DEMA to conduct lobster habitat project

Caribbean Spiny Lobster habitat study to be conducted by DEMA.Lobsters living in and around the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands might be finding new places to live, as the Department for the Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) begins a project to improve the habitat for spiny lobster thanks to a grant from the UK.

The Turks and Caicos Islands Governor's office announced Oct. 24, that DEMA has been successful in securing $65,000 in funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to carry out the project.

According to DEMA, catch numbers for the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) have been in decline in the Turks Caicos Islands over the past five years, and it is believed locally that one cause of this is the reduction in the quality and quantity of lobster habitat. This has suspected to have primarily been caused by damage inflicted by hurricanes Hannah and Ike in 2008. To try and address this, DEMA says it will host a number of workshops with the local fisherfolk community that will teach them how to construct and deploy artificial lobster habitats (‘casitas.’) In addition, a full biological assessment of traditional fishing areas to determine the health and number of existing habitats will be carried out. The project will last for up to a year, with monitoring of the habitat’s progress undertaken for a further three years.

“This project represents an excellent opportunity for us to try and improve spiny lobster habitat in TCI waters,” said Director of DEMA, Kathleen Wood. “Numerous studies have indicated that artificial habitats increase the abundance and biomass of lobsters in areas where habitat is limited, and we are hopeful that we will see such results here. We are grateful to the FCO for funding the work.”

Commenting on the grant of the funding, Governor Peter Beckingham said, “The lobster fishing industry is important to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and I am delighted that the FCO has been able to fund this project. The grant highlights both the commitment of the UK to assisting Turks and Caicos Islands’s local communities and the excellent work of DEMA in their continuing efforts to protect and enhance TCI’s natural environment.”

photo: TCI Governor's Office