A preliminary report by Antigua and Barbuda’s Fisheries Division has calculated the cost of repairing and replacing fishing equipment and facilities damaged by recent hurricanes, in particular Hurricane Irma, at more than USD 300,000 (EUR 255,000).
Hurricane Irma hit the island of Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane between September 5 and 6, causing massive damage.
The report, which was prepared by Senior Fisheries Officer Ian Horsford and made available to SeafoodSource, shows that “the total damage done by Hurricane Irma to the fisheries sector of Antigua and Barbuda was valued at XCD 853,541 (USD 316,000, EUR 269,000), with Barbuda accounting for 51.8 percent XCD 442,134 (USD 164,000, EUR 139,000) of the total damage.”
The report shows that 37 fishing vessels in Barbuda, or nearly 69 percent of the island’s active fishing fleet, sustained damage, including in some instances destruction of their hull or engine, valued at XCD 254,300 (USD 94,000, EUR 80,000).
Some 2,177 fish traps from Antigua and Barbuda combined sustained damage valued at XCD 387,240 (approximately USD 143,000, EUR122,000), and other fishing gear sustained XCD 34,000 (USD 12,600, EUR 10,700) worth of damage.
At the same time, the damage to fisheries facilities in both Antigua and Barbuda was valued at a total of XCD 178,001 (USD 66,000, EUR 56,000).
The damage assessed was defined in terms of partial or total destruction of physical assets, and not in terms of reduced economic flows resulting from the disaster. The report stressed the true cost of repairing and replacing the assets is still not fully known yet, making current damage assessments preliminary and conservative.
The report also highlighted the potential for fallout from the effects of the hurrricanes and the plans to deal with them. One particular concern is the likelihood that the lost fishing equipment will be involved in ghost fishing. The report says that there are plans to introduce in 2018 biodegradable panels for fish traps and mandatory marking for all traps, with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Other concerns include a likely reduced demand for fish from hotels and restaurants due to the impact of the hurricane on the country’s tourism industry. In addition, the main export markets for Antigua and Barbuda’s seafood are the Dutch and French islands of St. Martin, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. The devastation of St. Martin by Hurricane Irma and subsequent flooding of Martinique and Guadeloupe by Hurricane Maria make it likely that demand from those islands will be severely reduced.
On the other hand, the report notes, two of Antigua’s lobster exporters have entered the Hong Kong market, which “may keep the lobster fishery ‘buoyant’ in the short run, particularly in the months leading up to the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (16 February, 2018) – the time when demand for high value seafood increase significantly for the celebration.”
The report pointed to the need to get the fishing industry in Barbuda going again “in order to benefit from this market,” noting that “it is critical that Barbudan fishers be given the necessary technical and financial assistance towards fixing their vessels given that for every 100 households in Barbuda, 84 individuals are financially dependent on fishing.”