Fort Lauderdale, FL – On March 19 and 20, stakeholders and experts from over 11 countries and 10 organizations descended upon south Florida and took part in a workshop to discuss and develop a billfish management and conservation plan for the nations and overseas territories under the jurisdiction of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC). The Billfish Foundation (TBF), the International Gamefish Association (IGFA), the World Bank, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) worked to together to host this workshop that is a steps in the right direction for billfish conservation in the region. Currently there is minimal management for the species and the importance of the recreational sector is not recognized by many countries.

The initial meeting in November 2012 took place in Santa Marta, Columbia where participants discussed the Socioeconomic Impacts of Recreational Fishing and understanding the role of recreational fishing in the Caribbean. This workshop’s goals were met by meeting the key objectives of creating a Consortium on billfish management and conservation, discussing the initial draft structure of the management plan, as well as finalizing pilot projects in the Caribbean.These pilot projects will be submitted to the World Bank for funding consideration in the near future.

Updates from Caribbean Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Colombia on the progress of the pilot studies utilizing the “Manual on Economic Impact Assessment of Recreational Fisheries in the Wider Caribbean” were presented and discussed. Much progress is being made on these progress and TBF will continue to provide consultation as the projects continue in the future.

The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission compliance area

While the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) oversees billfish management for the Atlantic, the workshop’s discussions are important for the future management for the area and empowering the local stakeholders. The workshop brought up a number of options to strengthen relationships and possible collaborations between user groups – from local artisanal fleets to the tourism boards – who might be affected by changes in fisheries management. To that end, TBF was an active participant during the workshops but also published and distributed a report on the economic importance of sportfishing in the US territories of USVI and Puerto Rico. The hope is that all the stakeholders can learn, work together, and share the benefits of these new management schemes.

The next meeting is being proposed for the seventh World Recreational Fishing Conference which will be held in Sao Paulo State, Brazil on September 1st -4th, 2014. To learn more about WECAFC please visit their website and to read TBF’s report on the economic importance of sportfishing in Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I. please click here.