A common problem in small-scale fisheries is the lack of data to make rules based on science. Rules to manage fisheries to achieve sustainability, but also to ensure the well-being of local communities. How do we know what effects these new “rules” will have on fisher communities that rely on marine resources for income and food security – especially when there are no socio-economic data to tell us? If we could rank communities on a scale of vulnerability, that would allow us to prioritise capacity building and development interventions (increasing the ability of fishers to adapt to new rules) prior to new rules being set. A new publication in Marine Policy tests whether simple landings data collection by community members can provide insight into just this:
The huge success of the ZEPA (exclusive artisanal fishing zone) in the Northern Chocó of Colombia, has garnered significant interest and is now proposed for other parts of the coast. 33 communities in Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast participated in a Bioredd+ project funded by USAID, collecting catch and effort data from fishers. By using indicators of catch species richness, boat and engine size, and gear dependence we used these data to rank communities by vulnerability to a ZEPA type model of management that banned gill nets.
The short answer is that simple fishery stats like these can actually provide very useful information, as fisher livelihoods in certain communities highlighted by our model would be severely affected by the rule system of a ZEPA. However, knowing this ahead of time allows for development interventions in these communities to help them adapt to other types of fishing, or potentially other livelihoods altogether.