World Oceans Day 2021: Capt. Keith Carroll

June 3rd, 2021; This interview was conducted via email and edited for clarity.

Since 2018, WildAid Marine has been working alongside The Nature Conservancy, The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, and other Bahamian government agencies to strengthen the capacity of local marine enforcement agencies. To understand the importance of this work, we invite you to join us on a virtual trip to The Bahamas. We’ll meet community members, fishers, and ocean advocates who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods and whose stories highlight the need for strong enforcement and smart marine resource management. In honor of World Oceans Day, please join us in raising critical funds to support the implementation of the Marine Action Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries in The Bahamas.

My name is Capt. Keith Carroll and I currently reside in Coral Harbour, New Providence, The Bahamas. For over 39 years I have been a commercial lobster trapper, but I also target grouper and snapper and other scale fish. 

How did you get started with this work?
I got into fishing from a very young age growing up in Long Island, The Bahamas and learned the trade of fishing with my grand uncle. As a young boy, I couldn’t wait to get out of school and start fishing.  

What do you love most about your job?
I love fishing, and what I enjoy most is the excitement and the thrill of seeing what’s in the trap. I’ve also hired and trained dozens of young men over the years, many of whom have gone on to become captains of my vessels, as well as going on to operate their own boats. 

What is one of the most challenging parts of your job?
The most challenging aspect of lobster trapping is getting the gear out and later retrieving it. It’s not easy lugging more than 2,000 traps for some 160 miles. However, once the traps are set, the lobsters start coming in. It’s almost like picking fruits off a tree you’ve planted.  

Competition from poaching has made it difficult for many years, and hundreds of fishers have had to hang it up as a result. Hurricanes also play a major role in hindering the industry. For example, as a result of Hurricane Irma, I lost 4,000 traps in a couple of days. In recent years, the high cost of fuel and increased competition has made the job even harder. I am one of the few lobster trappers remaining. 

In what ways do your job and livelihood depend on a healthy ocean?
I owe the ocean everything. Everything I’ve made in life has come from the ocean, whether it be putting my kids through private school and university, or paying the bills in general. I have four employees that have been with me for 20 years and everything they own also came from the ocean. A healthy ocean means the larvae of the fish and lobster are protected. There would be no juvenile recruitment and young fish survival if the oceans were not as healthy as they are in The Bahamas.  

What worries you most about the future of our oceans?
I worry about the imbalance in the ecosystem. Poaching is a huge concern, but also the depletion of the Queen Conch. No one is training young fishermen and the industry is under threat by bad actors, inexperienced fishers, and a lack of good labour. I catch the same amount of fish today with 200 fish pots as I once did with 40, and the same number of lobsters with 2,000 traps as I once did with 500.  

What gives you hope for the future of our oceans?
The progress of law enforcement efforts brings me hope. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s uptick in patrols has kept poachers at bay and is helping protect spawned crawfish (lobster). Grouper are recovering. If we protect fish, lobster, and conch while they are spawning, we will have a bright future.