DPLUS153 Looks back on a sucessful year in TCI

Dr Edward Butler

The Darwin Plus 153 project, led by the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), in partnership with the TCI Government Departments of Fisheries and Marine Resource Management (DFMRM) and Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) has achieved many milestones in 2023, working towards improving marine and fisheries management in the TCI.
At the forefront of this year’s achievements was the ceremonious opening of the Clifford Leroy Brooks Fisheries and Marine Laboratory, held on the 23rd of May. The laboratory is fitted with cutting-edge equipment for fisheries age-and-growth and reproductive research, while staff have been trained in laboratory use and procedure. Now, and over the coming years, the laboratory will support key fisheries science and research studies on the most important fishery species, which will feed directly into critical stock assessments, providing crucial data for the management of TCI’s fisheries.
The Clifford Leroy Brooks Fisheries and Marine Laboratory was ceremoniously opened by the Acting Governor Her Excellency Anya Williams, Premier Washington Missick, Minister of Tourism, Environment, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Josephine Connolly and the Wife of the late Leroy Brooks (left). Laboratory staff, led by Project Officer Jessly Robinson, demonstrated some of the laboratory’s capabilities (right)
To date, the project has collected biological information from many fishes across the islands and has directed the first-ever assessment of fish growth for four common fishery species in the TCI – lane (pot) snapper, yellowtail snapper, gray snapper and white grunt. While these species have been the initial focus, the laboratory will expand its focus to new species in the new year, including cardinal snapper (Pristipomoides macropthalmus), a poorly understood deep-water foodfish. The laboratory process of ageing fishes involves casting fish ear bones, called otoliths, in fiberglass resin, then cutting wafer thin slices through their core. The resulting otolith section produces annual growth rings, similar to that of a tree trunk. The rings can be counted to provide an age for the fish. Studying the age of fishes allows the DFMRM to understand fish growth, which can be used to better understand the territories precious fishery resources.
Fish ear bones are called otoliths (seen on the left) and can be processed in the laboratory to age fish. The final product (right) can be seen here – a sectioned gray snapper otolith, as seen under the microscope. Note the concentric rings which give away the fish age (5 years for this individual, which was 25 cm in length).
The laboratory also has the resource to study fish reproduction, giving us an understanding of how, where and when important fish spawn throughout the islands. Fish reproductive organs are collected and processed in the laboratory to provide thin sections which can be viewed under the microscope. This gives us an understanding of how productive the fish stocks and resources are.
As the research progresses, the laboratory will develop core skills and research methods that are not only locally important, but critical for promoting improved fisheries and marine management throughout the Caribbean. Along with other research functions focused on emerging threats to the marine environment, including coral disease and sargassum influxes, the laboratory’s vision is to act as a regional center of excellence for fisheries and marine science. It is envisioned that the services and skills which have been developed through the DPLUS 153 project will become available to neighbouring territories and countries, and the lab will drive modern fisheries science regionally.
SAERI’s Dr Ed Butler and TCIG Project Officer Jessly Robinson attended the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference in Nassau Bahamas in November where they shared some of the results of the project with regional scientists, fisheries managers, and fishermen. The conference was a great success and provided an international showcase for the wonderful work happening in the TCI.
The laboratory also has the capability to study fish reproduction. Here (left) you can see fish eggs as seen under the microscope. SAERI’s Dr Ed Butler and Project Officer Jessly Robinson presented the laboratories preliminary findings at the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference in the Bahamas in November
The project is funded by the UK Government through the Darwin Plus Fund

Darwin Plus Project DPLUS 153

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