Small-scale artisanal fisheries are an important source of income, food, employment, and as a potential route to poverty alleviation. In recent years it has become apparent, however, that small-scale fisheries can have a significant impact on marine ecosystems with evidence of declining catches, increased bycatch (of marine turtles, cetaceans and sharks) and struggling coastal communities pointing to the synergistic challenges of overexploitation and lack of management.
Despite their size and importance though, the importance of small-scale fisheries to local communities are often under studied. In particular, efforts to characterise the economics, and identify the spatial distribution and pressures associated with this growing sector are often hindered by: (1) a lack of resources directed towards data collection; (2) the distant and dispersed nature of fisheries (e.g. remote landing sites); (3) stakeholder engagement and support; and, (4) a scarcity of fine-scale spatial data. Consequently, this paucity of information, together with the complex socio-economic conditions of communities involved in this sector can often result in their marginalisation from decision-making processes resulting in increased conflict.
In addition, growing concern over the status of the marine environment and the need for greater marine protection, are likely to further exacerbate problems as Governments try to balance socio-economic and political interests with the need to improve the status of the marine environment by excluding activities from certain areas. This is likely to be of particular concern in the Republic of Congo where small-scale fisheries account for 46% of animal protein and employs an estimated 2,335 people.
Therefore, this study in collaboration with staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development(MEFDD) seeks to fill key knowledge gaps and develop a more detailed understanding of small-scale artisanal fisheries sector in the Republic of Congo through: (1) community workshops; (2) social assessments; (3) participatory mapping; and (4) the deployment of GPS trackers at landing sites, with a specific focus inside Conkouati-Douli National Park where small-scale fisheries are an important source of income and food to local communities. This will ensure that the needs of these stakeholders who are among the poorest in the region are incorporated into future park management plans and future marine spatial planning exercises.
Please click here for some recent photos of our work with artisanal fishermen inside Conkouati-Douli National Park.