Fishermen as Stewards of Marine Biodiversity

After thousands of years of maritime culture, generations of fishermen build up a vast and unique cultural knowledge that could be invaluable to science and sustainability. If we don’t take action to value and preserve this knowledge, it could be lost forever.

To help conserve biodiversity in our fishing sector, we believe it’s important to empower fishermen with positive leadership skills and strategies for ocean conservation. With the support of Fundación Biodiversidad and the EU Fisheries Fund, we set up a pioneering program, called the Fishermen Stewards, as a direct collaboration between Alnitak and selected tuna vessels in the Mediterranean.

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In this project, we conduct our research on sea turtles, cetaceans, tunas and sharks with the collaboration of fishing fleets. Fishing vessels turn into research platforms, as we exchange of academic and practical perspectives during our experiments at sea. When in port, we hold periodic workshops to discuss the results of scientific studies and strategies to tackle the challenges of conservation. Here we exchange information and perspectives with the fishing community. We:

·       Provide training workshops in conservation and sustainable techniques

·       Carry out trials at sea to develop and implement more efficient fishing techniques

·       Use tracking techniques to study cetaceans, sea turtles, sharks and improve the sustainability of industrial tuna fishing

·       Communicate with and lobby government bodies to eradicate illegal and unregulated fishing activities

·       Identify opportunities to work alongside coastal communities

·       Develop innovative technological measures to research and monitor keystone habitats and species

 
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Supporting Responsible Fisheries

Fisheries generally get bad press. We hear about over-exploitation of fish stocks, illegal fishing, destruction of seafloors, bycatch of protected species and tons of specimens thrown over the side of fishing vessels. Many of these threats are easy to document and can be captured in disturbing images. Fishermen can be portrayed unfairly in this story and we’d like to put this image into perspective. The fishermen often have to deal with dangers beyond their control, such as the pollution of marine ecosystems via toxic substances, hydrocarbons, plastic or noise pollution. These are threats that are not so visual, yet can often have a much greater impact on our ecosystems.  

As a conservation organisation, we want to focus on the fishermen who are doing their job in a responsible manner, paying their tax, ensuring adequate working conditions and taking the effort to collaborate with researchers and policy makers to work on solutions. These are the people who will create an efficient and sustainable practice so they need to be supported and encouraged.  More than any other sector, fisheries are directly dependant on healthy and productive coastal and marine ecosystems. Fishermen play a significant role in collecting essential in situ scientific data, removing floating debris or oil pollution and even ensuring the surveillance of reserves in remote areas. Through our training program we hope to make responsible fishing more competitive than illegal or irresponsible fishing. The immediate benefit of this to coastal communities is food security, but the advantages go way beyond that.

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Coastal community resilience

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Around the world, coastal communities are struggling to survive under the pressures of climate change, overexploitation and pollution. The increase in food demand can drive the growth of often clumsy and unsafe fishing operations that have a negative impact on people and coastal habitats. Anchoring on reefs, entanglement and loss of fishing nets, pollution, dynamite fishing, etc. are common practices that can jeopardize the potential key ecosystems in these communities.

 

In seven selected pilot projects and Marine Protected Areas around the planet, we developed our Fishermen Stewards program, building a bridge between fishing fleets and coastal communities. Here communities partake in the sustainable management of key habitats, such as mangroves, beaches, sea grass prairies and reefs. We work top-down to establish the adequate legal framework, as well as bottom up, actively involving citizens and stakeholders. The aim is to provide resilience and food security.

 

Our successful formula has expanded and been taken up by several fishing communities and organisations.

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PARTNERS

USFWS  – MAPAMA – CEPESCA