Publication Date

2016-12-08

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2016-12-08

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Ecosystem Science and Policy (Graduate)

Date of Defense

2016-10-31

First Committee Member

Kenneth Broad

Second Committee Member

Claire Paris

Third Committee Member

Amelia Moore

Fourth Committee Member

James Sanchirico

Abstract

Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is a heavily exploited seafood throughout its range and supports the primary fishery in The Bahamas. However, its long pelagic larval duration and, thus, potential for long-range dispersal increases the difficulty in determining the origins of local populations and complicates management. In recent years, the Bahamian fishery has transitioned to the use of condos (or casitas) as the primary fishing method. Condos are relatively inexpensive to construct and deploy, and it is estimated there are now over a million deposited throughout the Bahama banks. Collectively, these factors, coupled with an increased level of effort in the form of new fishers and more boats, have contributed to increased levels of competition for an already limited resource, further complicating the development of adequate and sustainable management strategies. The potential for human-induced changes to the ecosystem due to the proliferation of condos highlights the need for an interdisciplinary investigation of the fishery that takes into account both natural and anthropogenic impacts. This project utilizes an interdisciplinary approach that examines the biophysical forces that impact spiny lobster coupled with the chief human activities. Data from a biophysical model, a bioeconomic model, and surveys and interviews are used to help create a robust assessment of the fishery and aid in the proposal of viable management strategies. The integration of interdisciplinary methodologies provides an example of how these merged tools can help understand ecological processes while assisting management decisions. Simulations of larval dispersal for Bahamian spiny lobster populations indicate dispersal distances (or dispersal kernel) of 200-400 km, with a 25% probability of successful settlement. Surveys and semi-structured interviews of Bahamian fishers revealed five popular areas for condo placement. Further connectivity assessments of these locations indicate higher rates of settlement success for 4 sites. Two of these locations demonstrated a narrower dispersal kernel, suggesting self-recruitment. However, the 3 remaining locations appear to depend on subsidies from other spiny lobster populations throughout the Caribbean. These differences in connectivity suggest each location should be evaluated individually to determine spatially-dependent management actions, and to effectively develop and implement condo-related policies that will be supported by local communities. A bioeconomic analysis, completed by incorporating data on condo effort obtained through the surveys and interviews, revealed the fishery is operating beyond Open Access levels. The model revealed that the fishery has the potential to increase its profits if operated at the maximum economic yield. However, survey responses indicate fishers may be more amenable to a fishery managed towards the maximum sustainable yield, particularly if operating at MEY results in a drastic reduction of condo effort. This analysis revealed the necessity for additional management controls within the fishery, as well as filling the gaps that exist in the fishery data. An examination of the increased condo usage, and the implications of this use on how the fishers define, perceive, and adhere to access and property rights is achieved through a political ecology lens. This case is amenable to such an analysis due to the heavy interdependence of ecology and human factors throughout the fishery, allowing for an assessment of how the ecological, social, and economic elements interact to create and define the fishery, including the implications of this convergence on the overall management. Surveys and semi-structured interviews of Bahamian fishers and other stakeholders revealed many conflicting views about the fishery, particularly around ownership of the condos and the lobster within them. A further examination of the data highlighted the emergence of several political ecology themes within the fishery, as well as the importance of considering both internal factors, such as social pressures, local norms, and voluntary agreements, and external ones, including demand and market value defined by a global market, when determining how to sustain and successfully manage the fishery.

Keywords

connectivity; Caribbean spiny lobster; fisheries management; politcal ecology; bioeconomics; interdisciplinary framework

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