Protecting Abaco's Lobster Populations through Sustainable Harvesting Practices in The Bahamas

December 10, 2012

Abaco Island and Cays, Bahamas 

December 7, 2012 

The GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), implemented by UNDP, substantially promotes marine biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean. A successful example is the GEF SGP supported project ‘Conserving Abaco’s Lobster populations by training fishermen in sustainable fishing practices with a grant of US$ 34,579, US$ 37,832 in cash and US$ 14,750 of in kind co-financing raised by the grantee NGO ‘Friends of the Environment’ (‘Friends’) from organizations such as RARE, WWF-US, the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association and the North Abaco Fishing Cooperative.

 The project was located on the island of Abaco, the second largest island in the Bahamas archipelago of more than 600 islands, with the third largest population in the country. The island consists of mostly fishing communities that depend directly on seasonal fishing for their livelihoods. The project conducted workshops on sustainable fishing catch practices that reached out to all rural fishing communities throughout the island between February 2011 and April 2012. During this time 200 fishermen were trained at sustainable lobster catch workshops to reduce the number of juvenile lobsters harvested in Abaco. Catching juvenile lobsters impacts the reproduction rate and can tremendously reduce lobster populations. Such practices are not sustainable, considering the increased demand from population growth, higher living standards and increasingly larger catches. Therefore, project activities included awareness raising among fishermen to discourage them from fishing undersized lobsters illegally as well as informing community members of best practices to promote sustainable fishing and conserving biodiversity of marine resources. 


Direct results were already observed in the communities within the first two months of the project. Lobster gauges given to fishermen informed them about acceptable lobster sizes and spot checks conducted by the project coordinator revealed full compliance after the trainings. Furthermore, numerous education materials were produced and provided to the general public in order to create awareness, promote sustainable lobster harvesting methods and discourage people from buying undersized lobsters. Furthermore, community presentations shared the lessons and best practices with other audiences and partners. As a result, the Rotary Club and Pilot Club of Abaco invited the project coordinator, Ms. d’Shan Maycock, to share details of project activities as well as lessons learned at their weekly meetings. More than 25 people attended each of these presentations.


As a key stakeholder and participant in the national Fishery Improvement Project, Ms. d’Shan Maycock was further invited to present the project and facilitate baseline consensus meetings regarding local lobster fisheries in the communities of Long Island, North Andros, Spanish Wells and West End Grand Bahamas between January and June 2012. The target audience consisted of fishermen, lobster buyers and restaurants in these local communities. The participants learned about this GEF SGP project and were encouraged to share any similarities and differences in local threats facing their local lobster populations and what they can do to protect them for the future as well as promote biodiversity conservation. Lessons of project activities were also shared at the annual Bahamas Food Services Food Show in Nassau, October 28, 2011. This event created an opportunity to share lessons with restaurants and chefs and emphasize the importance of protecting local lobster populations by supporting sustainable fishing practices and committing to only purchase legal size lobsters from fishermen.


At the beginning of the lobster season in 2011, lobster buyers indeed reported a complete elimination in undersized lobsters on the market in areas where training workshops were held during the summer when compared to other sites.


Finally, project activities are used as performance indicators in the pre-assessment of the Bahamas lobster fishery for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) core principles, which are required for any fishery to receive certification by that body. Currently, the Bahamas is engaged in a national Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) in order for the Bahamian lobster fishery to successfully receive the MSC certification. The MSC promotes sustainable fishing practices, good governance, and improved data collection and management. Certification by the MSC would indicate a healthy fishery that can be easily recognized by lobster buyers.



Background for editors

About the GEF

The GEF unites 182 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $10 billion in grants and leveraging $47 billion in co-financing for over 2,800 projects in over 168 countries. For more information, visit


About the GEF Small Grants Programme

Launched in 1992, GEF SGP supports activities of nongovernmental and community-based organizations in developing countries towards climate change abatement, conservation of biodiversity, protection of international waters, reduction of the impact of persistent organic pollutants and prevention of land degradation while generating sustainable livelihoods.

Since its creation, GEF SGP has provided over 14,500 grants to communities in over 125 developing countries. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as a corporate programme, GEF SGP is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the GEF partnership, and is executed by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).


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