Perry Institute spotlights Bahamian fisheries & coral reef science to the world

Perry Institute spotlights Bahamian fisheries & coral reef science to the world

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Established to address the multi-faceted challenges facing Caribbean marine environments, the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) took center stage to proudly feature Bahamian science and scientists at the 76th Annual Conference of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI 76). 

The region’s premier fisheries conference is an annual meeting hosted by a different nation each year and is a melting pot of global stakeholders, researchers, and marine enthusiasts, collectively striving to etch a brighter, sustainable future for marine environments. This month, it took place at Atlantis Paradise Island, welcomed by The Bahamas Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. 

PIMS research assistant Meghyn Fountain said: “In a time when our oceans’ health is at a crossroads, GCFI 76 stood as a beacon of hope, catalyzing vital global discussions on overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts. This forum inspired influential strategies for fisheries conservation in The Bahamas and beyond. We’re really grateful to The Bahamas’ Minister of Environmental and Natural Resources, Vaughn Miller, for his pivotal role in realizing this conference”

As the largest marine science organization in the country, the NGO’s expertly skilled scientists proudly featured The Bahamas across all elements of GCFI 76 and its hundreds of regional delegates. 

Dr Krista Sherman, a fellow Bahamian and senior fisheries scientist at the Perry Institute, said:  “Our fisheries research, advocacy and communication efforts at PIMS are designed to promote recovery and advance sustainable management for resilient fisheries and marine habitats. With GCFI 76 taking place in Nassau, we leveraged a unique opportunity not only to highlight some of this important work but also to engage with national and regional partners to scale up efforts for the protection of fishery resources and marine ecosystems throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean.”

Dedicated to safeguarding the marine treasures of The Bahamas, PIMS has worked over many years with the Government, fishers, and many NGO partners to pioneer species management plans for both the Nassau grouper, integral to Bahamian culture and commerce, and Antillogorgia elisabethae, a soft coral sought after for its medicinal properties.

Alongside these targeted efforts, PIMS executes regular stock assessments for vital fishery species, using a suite of methodologies to assess the condition of marine habitats.

Will Greene, GIS and photogrammetry specialist at the Perry Institute, said: “GCFI 76 was an incredible opportunity for the brightest minds in Caribbean marine conservation – fishers, scientists and policymakers alike – to come together, share ideas and research, and collaborate to respond to the challenges facing fisheries and marine ecosystems in our region. It was especially exciting to showcase the innovative technological solutions to ecosystem monitoring we have been developing at PIMS and to learn from others, with the hope that our collective community can do a better job of understanding how our ecosystems are changing. Collaboration couldn’t be more important in this pivotal moment for our oceans and planet.” 

Representing The Bahamas, the PIMS diverse team presented research on the status of queen conch populations and suitable habitats, the innovative use of drone technology to monitor mangrove health, as well as socio-economic evaluations of fishing behaviors in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of working with local fishers in fostering a sustainable stone crab fishery.

Dr. Karlisa Callwood, PIMS’ Director of Community Engagement said: “Throughout the challenges society faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, community relationships with the sea and its resources came evermore to light.  We have analyzed subsistence fishing behavior and seafood consumption in The Bahamas during these trying times. Understanding these patterns is vital, not only from a fisheries management perspective but also for strengthening the resilience and adaptability of our communities. The sea has long been a cornerstone of Bahamian life, and its role during crises underscores the importance of sustainable practices and community education.” 

Dr. Craig Dahlgren, PIMS Executive Director said: “At the Perry Institute, we are led by science and believe firmly in the power of collaboration and knowledge-sharing to effect global change. As a majority-Bahamian organization, we were excited to sponsor this year’s conference, especially to support bringing together fishers across the region. As marine scientists, fishers and communities who depend on the sea are our most important partners. I could not be more proud of the entire PIMS team for the incredible science our organization produced and presented at GCFI 76.”