This is a continuation of my May 15 column on my recent mission to Senegal:
I was impressed with the representation of the fishing communities, their involvement with fisheries professionals in developing and implementing area regulations, their commitment to management and their participation in our discussion.
Women who harvest most of the oysters and handle much of the finfish catch were represented and did not hesitate to speak out. At one point, I asked a question which resulted in a spirited debate in Wolof before the group settled on their response!
One of the difficulties of environmental agencies in low-income countries is their dependence on aid funding. This also results in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded in the industrial world being very active and not always coordinated with government actions.
In Senegal, as in other similar countries, the primary goal for areas closed to fishing is to improve the sustainability of fisheries. Other organizations working with local communities may place a higher priority on preserving a pristine area. NGOs with bigger budgets often employ top former government scientists.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) require a long-term commitment for success and need funds to operate that cannot be self-generated from the improved fishery in a short time frame. Ecotourism is usually only a partial replacement. The history in Senegal has seen an NGO start out helping a community with an MPA, but then leave as their funding sources and/or interest lagged.
I asked fishers there when they expect to see recovered fisheries, and the response was that it may take 20 years, but they are doing this for their children. They said they appreciate the work of the NGOs, but it was very clear that they held the government ultimately responsible.
One of the best examples of an integrated approach was an area where the government was very involved and had targeted co-management toward fisheries. The community and the scientists’ efforts were designed to have benefits quite quickly alongside more long-term objectives.
They also were addressing the market side as well and had efforts to train people for alternative employment. This project had World Bank funding, which would not be available after a few years. There is the need to integrate the near-shore managements into a larger area plan.
At the highest levels of Senegalese government, there is a desire for better fisheries management, and local community efforts are encouraged and supported. Our visit was conceived and coordinated by Dr. Mousa Bakhayoko, a distinguished ocean scientist who is now the science advisor to the prime minister. But the biggest issue, the overall total effort, is very difficult to address. The economic conditions are difficult.
Fisheries not only provide employment and local food, but also, the export of high-priced fish to Europe is the largest source of foreign exchange.
Fish caught in Senegal one day are on the tables of the restaurants in Paris the next. Failure to address excessive efforts in fisheries is acute in the U.S. and Europe as well.
As often occurs with “outside reviews,’’ they are most helpful when they strengthen the efforts of local scientists. Hopefully, our recommendations for a ministerial-level coordinating commitment, a network of MPAs and integration of area management into a larger ecosystem framework will be useful.
Brad Brown is the first vice president of the Miami-Dade NAACP. He is also a contractor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he works on African coastal and marine projects.