Commercial fisheries in Puerto Rico are essentially artisanal or in small scale, since most of them occur in coastal habitats or on the insular shelf. The main fishing gears used are: hand lines, fish traps (for reef fish), “cajones,” which are modified, wooden cage traps (for lobsters), gill nets and trammel nets, horizontal and vertical longlines (the latter known as “cala”), trawling, gathering by hand (for queen conch (Lobatus gigas), and harpoons (spearguns) using scuba-diving equipment. Two other frequently used fishing gears are snares to capture lobsters and gaffs for octopuses. An increase in the number of fishermen scuba-diving with spearguns has been documented during the last few years.
There are also different categories for recreational fishing in Puerto Rico; from shore hand-line fishing, boat trawling for migratory fish species like billfishes, dolphinfish (mahi-mahi), wahoo, and tuna, to skin-diving fishing in areas close to shelfedge reefs or in deep waters. The latter is known as “blue water hunting” and is done in waters beyond the shelfedge.
Challenges and Solutions
In the last few decades, it has become evident that local fisheries face several challenges, such as: increasing levels of ocean pollution, essential fish habitat destruction, over-fishing, as well as the accumulating impacts of global warming.
The University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program works to develop and implement effective strategies for the management and sustainable use of our fishery resources, including the identification and conservation of essential fish habitats (for example, the locations and protection of reproductive aggregation of snappers and groupers around the Island), independent fishery monitoring programs, conservation practices, and the full participation of constituents in fisheries management. Another important area of work for UPR Sea Grant is to promote and educate about local and federal fishing regulations for both commercial and recreational fishermen. These include the local regulations put forth by Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and the federal regulations established by the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC).
Our program offers technical support to the two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) established in Puerto Rico (Canal Luis Peña Reserve in Culebra and the Tres Palmas Reserve in Rincón).
We also propose that the Commonwealth’s government should adopt an ecosystem approach to management so as to enhance wild fish stocks of economically important species.