Caribbean Open Data Scoping Study: Fisheries and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

This scoping study examines the interacting areas of Caribbean fisheries and MPAs from the lens of open data. It identifies the governance linkages that exist between national, regional and global stakeholder agencies and recognizes the associated reporting and compliance requirements as potentially dominant forces in the establishment and maintenance of open data regimes in the sector.
The specific data, on which policy, legislative and managerial decisions relating to fisheries and MPAs are made, are classified into three domains: socio-economic, biophysical and governance, in accordance with the literature. The scoping study identifies several data sets across the three domains that are important to evidence-based decision making; and examines the various dimensions of openness for a sample that are routinely collected in five Caribbean territories: Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It finds that these most widely collected data sets (catch and effort, fishers and vessels, and habitat), are generally stored in some digital form and available at no charge, yet do not generally meet other key criteria for openness. In particular, no raw data are available online or openly licensed; and very little are available in bulk and up to date. Data sets collected on an ad hoc basis by fisheries authorities and other external agents are less open.
The scoping study localizes the World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Assessment Framework, to take account of the very early stages of Caribbean awareness and adoption, and applies it to the examination of various contexts for open data regimes in fisheries and MPAs. Drawing on the findings in the five territories, the study finds an amber general assessment, with jurisdiction-specific nuances. That is to say that there is generally no compelling evidence of readiness for the successful and sustainable implementation of an open data program in the countries under study, based on a sector-specific modification of the World Bank’s Open Data Readiness Assessment which examines senior leadership, policy and legislative framework, institutional structures and data management capabilities, demand for data, civic engagement and capabilities for open data, financing for
open data initiatives and technology/skills infrastructure. The standardized conceptual frameworks on which this scoping study is based, facilitate cross-sector and cross-country comparisons.
Though the study elaborates on a number of cultural and practical matters that present the most pressing challenges to open data adoption in Caribbean fisheries and MPAs, it finds that there is generally no fundamental barrier to open data. It also identifies points of leverage that it deems both necessary and available for the establishment and maintenance of an open data regime in the sector. Of particular note are the multi-level governance framework and unifying instruments such as the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy which commits member states to standards for data sharing and the use of regional databases.
The study recommends a road map which, among other things, prominently features immediate support for existing regional data-centric initiatives; with parallel nurturing of the rich ecosystem of primary agents and intermediaries necessary to create new value products.
  • Kim Mallalieu, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Patrick McConney, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
About the Caribbean Open Institute
The Caribbean Open Institute (COI) is a regional coalition of individuals and organizations that promotes open development approaches to inclusion, participation and innovation within the Caribbean, using open data as a catalyst. COI is part of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) program that brings together a leading network of partners who work to harness the potential of open data initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability as well as facilitate public service delivery and citizen participation.