The two pilot projects of our Community Fisheries Program have completed the first phase with some very interesting results.
In Mexico, the Puerto Morelos Fishing Cooperative, has completed two full monitoring exercises. With the assistance of the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) the Cooperative has developed the baseline of the reef’s status, and will now be able to measure long-term changes and restoration processes through a monitoring plan, inside and outside of the designated community marine reserves.
In Honduras, the three fishing communities of the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge have organized themselves to create a new association called Asociación de Pescadores La Rosita, Cuero y Salado (APROCUS) that will represent them. They have developed a draft agreement between the association and the refuge administration for the co-management of a fishing territory, which will include no-take zones.
This agreement will allow APROCUS to design and develop the management plan for the fishing territory and to monitor the no-take zones jointly with the Cuero y Salado Foundation (FUCSA), which is the refuge administrator.
We have started the next phase of these two project thanks to all of your support. We look forward to begining with the Guatemalan project in the San Francisco fishing community within th Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge.
In México, the Puerto Morelos Fishing Cooperative, with the technical assistance of the NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), has completed their second monitoring phase in the 13 strategic sites in the reef and now they will compare these results with the results from the first monitoring phase.
This will give them the elements to establish the base line on the reef’s health, and will help them to decide if they need to select and establish more “no take zones” within the protected area or not.
In the Wildlife Refuge of Cuero y Salado project in Honduras, a single association that integrates the three fishing communities of the Refuge has been established. The Association has started to negotiate with the Forestry Conservation Institute (ICF) the co-management of fishing grounds within the Refuge. They are working on a draft agreement with the conditions of the co-management arrangement.
As we mentioned in one of our previous updates, there have been other groups of fishermen that are interested in establishing co-management mechanisms and no take zones in their countries. We are trying to raise funds to support the community of San Francisco del Mar, in Izabal, Guatemala. We are sure that more fishing groups will join the community marine reserve initiative.
We are very excited and counting on this GlobalGiving Christmas Challenge to raise the needed funds (US$ 14,927.00) to start with the Guatemalan project and then move forward to other initiatives in the MAR reef region.
The Mesoamerican reef presents not only a great deal of biodiversity but also a lifeline of fish stock to villagers along its 1,000 km stretch of coastline. The GlobalGiving-sponsored MAR Fund has been very busy over the last 5 years helping community development organizations in Mexico, Belize, and Honduras participate in the management of these fish populations, but it is now looking to the slither of Guatemalan coastline around the Caribbean town of Livingston to do the same.
This summer, I traveled to Livingston and one of these Guatemalan fishing communities, San Juan, with MAR Fund’s technical coordinator, Claudio Gonzalez. The second I stepped foot on Livingston’s dock, I found myself thrown into an animated debate between trawling boat captains and traditional artesanales fisherman about the future of the waters off their coast. When I think back on all the conversations I had there, I realize just how complicated this debate has become and how vital MAR Fund’s assistance is in its efforts to establish fishing reserves before it’s too late for everyone.
We stumbled upon one such conversation the night before the boat ride out to San Juan as we ran into Claudio’s old friend on one of Livingston’s streets on the way to dinner. The man was very outgoing, and after noticing his Real Madrid hat, I decided that I really liked him from the get-go. Then I found out that he was one of the trawling boat captains whose fishing nets scrape up pieces of reef and wildlife from the waters destroying this beautiful aquatic ecosystem. Trying to put those feelings aside, however, I saw his genuine happiness when explaining that the community had improved so much since he last saw Claudio. I began to feel his frustrations when he complained that he could not support his family because his fishing nets were ripped up by wooden sticks placed in the water by artesanales to mark off fishing zones. When his employers pay his wages conditionally on the fulfillment of strong daily quotas, these nets are really his only choice. And, when this region of Guatemala lacks the credit and banking systems needed to provide loans for him to purchase his own boat, these employers are also his only choice.
The next day, Claudio and I met members of the local community development organization, FUNDAECO, that MAR Fund hopes to work with in the coming years. Their leader, Cleopatra, took us to the fishing community of San Juan to introduce us to some of the artesanales fisherman that she has been working with recently. When asked about conditions in their waters, the community leader, Norberto, claimed that 25 years ago when he arrived there were plenty of fish, but now there are none. He also claimed that, because the trawling boats only come out in the cover of night when monitoring is impossible, they have been able cross over into his territory without consequence. But when asked what he thinks the solution could be, his statement that “all we are asking for is for them to leave the whole bay to us” demonstrates that the MAR Fund needs to be there to help reign in expectations on both sides.
As I thought about possible solutions to this apparent trade-off between social values and economic progress, the economics major in me bounced around ideas that the artesanales should try to move on to another more viable trade. There was even some evidence that they have been trying to do so. But, then on the way back to our boat, I asked some of the villagers more or less my own age what they did in their free time when they weren’t fishing, and after ten seconds of awkward pause, they said “fishing”. I realized that fishing is not just an income for them but a way of life.
When I was speaking with these trawling and artesanales fisherman face to face, I could see very clearly just how essential MAR Fund’s technical and best practices assistance will be for FUNDAECO and the entire community in the coming years. Most donors will never be able to visit this wonderful community, but GlobalGiving hopes to connect you directly to projects like this around the world in unique ways so that you can see the impact your donations are making on communities in need.
After all the necessary paperwork with the project developers in the protected areas in both Mexico and Honduras, our two community marine reserve pilot projects have finally kicked off.
In Puerto Morelos, México, the Fishing Cooperative, has started the reef monitoring with the assessment of the National Park Administration and the NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI).
So far, the Cooperative has completed one full monitoring phase that had the following methodology: they selected 13 strategic monitoring sites within the protected area. In these monitoring sites they set up transects to measure the following indicators: number of fish and fish species, number of reefs and reefs species, number of invertebrates and invertebrates species, type of sediments, and bottom structure.
They organized themselves in working teams, so that they all got to monitor every indicator in each phase at least twice. This will allow them to develop their monitoring skills and learn more about the ecosystem they fish.
After concluding this first monitoring phase and analyzing the results of the existent biodiversity and reef health, the fishermen have selected two potential “no take zones” within the protected area.
The three communities within the Wildlife Refuge of Cuero y Salado project in Honduras, will initiate with their activities soon, with the administrative support of the Cayos Cochinos Foundation.
We are very excited about the results that these two projects will obtain for their fishing communities and the coastal and marine protected areas, as well as for the conservation and sustainable use of their fisheries resources. We are sure that more fishing groups will join the community marine reserve initiative motivated by these first two.
We are still working on the assessment of establishing fisheries co-management mechanisms and no take zones with other groups of fishermen that are very interested in these initiatives and that have been identified in the other two countries of the Mesoamerican reef. The funding that is being raised through Global Giving and other donors will go to supporting these fishermen's projects.
After three successful workshops, where expectations were exceeded in almost every way, the results started showing almost immediately.
In Puerto Morelos, México, the Fishing Cooperative, has been working with the National Park Administration designating no take zones. This will be one of the two community marine reserve pilot projects that the MAR Fund will develop this year, thanks to your generous support and that of AVINA Foundation.
In addition, three fishing communities sharing the same fishing grounds in a coastal-marine protected area of Honduras will initiate work towards establishing a community marine reserve. The marine protected area is the Wildlife Refuge of Cuero y Salado, and the communities located there are: Salado Barra, Boca Cerrada and La Rosita. The first two of these are located inside the marine protected area and the last one is outside the refuge boundaries.
We are very excited about the awareness that the first three workshops generated in fishing communities and the coastal and marine protected areas, and we are sure that more fishing groups will join the community marine reserve initiative. The funding that is being raised through Global Giving and other donors will go to supporting these two and other fishermen's projects in the four countries of the Mesoamerican Reef.
The last workshop took place in Punta Gorda, Belize, on august 25-27, 2008. Thirty-one people participated in this workshop; five groups of fishermen were represented. These were Placencia, Punta Gorda, Riversdale, Monkey River and Hopkins.
Other participants included the Environmental Defense Fund, the Fisheries Department, and several NGO’s.
The methodology was the same as in the first three workshops, and the fishermen were also very interested in participating in this type of co-management mechanism.
We look forward to supporting other groups of fishermen in the process of establishing fisheries co-management mechanisms and no take zones and to keep you posted on our advances.
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