How the sargassum influx has affected Caribbean fisherfolk’s livelihoods and income

Sargassum on a beach in Barbados. Image: via Barbados Government Information Service
Fisheries

In an eye-opening article published at Caribbean News Now, Daphne Ewing-Chow and Iris Monnereau write about how the annual sargassum invasions in the Caribbean have been affecting fisherfolk’s ability to make a living

Sargassum has had negative economic consequences for the industry through the altered composition and availability of fish populations, the disruption of fishing activity and through damaging fishing vessels and gear.

Quantity of catch has been impacted tremendously by the sargassum influxes. In the case of Barbados, the two main fish species, flyingfish and dolphinfish as well as wahoo, have been affected both in quantity and in fish size landed. 

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The increase in number of juvenile fish that follow seaweed means that more juvenile fish are caught and less are available for replenishment of the stock and could potentially lead to unsustainability in the long term. A reduction in fish quantity landed can also cause an increase in fish prices, which often leads to a reduction in sales.

When factoring the cost of extra maintenance and repair and fuel costs against reduced catch due to gear inefficiency, decreased fish size and declines in catch volume, the costs to fisherfolk have been extremely high.

To date, many fisherfolk have reported having to borrow money to repair, maintain and replace fishing equipment and supplement lost income. Others have had to tighten their budgets or seek alternate employment – many fisherfolk have reported finding other jobs such as security guards, gas station attendants or in construction.

The article also describes how fishers are trying to adapting to this new reality, including by using weather apps to try to predict sargassum occurrences, and using home-made guards to protect their engines from the seaweed.  Read the full piece at Caribbean News Now to learn more. 

[Image: via  Barbados Government Information Service]

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