Marine Protected Areas should not evict traditional fishing communities

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net

Ever wondered why, despite some fantastic programmes on conservation and scientific inputs, things don’t work on the ground? Here are some insights from a study by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) on the social dimensions of marine conservation, conducted in Central America, and other presentations at a side event today.

The 2012 study on conservation efforts in marine protected areas and its impacts on local fishing communities, in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, showed that “in most cases the cost of conservation fell on the shoulders of local communities, coastal fishermen and indigenous peoples”. The biggest price they had to pay was restricted access to resources and traditional fishing areas, Vivienne Solis Rivera, from Marvin Fonseca Borras, Costa Rica said.

Local fishing communities pay the prize for marine conservation programmes, says study. Credit: Brocken Inaglory.Wikipedia

In most cases, the conservation efforts failed to address local and social needs; excluded local fishing communities who did not see or get any benefit from the process; and there is limited involvement of government and other institutions engaged in conservation efforts, including scientific institutes.Riza Damanik, from the People’s Coalition of Fishery Justice, Indonesia, presented case studies on protected areas conservation in Indonesia, where 92 per cent of fishermen using traditional fishing methods for the local markets.

Since 2006 Indonesia has committed to set aside 20 million hectare waters for conservation by 2020, of which by 2012, 15 million hectares have been identified for marine conservation area.

Damanik presented the case of Sangalaki Island, in east Kalimantan, for feed and nesting for two of Indonesia’s six species of sea turtles,  the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochely imbricata). On 23 September this year, about 50 traditional fishermen of nearby Derawan Island were evicted by two conservation institutions, including an NGO, says Damanik.

South Africa has designated 21 marine protected areas covering 785 kms  (5 per cent) of its 3000-km coastline,. They lie within “in-shore” zones which impact small-scale fishing communities.

Similarly, many coastal communities of South Africa have customary rights, but are excluded from Marine Living Resources Act decisions and stakeholder consultations where  influential conservation lobbies, commercial lobbies and recreational fishing groups tend to dominate, Donovan van der Heyden, from the NGO Coastal Links, said.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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