Angling assessment of the fisheries of Humacao Natural Reserve lagoon system, Puerto Rico

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Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Angling assessment of the fisheries of Humacao Natural Reserve lagoon system, Puerto Rico Orlando J. Ferrer Montaño, Eric D. Dibble, Donald C. Jackson, Kirk R. Rundle
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Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Angling assessment of the fisheries of Humacao Natural Reserve lagoon system, Puerto Rico Orlando J. Ferrer Montaño, Eric D. Dibble, Donald C. Jackson, Kirk R. Rundle 1 Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 9690, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA Received 8 December 2004; received in revised form 27 May 2005; accepted 31 May 2005 Abstract The Humacao Natural Reserve (HNR) lagoon system, Puerto Rico has become an important fish source for eastern Puerto Rico. Principal fishes targeted are tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), snook (common snook Centropomus undecimalis and swordspine snook C. ensiferus), and tilapia (Mozambique tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus and redbreast tilapia Tilapia rendalli). We conducted a roving creel survey April 2000 March 2001 using the non-uniform probability method to characterize the anglers that exploited the fishery resources at the HNR lagoon system. We evaluated the variability of responses to individual sociological and attitudinal questions across the angling groups interviewed. The overall goal of this study was to propose management actions for the fisheries of the HNR lagoon system. We interviewed 343 anglers (89% male; 11% female). Total estimated annual effort was 26,581 angler-hours, and we recorded 107 tilapia, 58 snook, and 16 tarpon accounting kg. We identified three groups of anglers: (1) recreational anglers (N = 219), for whom fishing was simply an outdoor activity; (2) sport anglers (N = 42), who had greater expectations regarding fishing as an activity, requiring privacy; (3) subsistence anglers (N = 82), for whom the HNR lagoon system represented a permanent and affordable source of fish protein. Based on these results, we concluded that the HNR fishery is clearly not just a recreational or sport fishery, as it is typically defined. Some anglers perceive the reserve as a natural environment for solitude and contemplation, and will regret any change intended to modify its current appearance. For others, the reserve is a natural place that should be used for material benefit (e.g., fishing). Management recommendations must take into consideration differences between groups, and protect characteristics of the reserve appealing to its main user groups, while not disenfranchising minority groups Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Recreational fishery; Sport fishery; Subsistence fishery; Coastal lagoon; Puerto Rico; Caribbean Sea Corresponding author. Present address: La Universidad del Zulia, Facultad Experimental de Ciencias, Departamento de Biología, Apartado Postal 10076, Maracaibo, Estado Zulia, Venezuela. Tel.: ; fax: address: (O.J. Ferrer Montaño). 1 North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissión, Division of Inland Fisheries, 1640 Barbara Estelle Road, Deep Run, NC 28252, USA /$ see front matter 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi: /j.fishres 82 O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Introduction Coastal lagoons can be fundamental to the well being of human populations. Like others estuarine areas, coastal lagoons are widely used for fishing and aquaculture (Joyeux and Ward, 1998). In this regard, small-scale fisheries developed in coastal lagoons are important not just because they provide food and jobs, but also because cultural links have been recognized between anglers and the natural environment in which they conduct fishing activities (Brakel, 2001). Smallscale fisheries contribute significantly to the well being and cultural identity of communities throughout the Caribbean region and Latin America (Jackson et al., 2001). The lagoon system at Humacao Natural Reserve (HNR), Puerto Rico supports important fisheries, with an increasing number of anglers visiting it each year (Jackson et al., 2001). Fishes targeted are tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), snook (common snook Centropomus undecimalis and swordspine snook C. ensiferus), and tilapia (Mozambique tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus and redbreast tilapia Tilapia rendalli). The reserve is within walking distance of a public beach and a large public marine fishing pier. Further inland and within an hour s drive are freshwater fisheries in major reservoirs (Alicea et al., 1997). Despite these other attractive fishing opportunities, anglers come to HNR to fish for fish species that rarely achieve weights 4 kg (especially tarpon; Rundle et al., 2002). By mainland standards the reserve is a small area, encompassing approximately 1000 ha along the east coast of Puerto Rico. But from the social and cultural perspective of people living on Caribbean islands, it is a large, relatively wild and natural place (Rundle et al., 2002). Management authority in the reserve falls entirely under the hierarchy of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER). To date, few studies have examined the fishery status of the reserve in terms of its ability to provide angling satisfaction; in addition, although only hook and line fishing is allowed on HNR, there currently are no harvest regulations for the HNR fisheries. Furthermore, no work has been done on the sociocultural effects of the reserve on local communities. Despite the apparent importance of the HNR lagoon system as a provider of fishery resources, there are no clearly defined policies and management plans. Because of that the DNER was interested in evaluating the fisheries of the lagoons, and in implementing an appropriate strategy for their management. In Puerto Rico, as in most countries, wild fishery resources are owned by the public, and need to be managed by the state for the benefit of the citizens. The state agency that takes the lead in managing the fishery does so on behalf of a public that may wish to have its say in management decisions. It is a well-recognized fact that communities are not homogeneous; a community cannot be considered one uniform interest group (Hudgins, 1984; Chipman and Helfrich, 1988). There are often gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic tensions within a community (Berkes et al., 2001). This implies that policies and management plans must take into consideration not only the fish component, but also the users of the resources; therefore, identification of user groups and their characteristics is essential for the establishment of appropriate management policies and strategies (Vigliano et al., 2000). The objective of this study was to conduct a creel survey to characterize the anglers that exploited the fishery resources at the HNR lagoon system. We evaluated the variability of responses to individual sociological and attitudinal questions across the angling groups interviewed. The overall goal of this study was to propose management actions for the fisheries of the HNR lagoon system. 2. Materials and methods 2.1. Study area Humacao Natural Reserve is located in eastern Puerto Rico (18 10 N, W) (Fig. 1), within a historic coastal plain estuary formed by three interconnected valleys and drainages, the Blanco and Antón Ruiz rivers and Frontera Creek [United States Department of Commerce (USDC) and DNER, 1986]. Historical records indicate that this region was originally forested wetlands, with a large coastal lagoon located along the original courses of the Antón Ruiz River (USDC and DNER, 1986). In the 1920s, extensive wetland areas were deforested and drained for the establishment of a sugar cane plantation. Two major canals (i.e., Mandri and Frontera) were dredged, and a pumping station was constructed at their confluence to drain O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Fig. 1. Map of Humacao Natural Reserve, Puerto Rico showing major hydrographic features (figure courtesy of Marisel López and José Burgos, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University). the entire area. Extensive levees and ditches diverted the Antón Ruiz River, facilitating drainage (USDC and DNER, 1986). In August 1979, Hurricane David and Tropical Storm Frederick traversed the region, causing extensive flooding that overtopped and breached most of the levees, allowing several estuarine lagoons to develop (Vilella and Gray, 1997). In 1986, agreements between the sugar cane plantation owners and the Puerto Rican Government, in conjunction with legal actions filed by 84 O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) local environmental organizations, led to the designation of the area as a natural reserve (DNER, 1995). The reserve includes estuarine lagoons, herbaceous and forested wetlands, coastal forest, and beach scrub (Vilella and Gray, 1997). Six lagoons, encompassing 249 ha, compose the system: Mandri 1, 67 ha; Mandri 2, 74 ha; Mandri 3, 52 ha; Santa Teresa 1, 27 ha; Santa Teresa 2, 24 ha; Palmas, 5 ha. The lagoons are arranged in a series that connects to the Caribbean Sea during periods of substantial precipitation. The lagoon system contains many different habitats but can be broadly divided longitudinally into the Mandri system (Mandri 1 3), which is intermittently influenced by tides, and the Santa Teresa system (Santa Teresa 1 and 2, and Palmas), which has very little or no tidal influence Data collection A creel survey was conducted from April 2000 through March The non-uniform probability method outlined by Malvestuto et al. (1978) was used based upon pre-sampling relative probability of use estimates conducted in March 2000, and preliminary surveys conducted by DNER personnel (e.g., DNER, 1995). The lagoon system was divided into two sections: Santa Teresa (included Santa Teresa 1 and 2, and Palmas lagoons; sampling probability = 0.75) and Mandri (included Mandri 1 3; sampling probability = 0.25). On a sample day there were three temporal sampling units spanning a 12-h fishing period (sampling units ranged from 06:00 to 10:00 h, 10:00 to 14:00 h, and 14:00 to 18:00 h). Pre-sampling did not show a trend in daytime fishing preference, therefore we decided to allocate equal probability to each sampling unit (sampling probability = 0.33). Sampling units were chosen by simple randomization procedures. We randomly chose a day and a temporal unit, and then one of the lagoon sections. Eight survey days were allocated to each month: six days in the Santa Teresa section and two days in the Mandri section. Because pre-sampling suggested a preference for weekend days, we allocated four days monthly to weekend days and two days monthly to weekday days in the Santa Teresa section; one day monthly was allocated to each day type group (i.e., weekend day, weekday day) in the Mandri section. Harvest and effort were determined by interception of anglers during a roving creel. During the time allotted to interviews for each sample period, we made from 4 to 12 completed circuits around the selected section, and each angler intercepted was interviewed. Some anglers, subsequently, were interviewed twice in one day. Although many visitors had come to the reserve for other activities than fishing, we only interviewed people that were fishing at the moment of interception. A survey instrument following criteria discussed by Hudgins (1984) and Vigliano et al. (2000) was developed. A total of 16 qualitative variables with differing categories were used (Table 1). Questions included sociological and attitudinal categories; sociological questions included gender, age, place of residency, and trip objective. Attitudinal questions included three categories: angling, personal satisfaction, and resource facilities. Questions related to angling included time of fishing during the year, fish preference, reason of preference, preferred fishing bait, number of fish strikes, number of fish caught, and size of fish caught. Questions related to personal satisfaction dealt with escape from daily routine, site chosen because of natural beauty, privacy at site, and possibility of exploring outdoors. Question related to resource facilities was ease of access. Questions used to evaluate personal satisfaction and resource facilities were rated according to four categories: not important, little important, important, and no response. Angler opinions, perceptions and suggestions (e.g., construction of new piers, fishing quotas, fishing licenses, access restriction to the fishing areas) also were noted on the survey instrument. Harvested fishes were identified individually to species, weighed (g), and measured (total length, mm). Total harvest by month for each fish species harvested and all fish species combined were determined with Statistical Analysis System (SAS), Version 8.01 (SAS, 1999) using procedures described by Malvestuto et al. (1978). Percentage distributions of each level of importance for each category for variables 9 16 (Table 1) were calculated. 3. Results We interviewed 343 anglers, of which 331 (96.5%) were interviewed on the Santa Teresa section and 12 (3.5%) on the Mandri section. The monthly number of O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Table 1 Variables and their categories used to describe anglers sociologically and evaluate attitudinal features at Humacao Natural Reserve, Puerto Rico, April 2000 March 2001 Variable number Variable Category 1 Gender (S) Male Female 2 Age (S) 20 20/29 30/39 40/49 50/59 60/ Place of residency (S) Different municipalities of Puerto Rico 4 Trip objective (S) Sport fishing Recreational purpose Complementing food requirements 5 Time of fishing during the year (AA) 10 days 10/30 days 30 days 6 Fish preference (AA) No preference Tilapia Tarpon Snook 7 Reason of preference (AA) Taste Fighting Ease to catch None 8 Preferred fishing bait (AA) Artificial bait Natural dead bait Natural alive bait Other 9 Fishing as a way of escaping daily routine (APS) Not important Little important Important No response 10 Site chosen because of natural beauty (APS) Same criteria as of 11 Privacy at site (APS) Same criteria as of 12 Possibility of exploring outdoors (APS) Same criteria as of 13 Number of fish strikes (AA) Same criteria as of Table 1 (Continued ) Variable Variable Category number 14 Number of fish caught (AA) Same criteria as of 15 Size of fish caught (AA) Same criteria as of 16 Ease of access (ARF) Same criteria as of Categories: S, sociological; AA, attitudinal/angling; APS, attitudinal/personal satisfaction; ARF, attitudinal/resource facility (see text for a complete description of categories). anglers interviewed was relatively homogeneous, with a mean of 28.6 angler/month (S.E. = 3.5). Of anglers interviewed, 305 (89%) were male and 38 (11%) were female (Table 2). Most anglers (78%) interviewed were adults between the ages of 20 and 59 years, and a relatively high proportion (19%) of the anglers interviewed were younger than 20 years of age (Table 2). Total estimated annual angler effort was 26,581 angler-hours (Table 3). Highest estimated efforts were reported in Table 2 Age distribution of anglers by gender at Humacao Natural Reserve, Puerto Rico, from angler interviews during April 2000 March 2001 Total Female Male Total Table 3 Angler effort (angler-hours) and associated upper and lower 95% confidence limits for anglers in the lagoon system at Humacao Natural Reserve, Puerto Rico, April 2000 March 2001 Year Month Mean 2000 April 1393 3024 4654 May 0 1302 0 June 1692 2160 2628 July 276 1339 2403 August 1197 1897 2598 September 333 1851 3370 October 868 2306 3745 November 616 1980 3344 December 1261 1984 January 521 3720 7961 February 1172 2352 3532 March 795 2666 4537 Total 6560 44001 86 O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) January 2001 (3720 angle-hours) and April 2000 (3024 angler-hours), whereas the lowest were in May (1302 angler-hours) and December 2000 (1984 angler-hours) (Table 3). Two hundred nine (61%) anglers used artificial baits, and the remaining anglers (N = 134; 39%) used either natural live and/or dead baits. Natural live baits used were worms and shrimp. Other baits used were chicken, fish, crab, and bread. Twenty-one (27%) of the 78 municipalities forming Puerto Rico were represented in the sample of anglers interviewed, although most anglers (77%) resided at Humacao or within 30 km of HNR. Most (260; 76%) of the anglers interviewed expressed no preference for a particular fish species (Fig. 2). The remaining anglers (83; 24%) expressed a particular preference for snook, tarpon, and/or tilapia. Attitudinal characteristics not directly related to fishing (i.e., personal satisfaction and resource facilities categories, fishing as a way of escaping daily routine, site chosen because of natural beauty, privacy at site, possibility of exploring outdoors, ease of access), were as important on average as characteristics directly related to fishing (i.e., angling category: number of fish strikes, number of fish caught, size of fish caught) to characterize anglers at HNR, although there was some overlapping. We identified three groups of anglers based on results of interviews: (1) a group that we defined as recreational anglers (N = 219; 64%), for whom fishing was simply an outdoor activity. This group came to the reserve primarily to enjoy nature and Fig. 2. Fish species preference by anglers at Humacao Natural Reserve, Puerto Rico, as determined from angler interviews during April 2000 March explore outdoors (86%) and secondarily to fish (14%). In this regard, members of this group fished as a way of escaping daily routine, and were not concerned about fishing success in terms of retained catches; (2) a group that we defined as sport anglers (N = 42; 12%). Members of this group had greater expectations regarding fishing as an activity, requiring privacy (73%). They preferred snook (28%) because they are good to eat, and tarpon because of their fighting (72%); (3) a group we defined as subsistence anglers (N = 82; 24%). For members of this group the HNR lagoon system represented a permanent and affordable source of fish protein, and thus they valued retaining and eating the catch. During interviews, members of this group mostly identified themselves as local residents (94%) fishing almost daily to supplement their diet (95%). Although they did not express specific fish preferences, most of them used live baits (87%), particularly worms, which were, according to their experience, better baits for attracting tilapia; 92% of all fishes harvested by this group were tilapia. Most (81%) anglers in the subsistence group were less than 40 years old. None of the angler groups indicated real concerns on number of fish strikes and size of fish caught (recreational: 7 and 9%; sport: 13 and 19%; subsistence: 5 and 3%), and only the subsistence anglers group indicated concern on number of fish caught (94%). There was a high diversity of opinions when anglers were consulted on possibility of constructing new piers, establishing fishing quotas and/or fishing licenses, and restricting access to the fishing areas. Most (79%) would not approve the construction of new piers; many (46%) would approve establishing fishing quotas or restricting access to the fishing areas (38%); however, most (91%) would pay for a fishing license. One hundred and eighty-one fishes (tilapia = 107; snook = 58; tarpon = 16) accounting kg were recorded during the creel survey. The monthly total harvest estimated was highly variable, with a maximum of 882 fish/month (S.E. = 40) in November 2000 and a minimum of 39 fish/month (S.E. = 25) in January 2001 (Fig. 3). The mean monthly harvest estimated was 235 fish/month (S.E. = 71) and kg/month (S.E. = 46.8). The greatest estimated harvest for tilapia (870 fish/month; S.E. = 47) was in November 2000; the greatest estimated harvest for snook (456 fish/month; S.E. = 98) was in June 2000, and the greatest estimated harvest for tarpon (202 fish/month; S.E. = 92) O.J. Ferrer Montaño et al. / Fisheries Research 76 (2005) Fig. 3. Average harvest rate (fish/month ± S.E.) for all fish at H
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