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Characterizing Recreational Shore-based Fishers and Fishing on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

This project began in October 2012 and was completed in August 2015

The objective of our survey on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands was to test an approach for collecting shore-based recreational fishing data, such as who fishes from shore, for how long, and what they catch. We were interested in understanding the spatial and temporal patterns of shore-based fishing, as well as documenting other types of recreational activities that occur on the shoreline. The data we gathered will inform management of local resources.

Why We Care
Recreational, personal-use fishing is a significant part of the culture and heritage of St. Croix. For this reason, it is important to learn more about how people rely on local marine resources for leisure and subsistence activities, and how often they use these resources. Prior to this study, there was little information available to describe the recreational fishing community, in terms of common behaviors and their dependence on personal-use fishing to support their families. The results of this project will provide information to profile this important fishery, as well as help future researchers improve data collection efforts focused on recreational fishing.

What We Did
The research goals for this survey were to:

  1. develop and implement a roving-survey study to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach for collecting information on shore-based recreational fishing in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI);
  2. characterize recreational, shore-based fishing in terms of what type of fish people catch most and how much effort they put into catching these fish;
  3. collect information to describe the basic social characteristics of shore-based fishers, such as age and number of years living on the island;
  4. determine why people fish—assess the degree of reliance within the fishing community on subsistence fishing; and
  5. document the spatial and temporal patterns of shore-based fishing, as well as other types of shore-based recreational activities that occur on the island.

Data for this study were collected in two ways. First, a trained surveyor walked along the shoreline and invited persons who were fishing to participate in a voluntary research interview. Participating fishers were asked a series of questions about their fishing activity and demographic information. The surveyor also counted, weighed, and measured the length of fish and other species that the fisher caught. The goal of this component was to gather information needed to estimate catch and also create profiles of social/demographic characteristics for the shore-based fishing community.

Data was also collected using fisher counts: a surveyor counted and recorded the number of people at any given site who were fishing or engaging in other relevant shore-based recreational activities, such as beach-going, swimming, etc. This information was used to calculate fishing effort, as well as to characterize the typical shore-based recreational activities that people enjoy on St. Croix.

Project partners included: USVI DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife; USVI DPNR Division of Coastal Zone Management; NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program; NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Social Science Research Group; NOAA NMFS Southeast Regional Office, Habitat Conservation Division-Atlantic Branch; NOAA NMFS Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries-Caribbean Branch; NOAA NOS NCCOS CCMA Biogeography Branch; NOAA NOS Office for Coastal Management-Coral Conservation Division; NOAA NOS NCCOS Hollings Marine Laboratory.


Our research study:

  • Informed ongoing efforts to develop a National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Recreational Information Program in the territory;
  • Improved understanding of the recreational fishery in the USVI and the range of pressures on coral reef fish populations from fishing activity;
  • Highlighted the possible social and cultural effects of different fishery management options on local fishers;
  • Informed discussions about recreational fishing management alternatives, enabling choice of the most effective options, and supported the development of monitoring and enforcement plans; and
  • Provided data to better understand and manage the many, sometimes competing, uses of the shoreline on St. Croix, USVI.

Next Steps
Findings from this study will be used by natural resource managers to improve the design of future data collection programs to gather information on the recreational fishery in the USVI.

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