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PIMS scientist shares Bahamian perspective aboard global sailing voyage

One Ocean Expedition docks in Nassau

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A number one marine scientist from The Bahamas returned from a once-in-a lifetime voyage last week, sailing from Havana to Nassau as a part of the One Ocean Expedition, a United Nations-backed initiative to spotlight the ocean’s crucial role in fostering global sustainability.

Dr Krista Sherman of the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) spent several days onboard the Norwegian state-of-the-art research vessel Statsraad Lehmkuh. Deemed a “floating university”, the ship unites diverse groups of marine scientists, students, trainees and professionals because it circumnavigates the globe.

“It was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the One Ocean Expedition,” Sherman said. “It was also inspiring to see how integrated conservation research and advocacy is in Norway and it’s something we will definitely learn from.”

The 107-year-old ship departed from Arendal, Norway, on August 20 and can proceed sailing throughout 2023, spanning 55,000 nautical miles and 36 ports worldwide. Equipped with modern instrumentation, the vessel will collect high-quality data repeatedly from a big selection of environments, including CO2 levels, ocean acidification and microplastics.

On Friday, December 3, Sherman co-moderated an Ocean Health and Seafood seminar for participants onboard the One Ocean Expedition while it was docked within the Nassau Harbour. In her presentation, she provided an summary of fisheries research and conservation efforts in The Bahamas.

“Roughly 30 percent of fish species have been overexploited, representing significant losses to biodiversity, ecosystem services and socioeconomic contributions,” said Sherman, whose doctoral research assessed the status, population structure and dynamics of Nassau grouper spawning aggregations, and was crucial to the event of the primary Nassau Grouper Conservation Management Plan for The Bahamas.

“Improving our understanding of fisheries is critical to facilitate effective management and conservation initiatives.

“This is especially necessary for The Bahamas, a small island developing state where fisheries products account for 10 percent of the protein for the population.”

The industrial fisheries sector employs 9,300 people and has an estimated export value of US$90 million. The recreational fishing sector provides 18,000 jobs directly and not directly $527 million per yr, Sherman informed her audience.

Pointing to the critically endangered Nassau grouper and the near-threatened bonefish, she said trade of those species have to be regulated to make sure their very survival.

Indeed, The Bahamas has more coral reef area than another nation within the region, including one in every of the world’s largest contiguous coral reefs — the Andros Barrier Reef. Eleven percent of the nation’s marine environment is currently protected inside national parks.

Based on the marine scientist, nevertheless, emerging fisheries — that’s, bycatch or species unintentionally caught by fishermen — “have the potential to expand the fishing sector, improve food security and supply income to a greater variety of fishers”.

Even so, emerging fisheries present new challenges for management attributable to lack of knowledge on landings, population dynamics and the ecological function of those species.

“Fisheries research and conservation programs are crucial to scale back scientific knowledge gaps, provide guidance for fishery regulations and to advertise behavioral change for ongoing conservation management in The Bahamas and Caribbean,” Sherman noted.

Other Bahamians participating within the Havana to Nassau leg of the One Ocean voyage included representatives from Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization.

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