Coral reefs provide an important source of food and income for coastal and island communities around the world. But more than 55 percent of reefs are threatened by overfishing globally.
Overfishing not only disrupts the delicate ecology of coral reefs, it also negatively impacts the local communities that depend on them. If fishers are unable to catch enough fish, they may struggle to make a living or feed their families.
Small-scale fisher in Micos Lagoon, Honduras.
That’s where bees and chickens come in.
Entrepreneurial “income diversification” projects, like raising egg-laying chickens or keeping honeybees, offer new ways for fishers and their families to earn money. When communities have the skills and resources to generate income in new ways, they don’t need to overfish. The result is a win-win solution, in which people are no longer over-reliant on a single resource, while depleted fish stocks and coral reef ecosystems get the chance to recover and thrive.
As part of our Healthy Fisheries for Reefs initiative, CORAL collaborates with local communities to develop tailored, locally appropriate income diversification projects. Some such examples include our egg-laying chicken project in coastal Honduras and our beekeeping project in Waivunia, Fiji. We help build the capacity of local people to learn skills like how to run an artisan shop or become a tour guide operator — always taking into consideration communities’ preferences and interests and the availability of materials for start-up and maintenance.
Newly-trained beekeepers suit up in Waivunia, Fiji.
One of our greatest success stories comes from the Micos Lagoon on the north coast of Honduras. With its natural beauty and high biodiversity, the lagoon is the ecological, social, and economic heart of Blanca Jeannette Kawas National Park. It serves as a nursery habitat where juvenile reef fish spend their lives before populating Tela Bay’s coral reefs. Unfortunately, water pollution, overfishing, and unsustainable fishing practices (like using fishing nets with illegal mesh sizes) have caused overexploitation of the lagoon. In July 2017, Micos lagoon experienced a number of hypoxic events that devastated the food chain, leaving more than 500 fishers and their families without their usual income.
Shortly thereafter, CORAL began work with the fishing community of Los Cerritos to create an egg-laying hen project. We partnered with a cooperative of 12 women who are either fishers themselves or married to fishers, and gave them a microgrant for the purchase of 120 egg-laying hens. After a year of construction, learning, and trial and error, the hens are now providing an alternative source of protein for the community and helping them adapt to new fishing regulations and changing environmental conditions (e.g. hypoxic events) in the lagoon.
Women from the Los Cerritos women’s co-op proudly handle their new hens.
Income diversification activities like this one not only reduce fishing pressure but also engender goodwill and increase compliance with local fishing regulations. Together with scientific monitoring, enforcement patrols, sustainable policies, and education, they are a highly valuable conservation strategy for people and reefs.