Working with communities ‘best for managing fisheries’

Community involvement is the key to success Copyright: Flickr-The WorldFish Center

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[JAKARTA]  Collaborative arrangements among stakeholders — involving in particular local communities — are the best way to manage fisheries, but their success depends on certain social and institutional conditions being met, a study on coral reef fisheries has found.

The study, by the World Conservation Society (WCS) and ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia, is the world’s largest field study of its kind, covering 42 different sites across the Indo-Pacific ocean , including Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania,  and Papua New Guinea.

The team of 17 scientists concluded that co-management was the most successful way of meeting both the livelihood needs of local communities and protecting fish stocks. Far less successful were such approaches as unrestricted access to fish stocks and top-down government control.

"What we are trying to do in the study is to find out what conditions lead to success," said Joshua Cinner, the lead scientist of the study from James Cook University in Queensland, pointing out that these included a number of socioeconomic and institutional conditions.

Cinner explained that success is determined, for example, by the level of local involvement in decision-making process, by clearly defined boundaries, and by graduated sanctions.

It was also influenced by the distance from large markets, which are drivers for overfishing, the level of dependency on the sea for income, and whether people trusted their leaders in managing the resource.

Legislation on setting up beach management units that was passed in 2006 in Kenya was cited as encapsulating a good example of co-management.  "It allows local landing sites to make and enforce their own fisheries rules, such as banning certain [fishing] gear or developing marine protected areas," Cinner told SciDev.Net.

But while co-management is advantageous, Cinner said that more benefits should go to the poor, as the study showed that the main benefits tend to go to the wealthier people in the local community.

"Fisheries co-management should build partnerships with social scientists and civil society to make sure that it gives more beneficial outcomes to the poor," he said.

Faisal Syahputra, a fisheries researcher based in Aceh, Indonesia, agreed that the poor should benefit more from co-management.

"In Aceh, fisheries management often benefits wealthier fishermen. Their voices are likely to be heard by the government and NGOs while the poor fishermen are not. The challenge for co-management is to find a way of involving them," said Faisal.

Link to full article in PNAS