Promoting Sustainable Fisheries: National Awareness Programme in Support of the First Temporary Octopus Fisheries Closure in Mauritius
Promoting Sustainable Fisheries: National Awareness Programme in Support of the First Temporary Octopus Fisheries Closure in Mauritius
Fishing is a way of life along the coastlines of the Republic of Mauritius, an Island State comprising of mainland Mauritius and a number of outer islands, the island of Rodrigues being the next largest one. However, overfishing, climate change, insufficient measures to regulate marine activities and lack of enforcement are the main causes in the decline of marine species and subsequently incomes associated with artisanal fishing in Mauritius. Octopus cyanea is native to Mauritius and is the most common species of octopus fished in the Indian Ocean waters. It represents the majority of the commercial production of octopus in Mauritius. Unfortunately, its population has not been spared from the above mentioned threats. Despite the regulations governing the octopus`s fishery, a significant decline in this precious commodity has been noted in the Mauritian lagoon over the last 10 years. This trend is not only due to lack of compliance with existing laws but also due to little knowledge and information that local people have about the octopus`s life cycle. In addition, regulations that cover this type of fishing are no longer sufficient and appropriate to ensure the sustainability of our marine resources. As a result, the main octopus`s collectors have expanded their range by fishing all over the lagoons, thus leading to rapid exploitation of octopus and a drastic decrease in catch.

In 2012, the semi-autonomous Rodrigues Regional Assembly took the decision to close octopus’s fisheries for 2 months, from August to October as it was estimated that by 2014 the species would have declined dramatically to possible extinction. This initiative was supported by the FAO Smartfish Programme implemented through the Indian Ocean Commission (Smartfish/IOC) and in subsequent years by the GEF SGP. Despite several challenges, this closure was successful and it is now a recurrent feature in Rodrigues which is embarking on its 5th closure this year. Their annual catch grew from around 220 tons to 570 tons and keeps growing each year. Based on the successful octopus’s fishery closure in Rodrigues, a small-scale voluntary trial closure was carried out in the south-east region (from Le Morne to Souillac) of mainland Mauritius from August to October 2015, with support from the FAO/Smartfish/IOC and the NGO Mauritius Marine Conservation Society. In 2016, the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands has now embarked on a national closure from 15 August to 15 October given the heavy decline to 30 tons only annually. The Ministry is seeking partnership with the SGP and the Smartfish/IOC to support this policy decision and closure. A regulation is under preparation and will be passed in Parliament shortly. This is replication and upscaling of the Rodrigues Island closure to national level.

It is worth noting that Mauritius already has established closed seasons and respective laws for other activities such as seine fishing, sea cucumber, etc. For the national implementation of a closed season for octopus-collection the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands has embarked on a series of consultation with fishers all around Mauritius since end of March 2016. Meetings with fishers from the following regions have been carried out by the Minister himself, together with the FAO/Smartfish/IOC Fisheries Economist and Consultant, the GEF SGP National Coordinator, 4 NGOs (namely MMCS, Eco-Sud, Reef Conservation and Eco-Mode Society), the Fisheries Protection Service and Coast Guards: Le Morne and Riviere Noire; Mahebourg and Bambous Virieux; Quatre Soeurs and Trou d’Eau Douce; Pourdre d’Or and Grand Gaube. 2 other sessions are pending and these would cover north and north-west regions. The Ministry has solicited these partnerships based on the solid track record of the donors in supporting octopus’s fisheries closure and the experience developed by the NGOs with the fisher community in their respective regions over the years.

It is strongly recommended that further to these information sessions by the above team there should be a major national awareness campaign to disseminate important information on octopus’s life-cycle, to integrate and support fishers and coastal communities and to inform the Mauritian population at large about the 2016 national octopus fisheries closure.
Sensitizing local communities has greatly contributed to the success of the pilot voluntary closure in 2015 from le Morne to Souillac. The previous surveys conducted in the southern villages in 2015 demonstrated a real awareness of the local villagers and fishermen about the lagoon resources. During consultations, these coastal communities stressed on the importance of the implementation and enforcement of management measures to capitalize on local marine biodiversity and ensure a future for their careers at sea.

In this context, EcoMode Society (EMS) proposes to implement the national awareness campaign with support from the 3 other above NGOs. The FAO/Smartfish/IOC has already committed its support to the tune of around Rs 4M (USD 113,000) to cover the design and production of national communication material and activities and the sensitization sessions in the specific “2015 pilot region” by the MMCS. Financial support is requested from the GEF SGP to support the sensitization sessions in the other regions by the other 3 NGOs through EcoMode Society. The targeted villages for the project are mainly located close to the lagoon and the awareness campaign is addressed to the coastal village communities composed of fishermen, traders (banyans), and the community at large, including women and youths. Selection of villages is based on those having biggest records of catch. We note that not all fishers are dependent on octopus. In fact, most of them carry out fishing activities outside the lagoon and collect octopus on a less frequent basis. Only a small group of fishers relying solely on octopus is identified. Also, not all fishers have a license. Sometimes amateur or occasional fishers also fish for octopus. This diversity of actors justifies the holding of a targeted awareness campaign. It will allow them to deepen their knowledge of the cephalopod and its lifecycle, the identification of male and female, the minimum allowed catch size, the authorized techniques and, finally, to better understand and accept the interests of the national closure. The main aim is not only for coastal communities to experience an increase in their octopus catch but also for them to be able to manage their own octopus`s fishery in a sustainable manner in the future.

This project proposes that GEF SGP becomes a partner for the implementation in Mauritius as it has experience for the past Octopus closure in Rodrigues Island. It is based on and will respond to the pillars of the GEF SGP programming during Operational Phase 6 (OP 6) as proposed in the “OP 6 Country Programme Strategy for the Republic of Mauritius” namely:
- “to support the creation of global environmental benefits and the safeguarding of the global environment through community and local solutions that complement and add value to national and global level action”.
- “to identify important ecosystems and use a landscape-and-seascape approach for their protection and sustainable use, implementing a multi-focal approach involving communities in buffer zones and corridors thus providing connectivity for complex landscape mosaics.”
- “to integrate GEF focal areas, break down silos, and link biodiversity conservation with sustainable development and social concerns”.
- “to play a central role in assisting civil society coalitions and governments in meeting the CBD Aichi targets for biodiversity conservation, in keeping with the GEF- 6 Biodiversity Strategy to address the most critical drivers of biodiversity loss across entire landscapes and seascapes”.
- “to promote CSO-government dialogue platforms to enhance policy dialogue projects for the integration of training and capacity building and to encourage sensitization and awareness raising projects related to environmental and energy sustainability at community level”.

 

Project Snapshot

Grantee:
EcoMode Society
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
International Waters
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 32,931.09
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 90,566.42
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP6/Y1/CORE/BD/2016/02
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
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Indicators
Biophysical
Hectares of globally significant biodiversity area protected or sustainably managed by project 24300

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