Fisheries Catch Data Collection Program

Collection of catch data is fundamental to the management of a fishery. A sample of catch data is collected each month from fishers on-site at Glover’s Reef. Data are collected on lobster, conch and finfish, and more than 300 fishers have participated in the program. Data are collected using standardized data sheets and include information on species, size and mass, maturity, gear type, effort, and area fished. From these data the catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) can be determined for the most important commercial species and trends over the years can be observed. The data collection started in August 2004 with a pilot survey and has continued since 2005, on a monthly basis. These catch data are also contributing to the development of a sustainable level of catch for lobster and conch for the atoll, which will be implemented in the future.

Community Catch Data Collection

This grant was used to continue work that was piloted in 2017 and carried out through 2020. Data collectors were trained as citizen scientists in major fishing communities across Belize (Corozal, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Placencia, Hopkins). WCS and the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) collaborated in order to access data from their existing market-based fishery survey data program. The study was able to accrue data on the characteristics of lobster, finfish and conch specimens landed at local markets. It was able 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 create a list of 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). These allowed the calculation of a numerical value which indicates whether fish are being caught while sexually immature (Lm = 1; values less than 1 indicate 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 recently due to decline in the high commercial value species, tended to seem more resilient or less impacted by fishing pressure.