Community-led marine sanctuary

Vamizi Island’s Community Fishers’ Council sets transformational precedent

Dr Mark Ziembicki

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.

Mozambique’s response

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.

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.



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