The Caribbean spiny lobster fishery is one of the most important industries in the economy of the Bahamas, and in turn it is one of the largest lobster industries in the world. The natural geography of the Bahamas makes its waters into a lobster haven that Bahamian fishermen have successfully exploited over the past few decades. In 2009, in order to safeguard the industry’s future and earn a higher margin, the government and the lobster processors together sought sustainability certification for their product. However, they came up short. The international assessors deemed the data on the health of the lobster stocks to be too minimal, and the legal structures to protect the lobster from over-harvesting to be too weak. In response, the government, together with the World Wildlife Fund, set up a program called the Fishery Improvement Project to get the country’s lobster industry on the right track. Under the auspices of the Fishery Improvement Project, the government, local and international NGOs, the processors, and the fishermen themselves are contributing to improving the availability of information on the lobster and to crafting new laws to control the industry. Despite successes in improved communication and stock assessments, there are many obstacles to be overcome: differences of opinion, the spread-out nature of the country, and the limited resources available to enforce the laws. Through interviews with fishermen, government officials, processors, and scientists, this thesis tells the story of how the Fishery Improvement Project began, what it has accomplished, and where the lobster and the humans who harvest them might go from here, when the program wraps up and the fishery reenters the sustainability certification process.
Succulent and Spiny: The Bahamas’ Quest for a Sustainable Lobster Fishery
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