Characterization of a Caribbean estuarine fishery by use of a creel survey
Understanding angler behavior and quantifying harvest are essential to estimating exploitation and managing fisheries. However, in many tropical areas licensing, regulation, or enforcement can be lacking and little is known about these ecologically and culturally important fisheries. In the Caribbean, unique fisheries (i.e., seine netting) for post-larval amphidromous fishes occur throughout the year and coincide with the en masse migrations from marine to freshwater habitats during the third lunar cycle. Despite a long cultural history of fishing for these post-larval fish, known locally as cetí, much of the species specific life history are still unknown and few studies exist on their exploitation. Our objective was characterize the cetí fishery in addition to the hook and line recreational fishery that occurred at the mouth of the Rio Grande de Arecibo using point counts and an angler creel survey. The timing of the survey was chosen to coincide with third lunar phase of July 2014 to ensure observation of the local cetí fishery.
Over the course of the survey, 155 anglers and six cetí fishing groups were questioned. Hook-and-line-angler use of the Rio Grande de Arecibo estuary had a trimodal distribution with peaks in the morning (0500-0700), late afternoon (1400-1900), and in the late evening (2100-2300). A total of 62.5% of the fish caught by hook and line anglers were snook (Family Centropomidae) and 32.0% of all snook caught were harvested. Cetí fishing began in the early morning on July 20 and the last cetí fishing group was observed on July 21. Cetí fishing groups had a mean size of 3.1 individuals per net (SD=1.1). Groups fished for cetí an average of 2.8 hours (SD=2.9) and harvested a mean of 3.5 kg (SD=3.92). Harvest as a function of time spent fishing cetí fit a linear model reasonably well (R2=0.96) and will be useful in future exploitation estimates of cetí. Our results provide crucial information to the continued management of conservation of Caribbean estuarine fishes.