In eastern Africa alone, more than 30 million people depend directly on small-scale fisheries for their food and livelihoods, with that number set to double by mid-century.
Small-scale fisheries are vital to local coastal communities, particularly in developing countries, making important contributions to livelihoods, food security, nutrition and poverty alleviation.
Despite their rich natural resources, nations in eastern Africa face some of the world’s most pressing developmental challenges with among the highest rates of population growth and lowest rates of per capita income globally.
Ocean protection in the region also lags behind most other parts of the world in terms of marine protected areas (MPAs), and effective management of those that do exist. And, while the need for food and livelihoods grows as local populations boom, so too does demand for the region’s natural resources from an increasingly depleted, wealthy, and hungry world outside.
Harvesting of coastal resources and fisheries by foreign enterprises often occurs at the expense of local subsistence communities. With limited capacity to regulate use and trade, monitor catch and illegal activities, and mitigate negative impacts on marine environments, even greater pressure is placed on small-scale fisheries to deliver for local coastal communities.
In response to such threats, more effective management of fisheries and marine environments is clearly called for.
With almost 2 500 km of coastline, sustainable small-scale fisheries are especially important to coastal communities in Mozambique.
In Cabo Delgado Province in the country’s north, dependence on fisheries for food and income is even greater with the region one of the poorest in Mozambique; itself one of the world’s least developed nations.
Conselhos Comunitarios de Pesca (CCP), or Community Fishers’ Councils, were established as a means of developing co-management of fisheries in Mozambique.
The need for supporting community fishing councils was triggered by a number of factors:
- Trajectory of fish stocks and the recognition that it is not possible for government fisheries authorities to have a presence everywhere
- Need for communities to defend their priority access to their fishing grounds
- Difficulty of resolving local disputes
- Broader policies of decentralising Mozambique’s governance
Such co-management, or participative management of fisheries, involves facilitating greater local community management of small-scale fisheries. It has met with varying degrees of success in different parts of the country.
Dr Isabel da Silva, of Universidad Lúrio in Cabo Delgado, has been at the forefront of researching the social, economic and environmental impacts of co-management and the creation of CCPs in Mozambique.
Her research has shown that the presence of CCPs has led to positive impacts on fish stocks, most noticeably in differences in the size and biomass of fish. In an assessment of CCP areas in northern Mozambique, she found that fish sizes were significantly smaller in fishing areas with no CCPs, slightly bigger in areas with a CCP, and biggest in fishing centres with more efficient management by the CCP.
Such findings are important for demonstrating the value of setting up and managing ‘no-take’ fishing zones to local communities, which in turn helps drive better protection and the establishment of more effective marine protected areas.
Vamizi Island’s CCP
Vamizi Island’s CCP, in the northern Quirimbas Archipelago, is one of the most successful in Mozambique – a shining example to the country’s other fishing councils. It has been instrumental in the set up and management of the Vamizi Community Sanctuary – the first such community-led marine sanctuary declared in the country.
As a further endorsement, the Vamizi Community Sanctuary is soon to be a nationally gazetted marine protected area – the first community sanctuary to achieve this status.
Support for this inspirational CCP has come from a number of quarters including:
- Local fisheries authorities
- Researchers from Universidad Lúrio
- Vamizi Island private concession holders
- Oceans Without Borders
With such support, training and resources, the CCP has been enabled to patrol their community marine sanctuary,
inform fishers of rules and regulations regarding fisheries in the region, and help monitor ecological information
regarding the condition of the Vamizi Marine Sanctuary and surrounding areas.
It is multi-stakeholder partnerships like these that build the resilience, productivity and
sustainability required for these small-scale fisheries.
Such partnerships offer a model for conservation and environmental management whereby communities are not merely benefitted by direct or indirect spin-offs from conservation, but are embedded in the entire process and lead it on their terms.
Paving the way
With continued support, Vamizi’s local Community Fisheries Council has the potential to significantly scale its role as a leading example for CCPs nationwide.
Despite the region and country’s challenges, positive examples such as these illustrate that given the opportunity, resources, training and support, local communities can play important roles not only for themselves, but as effective examples far beyond their shores.