Selected tags: MPAs

EDF Partner In Cuba Visits US for "Our Oceans" Conference (Part 2)

Fabian_Diving2

Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós is a first-rate marine scientist from Cuba, who has worked closely with EDF’s Oceans program for many years. Fabián has been a scientist with Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research for twenty years and was recently named director of the center.

Welcome back for Part 2 of our intern Shannon Switzer’s interview with Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, as they discuss the marine scientist’s opinion on the effectiveness of MPA’s and ecotourism as conservation tools as well as his hopes for Cuba as a nation. Read the first part of the interview here.

SLS: Some people are skeptical that MPAs are effective in sustaining fisheries while protecting marine life. What have your studies shown you about the effectiveness of MPAs?

FPA: I think that of course, the controversial part is because nature is very variable. Sometimes you can have the results or the positive impacts of a management tool in a shorter time and sometimes it takes longer, which is dependent, for example, on the species you are trying to recover. So a species that has a short life cycle would have an impact of a no-take area faster, but if we are thinking tarpon, or goliath grouper or other species that live longer, you need to wait a longer time [to see the results].

But generally speaking, and especially where I am dealing in the Gardens, which is relevant for Cuba but also for other tropical places with similar ecosystems, we measured the results of the effect of the marine reserve. We found that after ten years of the declaration [of the MPA] the number of fish increased, the size of the fish are bigger and they are more abundant inside of the reserve. Also, they are not shy and are friendlier and allow you to get closer, so you can enjoy them more when you dive. But also, because the number has increased dramatically, we carried out an experiment and tested the spill-over effect, which is when the number of fish increases until it’s full inside, and they need to move outside. It’s not a random movement, it’s basically a density-dependent kind of movement, cause it’s crowded inside the protected area, and then they just spill over the boundaries.

Then the fishery grounds benefit from that, and you can fish outside. We’ve proved that [with our research], but now fishermen are saying most of the fish they are catching now are coming from the reserve. So now the reserves are gaining support by, not all of the fishermen, but many of them. At the beginning the vast majority of them were opposed to the reserve, and it’s a normal reaction of human behavior—you are preventing me from using a fishing ground that I’ve been using forever and my father and my grandfather and my grand grandfather were fishing on—but they realize now that this is a good tool.

SLS: Along the same lines, part of MPA management often involves tourism based on recreational and sport fishing. Do you think these activities should continue to be allowed in protected areas, despite some studies saying that mishandling can sometimes lead to as high as a forty percent mortality rate?

FPA: I think so. What’s happening typically is the mortality is a lot lower for recreational fishers, especially if you target tropical places with shallow water areas called flats, like we have in Cuba. These are good fora kind of fly fishing that targets bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook. Basically, you use a very small hook and you need to tease the fish that the thing close to his mouth is real bait—like a real shrimp or a crab or small fish—and then as soon as they bite, you need to hook them, because the fish are not stupid. They feel that it’s something sharp, there is no meat in that, and they just spit that out of their mouth. So you need to hook them almost immediately, and if you hook it in the mouth and handle it properly—keep the fish in the water in a horizontal position while unhooking and taking pictures with it—you can get as close as zero percent mortality.

For sure the mortality is less than if you use a net and catch two tons of bonefish. It’s very easy to catch two tons of bonefish, because the medium sized ones gather in schools of several hundred individuals, so you can get 5 or 6 tons of bonefish in two minutes [with a net]. Probably you will need like a year or more for hooking a few hundred bonefish.

So I’d say it’s viable also because people are willing to pay a lot. Americans, Europeans, people from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, almost everywhere, South Africa, all those countries that visit the Gardens are good for catching and releasing bonefish. And they pay a lot of money, they pay air tickets, hotels everywhere on their way to the Gardens which benefit our economy and people, and also they tip the guides. The tips are very high, so that money is coming to the coastal communities and having a positive impact on families.

So yes, it is more profitable with less impact. We have tagged a bonefish and caught it again just two weeks later. So in two weeks they are happy to bite again, even with not only hooking them but also putting the tag in the back. So I think it’s viable, but of course it is dependent on the fishery.

All the time it is very important to inform people through the media that nature is very case by case, and there are not general recipes for everything. So even in tropical areas to temperate areas similar to one another, there’s differences that you must know about and take into account for managing the resources, and that’s why it’s important to do the research but also to inform people that every place is different and you need to know what is going on in every place to make the best decisions.

SLS: You mentioned that the money from tourism ends up in the hands of the locals and benefits the surrounding community. That is great to hear. Tell me more.

FPA: In Cuba we have been good at gathering the revenues of the country and splitting it quite evenly in the population. So even in the situation of Cuba with limited resources and the embargo and general world situation, we keep the health care, social security and education in very high level related to other countries with similar or even higher income. We have been very good with that.

So even the money that is generated by tourism is well-used in the country, so in general it benefits the entire country, but especially this kind of tourism that involves people from the coastal communities. The issue is that typically the people from the coastal communities, I think almost everywhere, but especially in developing countries, they are not highly educated people, so sometimes it’s hard for them to get the positions like in a hotel kind of environment. But these guys are good for marine things- diving and fly fishing- it’s impossible for any one of us to compete with these guys on marine related activities. Read More »

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MPAtlas Provides New Tool to Learn about Marine Protected Areas

The Marine Conservation Institute, in partnership with the Waitt Foundation, has developed an online digital atlas that assembles information on marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world. This is a valuable tool that provides the ability to explore sites and characteristics of existing and proposed MPAs. When developed with careful consideration of fishing communities, MPAs have the potential to accelerate recovery of fish populations, increase ecosystem resilience and provide data for stock assessments and catch limit setting.  Learning about existing MPAs and their impacts can help inform the design and implementation of future sites, and hopefully improve the ability of MPAs to provide direct ecosystem and fishery benefits.

MPA Atlas

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Cabinet of Belize Approves Catch Shares in Belize's Network of Marine Protected Areas

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

"Fish Forever" – the motto of Belize's fishermen.  Last week the Government of Belize in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) took a major step towards fulfilling that vision with a vote by Belize's cabinet to authorize the implementation of catch shares in its network of marine protected areas. 

"Belize's decision will protect the country’s magnificent Mesoamerican Reef and promote the vitality of its fishing industry,” said Larry Epstein, Mesoamerican Reef Program Manager for EDF, "This substantially adds to the growing list of successful conservation measures Belize is using to preserve its oceans for future generations.”

As a first step, the Belize Fisheries Department will implement their design for TURFs and catch limits for spiny lobster in 2011 and 2012 in Glover's Reef and Port Honduras Marine Reserves.  Belize has already taken the first steps for allocating access to TURFs, creating a monitoring regime, and creating committees of fishermen to participate in the implementation and management of catch shares.

"Catch shares will assist in enforcing marine laws and ensure that fishermen are part and parcel of the enforcement, and respected as custodians because it will be part of their livelihoods that they will be protecting."

- Hon. Rene Montero, Belize Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives

In 2009 EDF created a partnership between the Government of Belize Fisheries Department, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the leading Belizean conservation NGO – the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE).  Our coalition achieved this milestone in Belize through an education campaign that engaged fishermen, policy makers, elected officials, and government managers of marine reserves.  EDF's team of economists, scientists, and catch shares experts built Belize's technical capacity for catch shares and helped develop the catch share design – including Rod Fujita, Kate Bonzon, Laura Rodriguez, Jake Kritzer, Doug Rader, Tom Lalley, and Tesia Love.   The Government of Belize has stated a vision for catch shares in all marine reserves, and for the commercial lobster fishery. 

Monkey River, Belize Fishing Boats

Monkey River Fishing Boats in Belize

Fishermen in Belize understand first-hand and have been advocating catch shares since EDF, WCS, and TIDE began working in their communities.  According to one fisherman from Placencia, a fishing community in southern Belize, “Every year for the past ten years we have had a decline in lobster production.  That is due to, I think, to overfishing and a general decline in product itself.”  Now Belize and its fishermen have a tool at their disposal that protects its oceans, while at the same time supporting the livelihoods and food security for the people that depend on its resources.

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