilient to fishing pressure.

Community Catch Data Collection