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Tuesday, 25 May 2010 13:53

Fishing methods and gear used in Barbadian fisheries.

Fishing methods and gear used in Barbadian fisheries.


Reef and Coastal Fishing

Fish pots


Hauling a Fish Pot: HaulingFishPot


Fish traps (pots) have been used in Barbados for over a century. Fish pots are set close to reefs along the calmer south and west coasts, mainly between July and October. "Shallow" pots are usually set in water depths of between 3 and 20 metres, while "Deep" pots may be set in deeper water. Shallow pots capture a large number of fish and other creatures, such as lobsters, which are associated with coral reefs. The deep pots are often used to target snappers that live on the deeper reef slopes.

Fish pots range from about 2-3 cubic metres in volume and are constructed of chicken wire mesh, attached to a light wooden frame. The wooden frame is usually constructed of poles taken from the river tamarind (Leucaena), a plant which grows wild in several areas of the island. Fish enter the pots through an entry funnel located at the centre of front side of the trap. The funnel tapers from a large opening on the outside of the pot to a narrow aperture on the inside the pot. The funnel also curves downward. Fish easily swim through the funnel and into the trap but find it difficult to navigate through the funnel in the opposite direction, and therefore become trapped in the pot. Although the basic design of the fish trapping mechanism is the same in all local pots, there is variation in the size and shape of fish pots. Four basic shapes of fish pots are commonly used in Barbados. They are:


i. The "Z" pot: z_trap
ii. The "A" pot: a_pot

iii. The "S" pot:

iv. The rectangular pot square_pot

Z-pots are most commonly used along the south coast of the island while S-pots are most common on the west coast. The A-pots and rectangular pots are found occasionally along both coasts.

Seine nets

Seine net fishing has been conducted in Barbados for many years. Brown (1942) expressed surprise that few seine nets (9) were used in Barbados as compared with other Caribbean islands. Curiously only 4 seine net operations were reported to be in existence in 1952 (FAO). At present, a total of seven seine net fishing operations are known to exist in Barbados.

The local method of deploying the seine net is somewhat unique to Barbados. The net is usually kept in a small, unpowered boat (moses). The moses with net and a team of divers/fishers on board, is towed behind a motor powered launch. Once in the fishing area, the net is lowered into the water as the launch moves in a circular path. Each of the divers are assigned specific roles. Some position themselves at the mouth of the net and are responsible for chasing the fish into the net enclosure. Other divers ensure that the net does not get entangled on the sea floor. When the net is drawn into a tight enough circle, the divers overlap the bottom ends of the net, thus trapping the fish within the net. When the circle is completed, the net is dragged back into the boat. The captured fish are removed and stored on the launch.

Cast nets

Mainly small near-shore pelagic fish species, such as herrings and sardines are captured in cast nets. Most of the catch is used as bait for line fishing. Cast nets vary in size and may be handmade. The netting used may be cotton or nylon.

The fisherman usually places the main centre cord of the net in his mouth, while keeping the net folded over his forearm and shoulder. To throw the net, he swings his body in a semi-circular motion while extending the arm carrying the net. A centrifugal force is thus created on the weighted edge of the net which causes the net to open out into a flat circular shape, once released.


Throwing a cast net cast_throw

The net sinks to the bottom of the sea, covering the fish in its path during descent. Shortly before the net reaches the seafloor, the fisherman quickly pulls the main cord of the net. Smaller cords radiating out from the main cord are attached to the weighted edges of the net, so that the action of pulling the main cord draws the outer edges of the net together, thus trapping the fish within the net. The captured fish are removed and stored in a bucket for transportation.


Open Ocean Fishing


At the flying fish ground the engine of the boat is turned off and the vessel allowed to drift. Bundles of cane trash, locally known as "screelers" are tied along a length of line at approximately 200-400 metre intervals. As the boat drifts, the line of screelers are released into the sea and allowed to float on the surface. A bait basket containing small pieces of fish (chum) is then hung over the side of the boat. The basket is shaken frequently either by the fishermen or as the boat rides the swells. These actions release small pieces of bait into the water. Both the screelers and chum attract fish to the area. When enough flying fish reach the area a gill net is lowered into the water and is extended as the fishing boat continues to drift. The screelers are slowly pulled in and positioned in the vicinity of the net. When the flying fish circulating around the screeler try to pass through the almost unnoticeable net, they become entangled in the mesh. Usually the fish's head passes through the mesh but the rest of it's body cannot. The frantic swimming action of the fish usually causes the netting to slip under the operculum (the hard protective flap covering the gills) of the fish, thus securely holding the fish. Thus the name gill nets.

Hauling in a gill net with the catch of flying fish

Dip nets may also be used to scoop any flying fish that venture near enough to the boat.

Fisherman displaying
a dip net


Lurk lines

While the boat is drifting at the flying fish grounds, lines with live bait (usually flying fish) are set to catch larger pelagics (for example kingfish, tuna and dolphin). Usually two nylon lurk lines are deployed at the same time to capture the large fish which swim nearer to the surface, while a wire line is used to catch the deeper swimming fish. In addition if dolphins are plentiful several short hand lines are used to catch the fish. The flying fish gill nets are generally hauled in when large pelagics are in the area.

Troll lines

On the way to and from the flying fish grounds, nylon lines baited with flying fish, are trolled (towed) from the back of the fishing boat, in the hope of catching large pelagics. In some cases a wire line is used instead of the nylon line. The trolling lines themselves are attached firmly to the vessel. One end of a piece of string is tied to some point along the line and the other end attached to the cabin house. When a fish is caught, the additional drag on the line causes the string to break signaling the fishermen to haul in the line and catch. The lines are hauled aboard by hand. Trolling may also be used along inshore banks to capture a variety of fish such as coneys (locally known as ning nings).


Long lining is a fishing method which uses a long main line (between 24 to 48 kms) to which 200 to 300 shorter lines (12 to 36 metres long) are attached. A light stick, fishhook and bait are attached to each short line. The longline is kept afloat by buoys placed at regular intervals along the line. The lines are usually set late in the evening and hauled just after sunrise the next morning. .


Typical horizontal longline arrangement.

Illustration by Stephen Willoughby






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