Low production, illegal fishing haunt Dominican Republic’s fisheries sector

The Dominican Republic’s fishing sector is being harmed by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and unsustainable practices that are resulting in lost economic benefit and higher import totals.

According to the Dominican Today, the fishing industry in the Caribbean nation brings in around DOP 5 billion (USD 93.4 million, EUR 84.4 million) annually.

Yet illegal activity carried out both by local fishermen and by foreign vessels from South Korea, Nicaragua, and Honduras, is resulting in overfishing and is contributing in a deficit in supply to feed domestic demand. As a result, the Dominican Republic is forced to import fish that it could otherwise catch or farm inside its own borders, according to Milton Ginebra Morales, the executive director of the Dominican Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Codopesca). For every 10 pounds of fish consumed in the country, seven pounds are imported, he said.

In response, the Dominican government is investing in a two-pronged project that aims to implement a vessel tracking system and improved monitoring efforts by the Dominican Navy and Codopesca. Under the plan, vessels not equipped with locator beacons will not be issued permission to fish outside the country’s borders. The government is hoping to partner with the Central American Integration System (SICA) to pay for the beacons to provide them at lower or no cost to fishermen, Ginebra Morales said.

The project’s other half will entail investment in high-quality tilapia fry to increase domestic aquaculture efforts. This year, the country will spend DOP 4.3 million (USD 80,000, EUR 74,000) to import 1,000 tilapia fry, with the hope of creating self-sufficiency amongst local tilapia producers. That effort will be supplemented by funds from a larger, DOP 500 million (USD 9.3 million, EUR 8.6 million) fund being used to expand fish farming both on-land in earthen ponds and in ocean sites.

Currently, tilapia farmers in the Dominican Republic produce around 1,350 metric tons (MT) annually, but the country consumes an estimated 5,800 MT, meaning enough demand exists domestically for local producers to have a readily available market for their products without having to develop export markets, Ginebra Morales said.

The effort is necessary because local fishermen are now not catching enough legally to sustain themselves. Dominican fishermen often apply for permission to fish domestically and then motor into the exclusive economic zones of other countries, such as The Bahamas, Colombia, and Honduras, according to Ginebra Morales. In 2019, nine vessels were caught fishing illegally, Milton said, but with monitoring and enforcement lacking, the problem is probably much greater, he said.

“In the DR, industrial fishing has not developed,” Ginebra Morales said.

Photo courtesy of Klemen K. Misic/Shutterstock


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