The Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola (which it shares with the Dominican Republic), with Jamaica 180 km to the southwest and Cuba 90 km northwest across the Windward Passage. Haiti was the first modern state governed by people of African descent and the second nation in the Western Hemisphere to achieve independence. It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and one of the most densely populated. It has an estimated unemployment rate of 60% and about 80% of the population live in abject poverty. It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the standard of living of its residents – including fisherfolk – is substantially lower than in the rest of CARICOM.
The island shelf is very narrow at 5,000 sq km, and the fishing methods in use are geared towards reef demersal exploitation. Fishing activities are confined to the narrow, shallow coastal waters which exacerbate the already deteriorating condition of the resources of the nearshore fishery zone impacted by coastal pollution. Deforestation in Haiti is extreme, resulting in soil erosion and the deposit of silt all along the coastal shelf.
The number of fishers, mainly small-scale and artisanal, is estimated to be more than 50,000 as shown in the table 1 in the next page. Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DPAQ) estimates that sixty percent (60%) of these are full-time, while the rest are part-time. Haiti is an open access fishery. In spite of the clear evidence of serious deteriorating condition of the fisheries resources, the number of fishers has been rising phenomenally, due to the high poverty and unemployment conditions in the country, and lack of resources to control fishing effort and enforce fisheries regulations. In consequence, pressure has increasingly been building upon the resources, particularly in the inshore areas, where the majority of the artisanal fishers operate.