“Empowerment of Off-Lagoon Fishers of Rodrigues”
“Empowerment of Off-Lagoon Fishers of Rodrigues”
Project Summary
Rodrigues is an autonomous Island of the Republic of Mauritius consisting of a traditionally peripheral economy that depends enormously on natural resources such as marine resources and fisheries, forestry, and agriculture among others. The island is one of the Mascarene Islands situated in the Indian Ocean, a region globally recognized as a biodiversity hotspot. With its 108km2 land mass, the island hosts about 40,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by a shallow lagoon three times the land mass and supporting several types of fisheries. For several decades, more and more people have embarked in fishing activities resulting in severe declines in the amount of invertebrates and fin-fish landed thus causing degradation of the lagoon habitats (source: FRTU and Shoals Rodrigues). Recognition by the government and the local fishing communities of the need for improving the management of marine resources in the lagoon of Rodrigues has resulted in the establishment of the Marine Protected Area in the south east of the lagoon in (UNDP/GEF/RRA 2005) and in 2007 four Marine Reserves were identified by the local fishing community in the north of Rodrigues under an SGP project and legally gazetted by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA). Under the support of the GEF SGP, ReCoMap and RRA, a group of local stakeholders has developed a joint management plan for the four northern Marine Reserves.

The lagoon of Rodrigues supports various socio-economically and culturally important fishing activities such as seine net fishing, basket-trap fishing, line fishing, and octopus fishing (source: FRTU). The increasing demands for seafood due to increase population, growing tourism industry, and coupled with the lack of alternative livelihoods in Rodrigues Island are major reasons why more and more people venture in the lagoon to gain a living. However, the unsustainable fishing practices are unfortunately imposing more pressure on the lagoon marine ecosystem and fisheries. The Rodrigues octopus fishery that supports 1260 registered and non-registered fishers is a very typical example of an unsustainable practice that has required the government to take necessary management actions in order to ensure sustainability of the octopus fishing activities. In recent years, Rodrigues has witnessed drastic declines in octopus catch; ranging from 774 Tons 1994 to 244 Tons in 2008 which has serious socio-economic consequences (Sauer et al. 2011).

This decline can be explained by i.) an excessive number of fishers that venture into the lagoon, ii.) overexploitation and landing of juveniles and, iii.) habitat destruction. A first attempt to rehabilitate the octopus stock was initiated in 2012 by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. The octopus fishery closure Initiative of 2012 was supported by the Indian Ocean Commission, GEF SGP under a strategic project funding window and was implemented in close collaboration with local partners. An octopus catch of 294 Tons of octopus was landed during the first 48 days of fishing activities. That is equivalent to the mean annual production of the last six years (288 ton/ year). This strongly suggests that the octopus closure is a crucial octopus fishery management measure. An octopus catch of 570.66 Tons was consequently recorded for the year. However, a 5 Tons drop was recorded for octopus catch following the octopus closed season of 2013 (official data from FRTU/EPMU).

During the consultation phase and the 2013 Octopus Fishery Symposium, fishers revealed low catches in certain areas, and these areas tend to have narrow lagoons where octopus can quickly and easily be depleted leading to low landings on reopening day. In this respect the 5 Tons drop might partly be attributed to poaching during the octopus closed season of 2013. During the symposium, the participating fishers pointed certain off-lagoon fishers as the ones poaching during the seasonal closure of octopus fishery. These conflicts unfortunately might cause octopus fishers to lose faith in the annual octopus closure initiative and they can start to illegally fish during closure. However, it is clear that empowering fishers to fish off-lagoon couple with improved surveillance during closure season could contribute in reducing poaching attributed to off-lagoon fishers.

The primary objective of the proposed project is to support the improved long-term management of lagoon and off-lagoon fisheries of Rodrigues by encouraging the use of geographical positioning devices (GPS) as an aiding tool to enhance navigation safety off-lagoon; and ease access to fishing ground, fishing banks and 21 established Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) around Rodrigues Island (see Annex C). A strategic way to address the issue of increased pressure on lagoon fisheries including octopus fisheries is by encouraging and supporting off-lagoon fishing activities in Rodrigues (SIDPR). The proposed project intends to support the various efforts initiated by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly such as i., the restoration of beacon lights, ii., training on safety at sea and distribution of fishing kits consisting of life jacket, first aids kits among others, ii., encouraging and supporting the creation of five off-lagoon fishing co-operatives, iv., training on off-lagoon fishing techniques and introduction to new and more efficient fishing gears in view of promoting a sustainable and economically viable off-lagoon fisheries, and v., recent RRA policy initiative for removing tax on fuel for registered off-lagoon fishers. The proposed project therefore intends to contribute in the development of sustainable off-lagoon fisheries in Rodrigues through empowerment and continuous training of off-lagoon fishers.

For many decades GPS technologies have become a crucial tool for fishing operations (O`Regan 1996, Valdez-Pizzini et al. 1997, FAO 2005). GPS technology makes fishing operations much rewarding by ensuring more accuracy within a few meters rather than “line sight”. Nowadays, there are a range of increasingly affordable GPS technologies that can be used as navigational aids and satellite-enabled communication systems to mark fishing spots for easy return, saving fuel and time. In fishing operations, GPS technologies can become rewarding by coupling its use with sonar and echo sounders that can be used for locating specific shoals of fish. In addition, the project shall also strategically attempt to resolve existing conflicts between lagoon and off-lagoon fishers especially on access to lagoon fisheries and marine resources such as octopus fisheries. During the last three octopus fishery closures (2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively), the results achieved have proved the relevance and success of the RRA octopus closure initiative. However, the closure contains important gap such as poaching by off-lagoon fishers reported by the FRTU and under the community-based participatory surveillance 2014 (Ter-Mer Rodriguez Association 2014). Face to face interview of off-lagoon fishers of the east and north east of Rodrigues island and a consultation exercise regarding the current project with a group of 40 off-lagoon fishers on the 5th of January at Pointe Monier in collaboration with the FRTU has emphasized on means for improving off-lagoon fishing activities. During the consultation meeting, the fishers have strongly stressed on the necessity for equipping off-lagoon fishing boats with i.) GPS for navigation safety and easing access to off-lagoon fisheries, ii.) Fish Finder to easily localize shoals of fish, iii.) more effective fishing gears such as circle hooks for better catch, and iv.) safety and medical kits.

Rodrigues Island currently consists of about 300 off-lagoon fishing boats averaging 24ft and 22ft long for about 650 registered off-lagoon fishers (source: FRTU). An average of 3 fishers fish per 24ft long boat that in majority run with sails, engine, and/or both. Through numerous fishing campaigns and outings conducted by the FRTU, the most productive fishing grounds and established FADs were found to be at distances averaging 7 nautical miles (about 2.5 hours by using outboard motors/engine) at depth averaging 100-250 meters. However, information obtained from consultations made with off-lagoon fishers reveal that most off-lagoon fishers using 24ft long fishing boat reach their fishing ground by sails and spare their fuel and outboard motors for taking their catch back to land. The positioning of most of Rodrigues off-lagoon fishing ground at remote distance away from the back reef demand (i) assisted navigation with help of tools such as GPS to ensure exact localization of established fishing ground and FADs; but also equally important (ii.) safety navigation into channels and passes especially at night to complement the use of established beacon lights around the island.

The project therefore intends to make provisions to equip and train three hundred registered off-lagoon fishers to Geographical Positioning Devices to ease access and moving through passes and channel especially at night. In addition, the Geographical Positioning Devices will allow the off-lagoon fishers to access valuable off-lagoon resources at various geo-positioned fishing sites, banks, and FADs. In view of ensuring transparent selection of the target beneficiary fishers, selection shall be made in close collaboration with the Commission for Fisheries. The selection therefore shall be made based on number of existing registered off-lagoon boats in Rodrigues to avoid discrimination among the 650 registered off-lagoon fishers (source: FRTU).

As a matter of fact the majority of the off-lagoon fishing boats in Rodrigues Island are registered in the name of people employed by the public sector or private sector that give access to their boat to one or a group of fishers to perform off-lagoon fishing activities. This particular circumstance demand that accustom selection mode be established so that the GPS provided do not become the property of a boat owner employed by the public or private sector instead of the occupying fishers themselves. The materials shall therefore be distributed to representative of registered fishers fishing on the respective registered boats and/or registered fishers owner of an off-lagoon fishing boat. The acquisition of the equipment by the fishers and training on use of GPS coupled with a continuous training programme by the Fisheries Research and Training Unit and Ter-Mer Rodriguez shall therefore contribute to empower off-lagoon fishers, increase their catch and income; and in the long-term, a reduction in overfishing in the lagoon and thus the pressure on socio-economically important fisheries such as the octopus fishery.

GPS technology has gradually gained importance in the mapping of fishing ground and consequently easing access to fisheries resources especially for deep sea fishing practices. Also, GPS technology allows the improvement of safety and security of fishers at high seas worldwide. This project therefore accords with the GEF focal area criteria, GEF-5 Strategic Objectives for Biodiversity and the GEF SGP Country Programme Strategy for Mauritius addressing SGP OP5 Immediate Objectives 1, 2, 8 and 10. The project also supports the national and local Government aims of strengthening management of protected areas and reducing fishing pressure in the lagoon by promoting off-lagoon fishing.
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Ter-Mer Rodriguez Association
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
International Waters
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 33,612.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 37,485.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/YR4/CORE/IW/15/01
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
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Indicators
Biophysical
Hectares of globally significant international water body or marine and coastal protected area sustainably managed or protected by SGP project 24000

Partnership

Rodrigues Regional Assembly, FRTU

Grantee Contact

Mr Jean Joseph Maurice Ravina
Phone: 831 2062/5939 9151
Email: termerrodriguez@gmail.com
 

Address

Centre Carrefoure
Port Mathurin , Rodrigues ,

SGP Country office contact

Mrs. Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo
Phone:
(230) 213 53 84
Fax:
(230) 212 14 11
Email:

Address

2nd Floor, Sugar Industry Pension Fund Building, 1 Remy Ollier Street
Port Louis, Mauritius

Country Website