Fisheries Research & Conservation Program
Our goal is sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems that support biodiversity, livelihoods, ecosystem services and promote resilience.
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 behavioral change for ongoing conservation management in The Bahamas and Caribbean.
Sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems that support biodiversity, livelihoods, ecosystem services and promote resilience.
- 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 guidance for the creation or refinement of fishery regulations, marine spatial planning, monitoring andecosystem-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.
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. This project aims to understand how adult migrations link home ranges and spawning sites throughout The Bahamas.
Globally, Nassau grouper populations are in decline and the species is classified as critically endangered. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization, HJR Reefscaping and Florida International University.
Alignment with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Our Fisheries Research & Conservation Program aligns with UN SDG 14– “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an effective tool for managing and replenishing fisheries, protecting marine ecosystems, and building coral reef resilience when designed properly. To this end, we have worked with local partners throughout the Caribbean region to develop Ecological and Socioeconomic criteria for designating MPAs for the Mesoamerican Reef and The Bahamas. We also conduct rapid ecological assessments (REAs) to select sites for protection, develop management plans and evaluate MPA efficacy in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean region.
Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) are an effective tool for assessing the health of marine ecosystems and populations of key species to inform restoration and management. PIMS and its conservation partners have been active in providing guidance for the designation of MPAs by conducting REAs of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and other habitats. Results from REAs can also help guide reef and mangrove restoration efforts and stock assessments for key species.
Science-based management is not enough. Communication and outreach are essential to affect behavioral change that supports policies aimed at protecting fisheries, ecosystems and ensuring food security. To address this, the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) Spawning Aggregations Working Group (SAWG) is currently developing a regional awareness strategy and campaign for the Wider Caribbean to protect and manage FSAs – including those of Nassau grouper. In addition to supporting this regional initiative, PIMS is partnering with BelugaSmile Productions (BSP) to develop a communication strategy and outreach materials for Nassau grouper in The Bahamas.
Mangroves provide habitat at a vulnerable stage in the life cycle of many fishery species. Human impacts including pollution and coastal development can adversely affect the functionality of these essential nursery areas. We work with conservation partners to assess and restore the condition of mangroves so that they can continue to support biodiversity, fisheries, and provide shoreline protection for coastal communities.
Healthy coral reefs require diverse and healthy populations of herbiviores like parrotfish. These fish, however, are being increasingly threatened by fishing. PIMS is seeking to elevate the profile of parrotfish, to promote their conservation. 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.