Fishery Research and Conservation 2019-03-12T15:55:31+00:00

OUR WORK

Fisheries Research & Conservation Program

We seek to better understand the nature of species-specific behaviours within their habitat and assess the impact human intervention is having upon marine populations.

Overview

What We Do

We collaborate with local and international scientists and other key stakeholders on applied conservation
research projects to assess marine fish species, support effective fisheries policy and governance, and to
promote behavioural change for ongoing conservation management in The Bahamas and Caribbean.

Goal

Sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems that support biodiversity, livelihoods, ecosystem
services and promote resilience.

Objectives

  • Reduce scientific knowledge gaps for important marine fish species (e.g. groupers, snappers, parrotfish) and emerging fisheries
  • Build technical capacity for fisheries research and monitoring
  • Develop and implement science-based conservation management plans for marine species
  • Work with local governments, non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners and relevant stakeholders to provide guidancefor the creation or refinement of fishery regulations, marine spatial planning, monitoring and ecosystem-based management
  • Increase public awareness regarding the need for improved conservation management of fisheries and marine resources

Why Is This Research Important?

Many commercially important fishery species are under threats that endanger their long-term viability. We seek to better understand the nature of species-specific behaviors within their habitat and assess the impact human intervention is having upon marine populations. This will allow us to better manage all species, especially economically important species, by protecting essential habitats, managing fish stocks and, ensuring that areas open to fishing are informed about practices that will sustain marine species populations and human livelihoods.

Research Projects

Nassau Grouper Spawning Migrations

Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) form large spawning aggregations where hundreds to thousands of fish meet to spawn annually. While adult Nassau grouper typically rarely move more than a few hundred meters to feed and find shelter, they migrate hundreds of kilometers to spawning sites. In collaboration with the Shedd Aquarium, this project aims to understand how adult migrations link home ranges and spawning sites throughout The Bahamas.

Nassau Grouper Population Genetics

The Bahamas has some of the largest remaining populations of critically endangered Nassau grouper. However, these populations are in decline. This research uses population genomics to evaluate changes to genetic diversity, effective population size, and to understand how populations are genetically structured and connected. Answers to these questions can help guide stock management and assist with population recovery.

Stakeholder Perspectives Of Nassau Grouper

Understanding the perceptions and behaviors of different stakeholders can generate key insights into how fisheries can be successfully managed. The purpose of this research is to assess stakeholder knowledge regarding the status and management of the Bahamian Nassau grouper fishery to assist with management and conservation efforts.

Fish Spawning Aggregation (FSA) Research & Monitoring

Commercially important species like groupers and snappers form fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) to reproduce or breed. Monitoring the status of FSAs is critical to assess the health of fish populations and to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies. Standardized monitoring techniques are being used to map FSAs, document spawning stock biomass and spawning behaviour at reported sites throughout The Bahamas. PIMS is also pilot testing other monitoring and research techniques with scientific partners from HJR Reefscaping and Florida International University.

Nassau Grouper Stock Assessments

Stock assessments are a critical component for managing fisheries, especially those that can be easily overexploited. The Perry Institute for Marine Science is partnering with scientists from the Shedd Aquarium and Florida International University with support of the Department of Marine Resources to conduct stock assessments for Nassau grouper in The Bahamas.

Spatial Habitat Use Of Parrotfishes

As herbivores, parrotfish are important for maintaining healthy coral reefs. Densities of large parrotfishes are greater in The Bahamas than in other parts of the Caribbean. This project examines movement patterns of parrotfish using acoustic telemetry in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park – a no-take MPA in The Bahamas.

Evaluation Of The Fishery For Parrotfish And Its Impact

Declining populations of popular fishery species in accessible areas is leading to the harvest of parrotfish.  PIMS is investigating the extent and value of this emerging fishery and evaluating the impacts of parrotfish harvest on reef health. Combined with ecological data, this information will help to determine if and how a commercial fishery can be developed and sustainably managed.

Impacts Of Climate Change On Marine Species And Ecosystems

Climate change will significantly impact marine ecosystems and coastal communities. To effectively adapt, we must understand the degree to which species, ecosystems and livelihoods will be affected. This is the first step towards implementing adequate policy and conservation measures to build resilient ecosystems and coastal communities.

Conservation Projects

Marine Protected Area (MPA) Monitoring

 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an effective tool for managing and replenishing fisheries and protecting marine ecosystems, when designed properly. We use Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) surveys to monitor the condition of coral reefs and quantitative and qualitative assessments of fish and benthic community structure in mangroves and seagrass habitats. PIMS works with The Bahamas National Trust and other conservation partners to help develop and implement management plans for MPAs, support stakeholder consultations, and assist with capacity building for effectively managed MPAs in The Bahamas.

Mangrove Nursery Restoration

Stock assessments are a critical component for managing fisheries, especially those that can be easily overexploited. The Perry Institute for Marine Science is partnering with scientists from the Shedd Aquarium and Florida International University with support of the Department of Marine Resources to conduct stock assessments for Nassau grouper in The Bahamas.

FSA Communication & Outreach Campaign

The Bahamas recently developed an adaptive conservation management plan to mitigate threats and promote population recovery of Nassau grouper. Creation of an expert-led communication strategy along with targeted stakeholder materials was identified as a critical task in the management plan. PIMS is working directly with BelugaSmile Productions (BSP) (with input from local conservation partners) to develop a communication strategy along with outreach materials for The Bahamas to increase awareness about the status and importance of maintaining healthy FSAs.

Parrotfish Communication & Outreach Campaign

As part of the Reverse The Decline Project, PIMS is seeking to elevate the profile of parrotfish, which function as grazers and corallivores on coral reefs. Healthy coral reefs require diverse and healthy populations of herbiviores like parrotfish. This campaign will not only share the ecological importance of this species, but will also encourage consumers to eat other fish to allow parrotfish to continue supporting reef health and resiliency.

Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs)

PIMS and its conservation partners have been active in providing guidance for the designation of MPAs by conducting Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and other habitats. REAs provide valuable information on habitats present at candidate MPA sites, as well as the condition of these habitats, and the status of fish and key invertebrate populations in the area. Results from REAs can also help guide reef and mangrove restoration efforts and stock assessments for key species.

Scientific Research Partners

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Group  (University of Exeter), Science and Policy Department (Bahamas National Trust), Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), Conservation and Research Department (Shedd Aquarium), Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (University of Miami), HJR Reefscaping(Puerto Rico) Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization, Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab(Florida International University), ISERCaribe (Puerto Rico), Cape Eleuthera Institute, University of The Bahamas.

Publications

Sherman, K.D., Shultz A.D., Dahlgren, C.P., Thomas, C., Brooks, E., Brooks, A., Brumbaugh, D.R., Gittens, L., Murchie, K. (2018) Contemporary and emerging fisheries in The Bahamas – conservation and management challenges, achievements and future directions. Fisheries Management and Ecology 25:319-331, doi: 10.1111/fme.12299

Paris, J.R., Sherman, K.D., Bell, E., Boulenger, C., Delord, C., El-Mahdi, M.B.M., Fairfield, E.A., Griffiths, A.M., Gutmann Roberts, C., Hedger, R,D., Holman, L.E., Hooper, L.H., Humphries, N.E., Katsiadaki, I., King, R.A., Lemopoulos, A., Payne, C.J., Peirson, G., Richter, K.K., Taylor, M.I., Trueman, C.N., Hayden, B., Stevens, J.R. (2018) Understanding and managing fish populations: keeping the toolbox fit for purpose. Journal of Fish Biology 92:727–751, doi:10.1111/jfb.13549

Sherman, K.D., King, R.A., Dahlgren, C.P., Simpson, S.D., Stevens, J.R., Tyler, C.R. (2017) Historical processes and contemporary anthropogenic activities influence genetic population dynamics of Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) within The Bahamas. Frontiers in Marine Science 4:393, doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00393

Stump, K., Dahlgren, C., Sherman, K., Knapp, C.R. (2017) Nassau grouper migration patterns during full moon suggest collapsed historic fish spawning aggregation and evidence of an undocumented aggregation. Bulletin of Marine Science 93:375–389

Dahlgren, C. P., Buch, K., Rechisky, E., & Hixon, M. A. (2016) Multi-year tracking of Nassau grouper spawning migrations. Marine and Coastal Fisheries 8:522–535

Sherman, K.D., Dahlgren, C.P., Stevens, J.R., Tyler, C.R. (2016) Integrating Population Biology into Conservation Management for Endangered Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus). Marine Ecology Progress Series 554:263-280

Reports

Patterson-Maura, O. Sherman, K.(2018) Nassau Grouper Policy Brief. Nassau, The Bahamas. 7pp

Anderson, L., Dahlgren, C., Knowles, L., Jupp, L., Cant-Woodside, S., Albury-Smith, S., McKinney-Lambert, C., Lundy, A. (2018). 20 by 20 White paper: Marine protection plan for expanding The Bahamas Marine Protected Areas Network to meet The Bahamas 2020 declaration. 137 pp

Sherman. K.D., Dahlgren, C.P., Knowles, L.R. (2018) Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) Conservation Management Plan for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Prepared for the Department of Marine Resources, Nassau, Bahamas

Knowles, J. E., Green, A. L., Dahlgren, C., Arnett, F., Knowles, L. (2017). Expanding The Bahamas marine protected area network to protect 20% of the marine and coastal environment by 2020: a gap analysis. 66 pp

Green, A., Knowles, J., Dahlgren, C., Arnett, F., Knowles, L., Albury-Smith, S. (2016). Bahamas protected: Realizing the 2020 goal to effectively manage and expand Bahamian marine protected areas. A report prepared for the Ministry of the Environment for The Bahamas on the ecological gap analysis workshop held in Nassau, New Providence (September 13-14th, 2016). The Nature Conservancy, Bahamas National Trust, and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, Nassau, Bahamas. 41 pp

Dahlgren, C., Sherman, K., Lang, J., Kramer, P.R., Marks, K. (2016)Bahamas Coral Reef Report Card Volume 1: 2011-2013.

Dahlgren, C., Kramer, P.R., Lang, J., Sherman, K.(2014) New Providence and Rose Island, Bahamas Coral Reef Report Card.

Dahlgren, C. (2014) Review of the benefits of no-take zones. A report to the Wildlife Conservation Society 104 pp.

Sherman, K.D., Knowles, L.C. Anderson, L.S. (2014) Rapid ecological assessment for the expansion of Lucayan National Park. Report for The Bahamas National Trust. 34 pp

Brumbaugh, D.R.,Dahlgren, C.P.(2014) Monitoring program for The Bahamas National Protected Area System. Methods for assessing the ecological condition of coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves.  (ed.) Sherman, K.D. Report submitted to the BEST Commission under the GEF FSP Pilot 3 Demonstration Project “Tourism and coral reef health in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park”. 22 pp

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Our Fisheries Research & Conservation Program aligns with UN SDG 14– “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”.

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