Turning the Tide for Coastal Fisheries

Entry Overview

Fishing for the Future
Intercultural Center for the Studies of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO)
83550 Puerto Peñasco
31° 19' 32.7396" N, 113° 31' 46.9056" W
Describe the problem: 

In the nine communities where the project occurs, fishing is the economic mainstay. Poor fisheries management has led to overharvest and near extinction of by-catch species such as vaquita. CEDO works with 2000 fishers to reverse this trend (monitoring, impact assessments, education, management plans, etc). CEDO also involves local school children and other community members in working with fishermen to find sustainable solutions for their fisheries through an annual environmental contest. In 2011 the contest expanded to nine towns with the theme “Fishing for the Future.” Students do campaigns to share their learning with the community. Participants develop a project and CEDO supports the winners to implement it.

Biodiversity Impact: 
By involving students, teachers, businesses and families with fishermen, we are creating community support that encourages fishers to implement good fishing practices. Lack of regulation and enforcement makes it easy to continue old habits despite the obvious negative impact. By working with fishermen to improve their fisheries - and making it visible to the community - we help create a community ethic for responsible fishing. For example, CEDO has worked with government researchers to obtain permits, monitor beds, and establish a quota for a winged oyster fishery offshore of Desemboque. As part of the 2011 “Fishing for the Future” contest 22 students from the local middle school interviewed 145 fishermen that harvest this species, with the goal of producing a brochure defining good practices for this fishery. When the monitoring program showed the onset of reproduction, both cooperatives adopted a voluntary closed season. We also took the contest to the other communities of the Upper Biosphere Reserve, where the management processes are more structured. The fishers of the Reserve’s three towns must participate in development of and compliance with an environmental impact study in order to fish there. CEDO is developing this study, engaging fishermen to monitor their fisheries, document bycatch, and propose ways to reduce impacts on fisheries and on the endangered vaquita porpoise. In the spring of 2011 the “Fishing for the Future” contest was promoted in these communities initiating a community-wide process for reducing impacts.
Human Well Being and Livelihood Impact: 
By integrating this contest to support CEDOs existing sustainable fisheries program, we are able to fortify ongoing processes with over 2000 fishermen in 9 communities. These processes are aimed at creating a functional fisheries system with meaningful participation for developing regulations and compliance. The traditional fisheries systems have been dysfunctional, resulting in degradation of the resources & the social fabric that depends on them. There are few legitimate alternatives for communities. By creating sustainable fisheries for the future & creating a system that is framed by education, training, dignity & respect from their community, this program contributes to the overall well-being of the Upper Gulf’s coastal communities. The contest works with school children & is promoted at all school levels. At Puerto Peñasco in the last 6 years of the contest, an average of 353 students have participated directly each year. In 2011 we had 14 teams participate from 5 communities. Students were required to interview at least 3 fishermen, but in at least one case we know that 145 fishermen were interviewed. Fishermen participating in these interviews & whose children are part of the contest will be most directly impacted by the project, but we expect the solutions & campaigns developed by students to have community wide impact. We estimate this contest will directly impact 500 students, 500 fishermen, & indirectly impact another 1500 fishermen & 2000 community members each year, for a total impact on about 4500 people per year minimum. // The project is inherently about creating local governance and social cohesion in local communities by engaging all members of the community in support of good practices identified and adopted by local fishermen. By engaging school children, their parents become involved, many whom are fishermen. Through positive PR around activities carried out by children, we create a positive incentive system to drive a system of self-monitoring and compliance.
How many years has your solution been applied? 17 years // Have others reproduced your solution elsewhere? No // We generally announce the contest at the beginning of the year by promoting it on local radio and by giving talks in local schools about the importance, benefits and problems associated with fisheries, and encourage their participation in the contest. Teams must sign up to participate in the contest by a specific deadline. We meet with these teams to conduct a training session, which gives them more details on the problems associated with local fisheries and how they can help. During this session we also explain to them the rules of the contest and give them written documents with the same information. We track the progress of the teams and promote their work on the local radio stations, in newspapers and via the internet. The teams are required to do a final report that is submitted to a panel of judges. In 2011 we had local fishermen and fisheries authorities participating as judges. An awards ceremony is held in June in association with World Environment Day. The winning teams are invited to the CEDO field station for an overnight trip and to participate in field trips to the region’s natural protected areas. During this time we work with teams to outline next steps for following through with their projects over the next six months.
CEDO works with about 1500 fishermen in the Upper Gulf Biosphere Reserve to produce an environmental impact study for small scale fisheries. Impact studies are required by law in Mexico for productive activities within protected areas. This law was enforced in 2009 with small scale fishers to address the impacts on the endangered and endemic vaquita porpoise, and other species such as the endemic fish, totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi). This requirement of fishers is unprecedented. Traditional activities such as fishing do not require impact assessments in most countries. The fact that fishermen have approached an environmental organization, CEDO, to help them develop the study, highlights their interest in developing a functional fisheries system that minimizes impacts to the environment. CEDO has committed to a participatory process that involves fishers at all levels. Fishermen are required to monitor their fisheries; CEDO is training fishermen and looking for incentives to improve the accuracy and compliance with all regulations. Fishermen participate in workshops to analyze their fisheries, impacts and propose solutions. Spatial temporal management and alternative fisheries and technologies are required to reduce threats to vaquita. We expect these programs to be fortified as students, families and other members of the community engage in parallel activities to discuss and find ways to reduce impacts on biodiversity through the environmental contest. We will unleash the creativity and support of whole communities to save the vaquita and reduce other impacts. // Nine coastal communities are invited to participate in this contest, some of them are within the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve (San Felipe at Baja California, El Golfo de Santa Clara and Puerto Pe?ñasco, Sonora) with a surface of 934,756.25ha. The rest of the communities involved are part of the biological corridor from Puerto Pe?ñasco-Puerto Lobos at Sonora (Ejido Campod??nico, Ejido Oribe de Alba, Ejido XV de Septiembre, Ejido ?lvaro Obreg??n, Desemboque and Puerto Lobos) with a surface of 57,823.38 ha. In total we are covering an area of around 992,579.63 ha or approximately 400, 000 acres or 625 square miles.

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