In Gabon fish is a large part of the diet, with on average 40kg of fish is consumed per person annually, more than double the global average. Much of this fish comes from artisanal community-based fisheries; typically this is fishermen using wooden boats with a small engine and nets or lines. By law, community fishing of rivers, lakes and lagoons is reserved for domestic fishermen. Foreign artisanal fishermen have fishing rights extending three nautical miles offshore of Gabon’s coast.
In recent years, WCS has been studying traditional fisheries in much more detail to better understand this important economic resource that surprisingly has never been formally managed. One study was carried out on lagoon fisheries in Iguela lagoon of Loango National Park. At Mayumba National Park, which is Gabon’s first marine park, our study has focused on maritime fisheries. Other programs are also underway in Libreville and Cocobeach. The principle focus is to work closely with fishing communities to document fishing techniques and catch; for the species and quantities caught, techniques used, the effort and precise location of fishing. In the process, additional information is gathered on this little known ecosystem, its ecology and function.
In 2013, the government initiative Gabon Blue set out to re-evaluate the fishing industry at the national scale. WCS has been working with the Department for Fisheries and Aquaculture (DGPA), and our field studies have contributed to this process. The evaluation aims to develop sustainable management of fisheries resources in Gabon, and to use monitoring measures adapted to these environments.
One significant piece of work by WCS has been to update and standardize the fisheries data collected from fishing boats and jetties. This has been compiled in a centralized database based at DGPA, and is an information resource invaluable for decision-making on fisheries management. At our field sites WCS also works closely with the communities to ensure that the needs of artisanal fishing communities are included in national-scale decisions.