Most of us in Barbuda go fishing at some time either as a full-time occupation, part-time or at holiday weekends. We fish to eat not for sport, although there are sports fishing tournaments, but we eat those fish too. Traditionally fishing is still done using labour intensive fish pots which are made from locally-gathered wattle sticks and wire, or by trammel net. Increasingly spear guns are now used. Lobster is often caught by hand with a wire lassoo and are one of our main exports several times a week mainly to the French Caribbean islands. Other fish are sold locally straight from the boat or sent to Antigua. We are lucky to have many tasty and edible varieties including barracuda, shark, grunt, old wife, hind, grouper and snapper.
The recent research done by Barbudans with Blue Halo indicates that chub/parrot fish and some others are in severe decline. Those wishing to fish should note that since the Blue Halo initiative began, Barbuda has implimented the strictly observed no-fishing zones below. This includes the Lagoon and some of the coastline. In addition lobster may not be caught or sold during May and June. In Barbuda anyone who does not observe the no-fishing zones or adhere to regulations regarding the size of conchs and lobster, or fails to buy a local licence to fish, will be liable for prosecution. So be advised by Council or contact one of the tour operators to take you out and refuse to buy under-sized or out of season lobster or conchs if you are offered them for sale.
Key Fisheries Regulations
- Permit required to fish in the coastal waters around Barbuda (within 5.55 km of shore).
- All catch or possession of parrotfish and sea urchins is prohibited.
- Catch of sharks is limited to traditional use. No export or finning.
- All fishing on any fish spawning aggregations is prohibited.
- All lobster and fish traps must include escape gaps to reduce bycatch.
- Use of nets is prohibited within 20 meters of reefs.
- Permits are required for placing artificial reefs, and prohibit fishing on these reefs.
- Fishing in Codrington Lagoon is prohibited except for line fishing from shore.
- Permits must be obtained prior to any mangrove or seagrass damage.
- A Coastal Management Advisory Committee and Parks Authority are established.
Further details of the various policies and legislation can be found here.
Larger fish such as kingfish, dolphin or mahi mahi, tuna, and barracuda are caught and sold to the hotels in the season but most Barbudans lack the large and powerful boats needed to go further out to sea, although Barbuda Belle has a fishing boat for guests. However, large barrracuda can be seen close to shore in the waters around the island and are eaten widely in Barbuda, on the whole they do not carry the Ciguatera poison which prevents their consumption in other parts of the Caribbean. Very big shark are caught and eaten and some Barbudans still make medicinal shark oil to send to Antigua. The Fisheries complex on Codrington lagoon has facilitated local fishers potential to earn more from this industry - storing equipment and keeping their catch on ice so that in future it can be exported in much larger quantities throughout the Caribbean.
Barbuda has the perfect environment for world class bone fishing because of the vast areas of mangrove and the sea grass shallows on the outskirts of Codrington Lagoon close to North Beach, where large Ten Pounder can be caught with local bait. Contact an experienced local tour guide to take you out.
Barbudans have always managed their own resources carefully with our small population doing everyday sustainable fishing in small boats, close to shore and with hand-made fish pots or small nets and lines. Over the last two years a consultation process with the Barbuda Council, local fishers and the Waitt Institute has resulted in the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative, one of the first of three in this area of the Caribbean. Waitt have contributed much needed financial and human resources to work with local people to map and record in detail the Barbuda fisheries and the consultation process, and as a result the Barbuda Council has allocated a series of no fishing zones around the island to establish sanctuaries to conserve fish populations and the habitats that support them. This project has raised issues with fishers who feel the Blue Halo project may ignore traditionally established laws and practices, such as women and children without boats using nets in the Lagoon which is easily accessible in the village, and effectively forces Barbudans to go further out to sea in small boats to fish in deeper and more dangerous waters. Serious problems for our fisheries such as other Caribbean nationals coming to Barbuda to fish in our waters with impunity, stealing from our pots or destroying reefs with bleach and explosives, and the hugely destructive international fishing industry including Japanese trawlers, still need to be addressed. Search Jickys Latest News for previous updates and news of the consultation process from the beginning.
Special thanks must go to the Waitt Institute who have remained in Barbuda since Hurricane Irma and taken on many other difficult and pressing issues to support Barbuda in this time with their Recovery and Conservation Trust Fund.