FISHERIES DIVISION MISSION STATEMENT
Ensure sustainable utilization of the natural resources of the Turks and Caicos Islands , protect and promote biodiversity and economic prosperity through a sustainable fishing industry and a protected areas system.
The Fisheries are protected under the Turks and Caicos Fisheries Protection Ordinance (revised 1992) and Fisheries Limits Ordinance (1989). These ordinances establish regulations for the various fisheries, such as:
* Penalties including fines and imprisonment for contravention of the said regulation
- Conservation provisions in the harvesting of marine products
- Licensing of all aspects related to the fishing process from harvest to export
- Examinations and inspections of any vessel or equipment used in the harvest of marine products
- Provisions for seizure and/or forfeiture of any vessel or equipment used in unlawful harvesting of marine products
Duties & Responsibilities
Conservation Officers carry out regular patrols on the Turks and Caicos Banks. Their scope of duty includes:
Monitoring Harvested Marine Products
- Monitor the boat types at sea, and number of people on board.
- Ensure proper licensing for boats and fishers
- Inspect vessels for the required safety equipment for commercial and pleasure craft
- Foreign passenger documents inspection on the high seas to ensure no illegal immigration
- Check for legal size of harvest or catch
- Presence on board of any toxic or noxious substances
- Ensure that products are not caught during the close season
- Ensure that individuals are not fishing within the Protected Areas System (e.g. National Parks, Nature Reserves and Sanctuaries)
- Ensure that Foreign Nationals are not illegally fishing within the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Enforcement officers are also stationed at the five processing plants (landing sites) to inspect catches as fishermen off-load their product for commercial sale. Lobster and conch are weighed and measured for legal size.
The Turks and Caicos Islands have strict regulations regarding legal size for lobster and conch.
|Conch Size limits
The enforcement of fishery and coastal protection laws in the Turks and Caicos is a huge responsibility. There are over one hundred islands and cays in the archipelago, with dozens of small inlets, bays and lagoons which can make it very difficult to patrol and enforce the related regulations. Fortunately, under the Fisheries Protection Ordinance, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Officer and the Royal Navy are also deemed Fisheries Officers.
Police Patrol Vessel
British West Indies Guard Ship
Fisheries Patrol Vessels
Turks and Caicos Islands
Search & Rescue
Enforcement is not the only activity of the DECR. When boaters have vessel maintenance problems on the banks, it is the duty of the Fisheries Dept. to provide search and rescue for missing persons and vessels
Scientific research plays an important part in preserving a sustainable fishery. A 3-year Research Strategy and Action Plan has been created to aid in the management of the fisheries. Included in the Strategy is:
- Effectiveness of a Marine Reserve on sustaining stocks of the Turks and Caicos
- Assessment of local consumption patterns of marine products in the Turks and Caicos
These areas of research increase understanding of the fisheries and provide information for proper management of the fisheries.
- Determination of a recruitment index for the lobster fishery in the Turks and Caicos
- Establishment of baseline characteristics of reefs in the Turks and Caicos
- Determination of abundance and morphometrics of lobster in the Turks and Caicos
- Assessment of conch “stunting” in the Turks and Caicos
Although there are some unscrupulous local fishermen, there are also foreign poachers who invade TCI waters illegally harvesting lobster and conch. If an illegal foreign fisherman is observed, the Fisheries Department along with the Marine Police will apprehend the fishermen and file a case with the local courts.
Seized poaching and illegal fishing vessels
Use of Noxious Substances
While most fishermen are conscientious about the need for a sustainable fishery, unethical methods are used by some to increase their catch, which have far-reaching repercussions on the marine ecosystem. Over the past 20 years, an increase in use of noxious substances has occurred. Bleach or Joy mixed with gasoline has been utilized to flush lobster from their dens to decrease effort and increase catch. Using a squeeze bottle, they inject bleach into lobster dens causing them to become disoriented and run out of their protective cover. This method has fatal consequences for the surrounding habitat. Fish and other marine animals leave the immediate area. As the bleach dissipates into the surrounding water, coral and anemones, which cannot flee from the deadly soup, are killed. The area begins to recover after a time, but the new colonizers are algae, and the corals and other organisms have a difficult time reestablishing in the area.
At the Fisherman’s Day Award Ceremony in South Caicos (November 2004), the DECR introduced to the public a new test to detect the use of bleach on landed lobster. This test uses a scientific method combining potassium iodide and a starch indicator. When the solution is swabbed on the carapace and rostrum of the lobster, there is a definite reaction from a bleached lobster that turns the cotton swab purple. Tests have been successfully conducted on lobsters that were bleached several hours previously. Portable kits are now being developed for official Department use.
Fishing during closed season
Fishing seasons are established in several ways. The Turks & Caicos Islands comply with the CITES Convention Standards for Conch Harvest. The TCI Scientific Authority makes a quota recommendation to the Management Authority within the Ministry of Natural Resources. In recent years the annual quota has been set at approximately 1.6 million pounds of unprocessed meat (excluding shell). Once the quota for queen conch is met, then all export of this product is prohibited.
Lobster, on the other hand, has a set open and closed season. In order to allow lobster stocks time to reproduce, there is a closed season from April 1 until July 31, but there is no quota or maximum number within the season. The Government is in the process of establishing a close season for conch also, which would run from July 15 th to October 15 th.