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Sea eggs net big bucks

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Sea eggs net big bucks

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About $1.2 million in “value” was generated in just one month as Barbados lifted a ten-year ban on sea egg harvesting last October.

But even as “crude” estimates showed some groups netted $67 200 in revenue from sales of the popular local delicacy, a group of fisheries experts is warning that “the future of sea egg fishery management appears to be as uncertain as the annual abundance of the animals”.

The team from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, is also recommending the re-establishment and strengthening of the Sea Fishery Management Advisory Council ahead of this year’s pre-season sea egg assessment.

CERMES evaluated the last sea egg season, which ran from October 1 to 31 last year, and its researchers found that “demand was high for the product which had been banned for a decade and the Barbadian public was willing to pay the reasonably high price to sample the delicacy once again”.

“In 2015, sea eggs were sold for $60 per half-litre container, twice the sales price of a one-litre container in 2004. One harvester quoted the sales price of a one-litre container to be $120 but such containers were not commonly seen at landing sites perhaps due to their unpopularity with the Barbadian public due to steep cost,” they found.

“Extrapolating from the estimated 20 to 40 container production per day per group at $60 per container, a crude estimate of monthly revenue per group can be calculated, the range of which is between $33 600 to $67 200.”

CERMES pointed out that these estimates “do not take into consideration differing shares according to whether persons in the group are divers versus breakers and other costs for gear and vessels”.

Overall, it added, the Fisheries Division “estimates the total value of the 2015 sea egg season at $1.2 million based on estimates of mean catch, quantity of roe product and price”.

However, while noting that sea eggs were “the basis of a very valuable fishery” and “revenue from the sea egg fishery in Barbados is an important part of some fishers’ income”, the fisheries experts said “decisions are required on the approach to management as there is currently a confusing mix of consultative co-management alternating with conventional command-and-control minus the critical element of consistent enforcement”.

“It is difficult to detect a coherent fisheries policy for the fishery…the Fisheries Division must significantly improve its monitoring, control and surveillance systems especially with respect to this vulnerable fishery. The Fisheries Division was not as visible as it should have been throughout the open season,” they said.

“It undertook some monitoring of activities on the first day of the season and on a few days throughout the season lacked capacity to thoroughly and effectively monitor activities and collect data and information critical to management.

“Harvesters and breakers who spoke with CERMES researchers identified the absence of the management authority as an issue.” (SC)