Traditional fishing ensures the survival of communities all over the world. Striking a balance between commercial use and sustainable coastal protection is vital. To achieve this, fishers are working together with policy-makers and the scientific community. The objective is to preserve coastal areas as a habitat for humans and animals. Targeted monitoring of catch quotas plays an important role.
When Pabola Souza catches a fish, she immediately pulls out her notebook. Not because she is writing in a diary, but rather to help protect fishing grounds in her native Brazil. She keeps a record of her catch. Others do this via an anonymised app, which sends data directly to the conservation authorities. Like Souza, hundreds of other fishers along the coast of north-eastern Brazil feed their data into the system. A local fishery management plan is being developed based on the information gathered. Who is allowed to catch fish in which areas? How many and which type? Local actors are involved in making these decisions.
This monitoring process is part of a project by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), which is being run jointly with the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment and the nature conservation area authority. The goal is to protect marine and coastal biodiversity in Brazil, which has one of the longest coastlines in the world, spanning over 8,500 kilometres.
GIZ has provided support in developing local fishery management plans for three conservation areas. Altogether, roughly 290,000 hectares are protected. This approved sustainable use benefits around 3,900 families in the three areas. Women fishers benefit in particular: six hundred women have teamed up in regional networks and are supported through training in sustainable business practices.
A habitat under threat
Brazil’s coast is home to diverse ecosystems and has unique biodiversity. However, it is not just animals that are drawn to the ocean: around 51 million people, almost a third of Brazil’s population, live by the water. And more than half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is generated in coastal areas. The coast is therefore one of the most endangered parts of the country. Metropolitan areas, ports, large industrial facilities, oil and gas extraction infrastructure, fishing and tourism all pose a danger to sensitive ecosystems.
Protecting these ecosystems without destroying traditional fishers’ livelihoods is a delicate balancing act. Pabola Souza believes that the reason the project works is because it involves local communities: ‘Fishing communities become allies and know that they are being heard. They are not simply presented with decisions that have already been made.’ For them, the sustainable use of coastal resources is also an investment in the future: ‘Together, we are thinking about how to conserve biological diversity so that future generations earn a living from it, too.’
Learning more about the ocean
Monitoring as a key element of coastal protection is something that works in Brazil and all over the globe. In Mozambique and Tanzania, scientific institutions are involved in a similar GIZ initiative, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This initiative is currently strengthening 12 African-German research partnerships and supporting innovative research projects on marine protection. It aims to create a robust basis for political decision-making around nature conservation. Here, too, local communities are essential to cooperation between scientists and policy-makers.
A glance at the figures demonstrates why this is important: around 800 million people around the world are economically dependent, directly or indirectly, on fishing and aquaculture. Small-scale fishing alone employs over 200 million people. To make this huge sector sustainable, GIZ involves economic, environmental and social factors in its work – whether on the coast of Brazil or East Africa.
Last update: December 2022