Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a queen conch (Aliger gigas) fishery in The Bahamas

The onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in early 2020 led to a dramatic rise in unemployment and fears about food-security throughout the Caribbean region. Subsistence fisheries were one of the few activities permitted during emergency lockdown in The Bahamas, leading many to turn to the sea for food. Detailed monitoring of a small-scale subsistence fishery for queen conch was undertaken during the implementation of coronavirus emergency control measures over a period of twelve weeks. Weekly landings data showed a surge in fishing during the first three weeks where landings were 3.4 times higher than subsequent weeks. Overall 90% of the catch was below the minimum legal-size threshold and individual yield declined by 22% during the lockdown period. This study highlights the role of small-scale fisheries as a ‘natural insurance’ against socio-economic shocks and a source of resilience for small island communities at times of crisis. It also underscores the risks to food security and long-term sustainability of fishery stocks posed by overexploitation of natural resources.

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