The mangrove-fishery relationship: A local ecological knowledge
Year Published:
Study Number:
114
Country:
Author:

Mauricio Carrasquila-Henao, Natalie Ban, Mario Rueda, Francis Juanes

Abstract:

Mangroves, one of the major coastal ecosystems of tropical and subtropical regions, are critical habitats for fish and crustaceans, and provide a number of ecosystem services to people. While mangrove uses have been widely documented based on local ecological knowledge, seldom has this approach been used to analyse the mangrove-fishery relationship. By conducting semi-structured interviews (n = 82) with fishers in three different villages surrounding the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, the most important lagoon system in the Colombian Caribbean because of its size and productivity, we evaluated fishing activity over time, mangrove use and mangrove-fishery linkage, and fishing and gear spatial distribution. Respondents believed that mangroves are critical habitats for fishery resources because they function as nurseries, food source and reproduction areas, and considered that the resource would be in jeopardy in the absence of mangroves. While fishing is the main activity in mangroves, they are also used for firewood, construction and to make fishing gear, but how fishers use mangroves varies across villages. Fishing is concentrated close to mangroves (< 20 m) and fishers' villages though there was some gear and species-dependent spatial variation across villages. Given that the system is highly degraded and conservation and fishery management plans are urgently required, we suggest combining scientific with local ecological knowledge in the planning and implementation of restoration and conservation plans to increase the chances of such programs being successful.

Main Results and Conclusions:
  • Fishing in the communities always happens close to the nearby mangroves.
    •  “In general, we found that fishing occurs close to mangrove habitats (typically under 20 m) and to their home villages. There is a consensus among fishers that mangroves support their fishing activity. Indeed, many of the species caught in the CGSM are mangrove-dependent and similar species or genera have been reported in other mangrove areas in different geographical settings [32].” (7)
    •  “The fundamental role of mangroves to support fisheries was not in doubt for the fishers interviewed in the CGSM. Though the perception of services that mangroves provide for fish and crustaceans differed by village, all the categories mentioned by fishers have been the subject of scientific research.” (7) 
  • The locals’ intimate knowledge of the fish helps scientists pinpoint when certain aquatic communities start to decline. 
    • “Most respondents considered that catches had declined in 2010 and 2015 relative to 2005. Catch records for the whole system suggest that there has been a general decline in fish catches from 2005 to the present. However, crustacean catches were similar in 2005 and 2010, but have only shown a negative trend since 2012 [38].” (8)
    • “The perception of smaller individual sizes in 2005 relative to 2015 was consistent as respondents from all three villages agreed that size of fish had declined over time” (8)
    • “Fishers' knowledge about the system is remarkable and in many cases concurs with findings based on biological science approaches. As a consequence, LEK combined with biological science may improve ecosystem management and conservation [25,58].” (10)
    • “Fishery resources are decreasing and mangrove mortality has increased while mangrove density has decreased [38]. Given the importance of the lagoon system, the Colombian government has announced important funding to restore the system. “ (10)
  • By using both local knowledge and scientific research we are able to understand more aspects of mangroves and how to better conserve / manage them.
    • “Local ecological knowledge (LEK) can be an important source of information for conservation and management. LEK is the knowledge acquired during people's lifetime at a local scale and can be orally transmitted through generations about the relationship that humans have with the environment.” (1)
    •  “Given that the system is highly degraded and conservation and fishery management plans are urgently required, we suggest combining scientific with local ecological knowledge in the planning and implementation of restoration and conservation plans to increase the chances of such programs being successful.” (1)
    • “LEK is extremely helpful in establishing conservation plans when integrated with scientific data, or on its own where no scientific data exist [23–28].” (2)
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