Looking Back at Phase I (part 2)
The second story in our series relates directly to the second objective of Phase I of the Primeiras & Segundas Project: To improve coastal management, thereby increasing marine ecosystem productivity. Rather than focusing on a specific individual who has benefited from the P&S activities, this story shows what is possible when multiple groups of people at various levels – from poor local fishermen to the District government – come together around a single goal. The story was written by Cremildo Armando (see profile at left), edited and translated by Rachel Mason.
Success Story: Marine Sanctuaries in Moma
By Cremildo Armando, P&S Staff
It’s been almost exactly one year since the establishment of two marine sanctuaries in the district of Moma, and the verdict is already in: this initiative has been a tremendous success.
The creation of the sanctuaries, located within the large Moma estuary near the communities of Thapua and Corane, was the direct result of a participatory process involving community members, P&S Project staff, and local government officials. During the Rapid Rural Appraisal conducted at the initiation of the Project, one of the concerns raised by communities was the declining quantity and size of fish near the major fishing centers, due in part to over-fishing and the frequent capture of juvenile fish that had not had a chance to reproduce. The Project proposed establishing sanctuaries, or no-fishing zones, where the fish would be able to grow larger and reproduce freely, leading to spill-over effects that would improve fishermen’s catches outside of the boundaries of the sanctuaries. Several of the communities agreed to give it a try.
Proposed sites for marine sanctuaries were identified by the communities themselves through a participatory process. The P&S technical team then visited these sites together with the community leaders and government officials, and additional community meetings were held to make sure that everyone was on the same page and to work out how the sites would be managed. Then in late February of 2010, buoys were placed to demarcate the boundaries and a ceremony was held to formally present the Thapua and Corane Marine Sanctuaries to the communities. All fishing activities within the boundaries ceased, and volunteer community rangers set up a rotational schedule to make sure the policy was observed, along with the official Community Fishing Council rangers (subsidized by the P&S Project) who also conduct monitoring on the more remote Primeiras and Segundas Islands.
Six months later, technical staff from the P&S Project and the National Institute for Fisheries Investigation visited the sites, along with the sanctuary rangers and leaders from the Moma Fishing Association and the local CCP, or Community Fishing Council, to conduct a monitoring exercise in the zone around the sanctuaries with the aim of assessing the quantity and quality of fish both in and near the sanctuaries. The staff noted a high level of satisfaction on the faces of the fishermen as the sampling was done. The locals already knew what results the exercise would yield: they claimed they’d already observed more fish swimming in the waters around the sanctuaries than they’d seen in the previous ten years.
“Some species, like dolphins, which we haven’t seen around here much since before the war, now they’re coming back,” noted Eurico Abudo Napale, a volunteer ranger and lifelong fisherman. “The dolphins know that there are now more fish in this area, and that’s their primary source of food,” he explained.
Mr. Napale, a resident of Corane, takes his role as community ranger very seriously. In exchange for spending some of his free time monitoring the sanctuaries with the project boat, he and the other volunteer rangers received a pair of three-ply fishing nets to fish in the areas around the sanctuaries. He was more than satisfied with this arrangement, as the net and increased fish from sanctuary spill-over are helping him feed his four children. Providing for his family has also been made easier by his involvement with another component of the P&S Project, the conservation agriculture activities featured in last week’s success story. Like most fishermen in the area, Mr. Napale doesn’t rely exclusively on the bounty of the sea and also maintains a small farm plot. His one hectare of mostly cassava has become more productive since the start of the project activities – a good example of how the integrated approach of the P&S Project can influence people’s lives across different sectors.
Meanwhile, the results of the sampling activity confirmed what the local fishermen already knew: after only six months, there was a significant difference in both the size of fish and the number of species found inside the sanctuaries compared with the sample taken outside the sanctuaries – with more species and bigger fish found within the protected area, of course.
Only one year after the sanctuaries were declared, most of the area’s fishermen are already fully convinced of the benefits. Ussein Daniel, one of the CCP rangers who also patrols the Primeiras and Segundas islands, claims that his shifts in the sanctuaries are the easiest part of the job. “The fishermen here respect the sanctuaries so we never catch anyone fishing here,” he explained, although João Tito Abacar, the secretary of the Moma Fishing Association, pointed out that there have been some cases of people sneaking into the sanctuaries at night, when there is no patrolling. “They know it’s wrong, it’s like stealing fish,” explained Mr. Abacar, “That’s why they only do it at night.” The Project is planning to equip some of the patrol boats with lights so that additional monitoring can take place at night.
The communities are so pleased with the results of the first two sanctuaries that they are already asking for assistance in establishing more. Aliti Atumane, president of the Moma Center CCP, explained that the communities are capable of identifying additional areas to protect without any input from the P&S Project, but they don’t have the money to provide the buoys for the boundaries or the boats for monitoring.
“We all think it’s a good idea, because we’re already seeing the results,” Mr. Atumane said. “For example, there’s a fish that we call ncupucupu [Drepane longimana; concertina fish]. We hadn’t seen it for years, we thought it was gone for good.” He smiled as he delivered the punch line. “Now it’s back!”