Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Maritime Affairs
Ph.D (Maritime Affairs)
Antigua & Barbuda/Trinidad and Tobago
Abandoned, lost, and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG—also termed derelict fishing gear) is a complex and significant global challenge for which strong, robust, and holistic governance is required. ALDFG is considered the most dangerous form of marine debris, as it is designed to capture marine organisms and can do so long after it has become derelict. While there has been an increasing body of work in academic literature on the scale, impact, and management of ALDFG, significant knowledge gaps still exist about how this challenge is affecting the small-scale fisheries of the Eastern Caribbean. This research has been designed to comprehensively review the ALDFG challenge in the Eastern Caribbean. It considers not only issues of scale and impact but also the policy landscape, governance regime, and mechanisms for improved governance. The study utilised a socio-legal approach to conduct a critical analysis of ALDFG associated with Eastern Caribbean small-scale fisheries. The qualitative methodologies utilised in the assessment were interviews of a range of stakeholders, case studies and legal reviews. The study is underpinned by the environmental governance framework proposed by Bennett and Satterfield, and has adopted a three-step research framework that seeks to: (1) establish baselines and set the context of the research theme; (2) understand the existing governance regime including challenges and barriers; and (3) outline mechanisms for improved governance. The study focused on the English-speaking members and associate members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, as well as Barbados. The empirical data obtained through this study have revealed that ALDFG in the Eastern Caribbean is not only a localised challenge but a transboundary threat. Several key informants reported encountering derelict gear that seemingly entered the region from as far away as the Eastern Atlantic Region. Polypropylene nets, ropes, fish aggregating device components, fish crates and octopus traps are among the observed forms of ALDFG that originated outside the study area. Data derived from fisher surveys in Dominica and in Antigua and Barbuda also indicate that, with regard to drivers of loss in local fisheries, environmental drivers are the major contributor, not just in the case of trap fisheries but also for line fisheries. With regard to the legal and policy landscape for ALDFG in the Eastern Caribbean, it was found that the regulatory regime was fragmented, relatively weak, and largely lacking in ALDFG-focused legislation. While some fisheries management measures have been shown to aid in the mitigation of ALDFG-related threats, these were not legislated for throughout the sub region. Investigations on the implementation of gear marking systems within two jurisdictions highlighted the weaknesses in 10 compliance, and implementation gaps that exist with regard to ALDFG regulatory provision in the two case study jurisdictions. Governance of ALDFG in the Eastern Caribbean is challenged by a number of structural, institutional, and procedural barriers, along with cross-cutting barriers that affect not only fisheries but also other sectors that may be involved in the management, compliance, and surveillance of fishing gear, and in the execution of end-of-life strategies. For many of the Eastern Caribbean jurisdictions that were part of this study, the issue of ALDFG was generally not prioritised by national fisheries agencies. This may be linked to limited public awareness of the challenges, since much of the region’s ALDFG remains hidden in the ocean environment, but it may also be linked to the limited capacities that exist within these government agencies. Limitations in the available financial and human resource capacity to effectively manage the issue, challenges in coordination, lack of supporting infrastructure, data and information gaps, and communication gaps are among the main challenges highlighted by policy experts interviewed for this research. Policy incoherence was also a proposed as a major barrier to ALDFG governance, not only nationally but also regionally. In fact, the lack of synergies, coordination and collaboration on matters relating to ALDFG, and broader ocean governance may become further exemplified when moving up the governance scale from national to regional level. In order to improve governance of ALDFG, a range of recommendations were proposed by key informants participating in this research. Mechanisms to create collaborative arrangements at both the national and regional levels, for instance, can assist in overcoming policy coherence challenges. Training and capacity building as well as awareness activities may provide the requisite knowledge, data, and information that fisheries managers may need to begin prioritising ALDFG within their national fisheries management regimes. The need for establishing open lines of communication with other actors outside the fisheries sector—for instance customs departments and waste management bodies—is also acknowledged, to allow for improvements in the monitoring and surveillance of fishing gear entering the fisheries system, as well as strategies for managing ALDFG waste and end-oflife gear.