In a context of overfishing of aquatic resources, marine protected areas (MPAs) are tools for protecting biodiversity. These defined marine areas are subject to preservation measures to save habitats necessary for fish reproduction and juvenile growth. What role do they have to play in the management of halieutic resources? Are fishermen's losses being compensated? The Amphore(1) programme set out to find the answers to these fundamental questions.
Between 2008 and 2011, this project led by IRD researchers(1) focused on four marine protected areas, of which two are in West Africa: one is small -- just 7km² -- and was created in 2004 in Bamboung in the Sine-Saloum estuary in Senegal, the other is older, dating from 1976, and spreads over 6,000km2 in the Banc d'Arguin national park in Mauritania(2).
A detailed report
From a biological point of view, the scientific assessment is only slightly encouraging. The creation of prohibitive or restrictive measures concerning fishing has not led to a significant increase in biomass, that is to say the quantity of fish in the reserve. By contrast, the reduction of the fishing levels has led to the presence of a greater number of species (biodiversity), with more large species. The population composition and the trophic structure are altered, with a higher percentage of predators.
In contrast, outside the perimeter, in the zones open to fishermen, the fish biomass is increasing slightly. The researchers' models have demonstrated a migratory phenomenon that represents 20% of the biomass in marine reserves. In Bamboung, this effect can be observed up to 2.5km from the edge of the protected area, and is seen in the growing numbers of catfish and rays caught. The influence of the reserve is even more noticeable in Banc d'Arguin, where it is estimated that commercial fishing catches are 25% higher on the edges of the protected perimeter. The improvement thus becomes even more significant as the size of the protected zone increases. However, it falls in relation to distance from the protected area perimeter. From an economic point of view, marine protected areas thus have a significant impact in terms of fishing activities and yields. But the study has also shown that for fishermen, the gains experienced outside the area only compensates in volume for the loss of activity within, although with a higher market value due to the increase in the number of rarer species.
Compensating for losses
The question of compensation for fishing bans or restrictions is a delicate question. Given the present level of development of ecotourism in West Africa, the revenue generated is neither sufficient to compensate for these losses nor to cover monitoring costs. The policing and maintenance of these restrictions over time certainly has a price. This is borne by the local community, as in Bamboung, or by the state, as in Banc d'Arguin. It covers surveillance measures, which require personnel and boats. According to the estimates from the Bamboung project, the level of financial autonomy in the reserve is equivalent to only 18% of the total operating costs. Respect of the protected areas by fishermen and the local population is encouraged by external funding, such as the Fond français pour l'environnement mondial, which justifies its contribution due to the ecological interest of the areas concerned. For the Banc d'Arguin, funding is principally sourced from external private sources and organisations that consider the preservation of biodiversity as a cause to be supported.
The zoning of the maritime area involves a multiplicity of stakeholders (NGO, government, fishermen, wholesalers, villagers, etc.) who differ in their strategies and interests. The issues involved in preserving biodiversity affect or even contradict the other uses and modes of regulation, particularly in the areas that experience strong anthropic pressures. In addition, as the halieutic efficiency of the marine protected areas is linked to their size, the subsequent creation of vast reserves could also prove problematic. This situation makes participation crucial, for local stakeholders to be involved in decision and their implementation. Collaborative management seems to be the most appropriate solution to resolve conflicts, and thus occupies a central place among the indicators for governance that were selected following the Amphore marine protected area study programme.
(1) The 'AMP et gestion Halieutique par Optimisation des Ressources et des Ecosystèmes'(AMPHORE) programme, financed by the ANR 'Biodiversity' section, has brought together nine research laboratories from France and four teams from West Africa (Institut mauritanien de recherches océanographiques et des pêches, CRO in Dakar Thiaroye, CNSH in Boussoura, the Subregional Fisheries Commission in Dakar) in partnership with the MPA monitoring services.
(2) Two other MPAs in France were also studied -- the national parks of Port-Cros and Bouches de Bonifacio. They were found, however, to have conditions that were too far removed from those in West Africa to enable any comparison.
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