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Caribbean Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Snapshot

October 11, 2017

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands saltwater recreational fisheries fact sheet highlighting recent regional trends, economic impacts, fishing opportunities, and issues of interest.

Saltwater Recreational Fisheries in the U.S. Caribbean

Thriving recreational and subsistence fisheries are integral to life in island communities across the Caribbean. Recreational fishing makes important economic contributions
through tourism and major international fishing tournaments. Subsistence fishing provides a healthy source of seafood and preserve intergenerational and traditional practices that reflect the unique and diverse cultures of the Caribbean region. With many species of fish available any time of year, many opportunities await saltwater anglers in the Caribbean.

While some species like red hind (mero cabrilla), mutton snapper (sama), and black grouper (mero negro) have specific seasons, many others like mackerels (sierra), dolphin (dorado), wahoo, mangrove (pargo prieto), and yellowtail snapper (colirrubia) can be caught year-round. NOAA Fisheries partners and collaborates with the Caribbean Fishery Management Council and the natural resource agencies of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to manage fisheries in the federal waters of the U.S. Caribbean.

In 2015:

156,864 anglers took approximately 667,600 fishing trips in Puerto Rico. 92% of those anglers were coastal county residents and the remaining 8% were visitors.

Primary Target Species in Puerto Rico

While the majority of recreational trips in 2015 reported not targeting any particular species, the popular species shown here were the primary targets of anglers in nearly a quarter (23%) of all recreational fishing trips. Of the targeted trips, the species breakdown is as follows:

US caribbean fact sheet fish caught pie chart.  Dolphinfish 34% Tuna 20% Blue marlin 12% Atlantic tarpon 9% Jack crevalle 7% Yellowtail snapper 7% Blue runner 6% Barracudas 3% Other snapper 1% Lane snapper 1% Groupers and hinds <1%
Source: Marine Recreational Information Program


Popular Recreational Species in Puerto Rico

US caribbean fact sheet fish harvested and released information.JPG
Source: Marine Recreational Information Program
Puerto Rico territorial waters extend from 0-9 miles offshore. Recreational catch data (excluding tournament harvest) are not available in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
*All blue marlin were reported as released alive.


Economic Impacts in the U.S. Caribbean

Species Spotlight

Fishing for blue marlin is one of the most desired and rewarding angling opportunities in the world.

This large billfish, which can grow to more than 14 feet and 1,700 pounds, is found in tropical and warm oceans around the world. It is cemented in history as the worthy adversary in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. In the Caribbean, blue marlin is one of the most coveted offshore species and the main target in many big game tournaments. Pound for pound, blue marlin is one of the strongest and most challenging fish to catch, requiring some unique and innovative techniques. Anglers use lures, trolled baits, and live baits, some of which can be up to two feet long and weigh more than 20 pounds.

Most blue marlin are released and many are tagged by recreational anglers to help research organizations understand this truly pelagic species. From this research we’ve learned that female blue marlin are much larger than males and live to be more than 30 years old.

Through tagging projects and other research collaborations, recreational anglers are working hard to protect, preserve, and understand this magnificent fish.



US caribbean fact sheet fish tournament information.JPG
Source: Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Tournament Database


Diving Deeper

Fisheries management is contingent upon the best available data. While there are some ongoing saltwater recreational fishery data collection efforts in the Caribbean, managers often encounter challenges regarding data coverage and continuity. In an effort to improve fishing data collection in this region, NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program and regional partners are finalizing the Caribbean Regional Implementation Plan. The plan identifies a series of goals, including fully describing regional needs for recreational fishing data, establishing a baseline assessment of current data collection programs, and developing a prioritized approach for implementing improved methods that address national and regional needs. Together with the Council, territories, and U.S.- affiliated islands, NOAA Fisheries is committed to meeting the data needs that can promote sustainable and enduring participation in saltwater recreational fisheries for generations to come.

Learn More

In the Caribbean, NOAA Fisheries works closely with the Caribbean Fishery Management Council and government entities from the territories and U.S.-affiliated islands across the region. For more information visit the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Region website.

Sean Meehan: Southeast, Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Caribbean Recreational Fisheries Coordinator,, (727) 824-5330

Kim Amendola: Southeast Recreational Fishing and Communications Specialist,, (727) 551-5707

Ken Brennan: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Recreational Fisheries Coordinator,, (252) 728-8618



Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on 05/11/2021