The CEI reef team are working in partnership with the Institute for Social Ecological Research (ISER) Caribe on an interdisciplinary research project to understand the ecology and social perceptions of the parrotfish fishery in The Bahamas. There is a wealth of information concerning the ecological role of parrotfish in Bahamian waters, but the economic and social value of the fishery remains unknown. The data collected will create the foundation for an innovative educational and social marketing campaign to promote sustainable fisheries use and management in The Bahamas.

The nature of this project combines both ecological and social perspectives into assessing the status of parrotfish.  We hope that by surveying local populations we can obtain traditional knowledge passed on through generations of families, some of whom depend on the ecosystem for their livelihood. The questionnaires may also help to increase awareness about the importance of parrotfish and stimulate interest in the end campaign strategy.

The first implementation phase of this project focuses on the human interaction with the Bahamian marine ecosystem. In order to understand the perceptions of local stakeholders, the reef team is actively implementing ethnographic research methods to gather social ecological data. In just three weeks, the team has conducted 22 fishermen surveys and 16 consumer surveys. The information gathered thus far has provided key insight on local economic dynamics and social connections between the three main research sites: Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound and Deep Creek.

Research assistant Roxy de Waegh interacts with local children whilst waiting for fishers to return to the docks in Tarpum Bay.

Research assistant Roxy de Waegh interacts with local children whilst waiting for fishers to return to the docks in Tarpum Bay.

In addition to conducting fisher and consumer surveys, the CEI reef team has had the absolute honor to collaborate with the local Deep Creek Middle School (DCMS). The DCMS eighth graders joined the reef team in the field, where they lead interviews with local fishermen and consumers from their settlements. The Grade 8 students demonstrated the power of youth by using their local knowledge, creativity and enthusiasm to make the surveys more efficient and definitely more fun! They explored the complexity of fishing-as-livelihood versus conservation-minded-fishing and proposed to illustrate their ideas by designing a comic book and music video.

Students from Deep Creek Middle School interview a retired fisherman at his house in Rock Sound.

Students from Deep Creek Middle School interview a retired fisherman at his house in Rock Sound.

As the CEI reef team continues to conduct their interviews, in the hopes of reaching a total of 90 surveys, the socio-economical and ecological connections are becoming clearer and evermore intrinsic. It is essential to incorporate the human dimension as part of our marine ecosystem, and not as a separate entity. The team continues to work hard to find local fonts of knowledge who can add invaluable stories, opinions and information to the survey database. They hope to finish data collection within the next few months, but in the meantime keep a look out for the DCMS music video coming your way soon!