In the beginning...
In July 2022, COMRED in partnership with Blue Ventures conducted fisheries needs assessment for 9 Beach Management Units (BMUs) along Shimoni - Vanga seascape (Vanga, Jimbo, Wasini, Mkwiro, Shimoni, Kibuyuni, and Majoreni) and Msambweni (Mwandamu and Munje). The purpose of these meetings was to share our intention to develop local fisheries data monitoring capacity to improve the monitoring of artisanal fisheries by Beach Management Units, assess how well their fishery is managed and support improvement of Beach Management Units(BMU) management through data for evidence based decision making. Since then, 18 community based fisheries data collectors have been employed to collect fisheries data in the 9 BMUs, an activity that commenced in October 2022. In the initial phase, this collection was paper-based but later transitioned to digital collection using the KOBO toolbox mobile application.
In February 2023, we conducted the first quarterly Beach Management Unit (BMU) feedback meeting to present analysis results for fish catch data and Validate the fish catch data collected from October to December 2022. This initial data feedback and validation process informed the next quarterly feedback that happened in July 2023.
The importance of fisheries data cannot be emphasized enough. It mirrors the status of the ocean resources, exploitation patterns and in the face of climate change helps show how fisheries are affected by changing weather and climatic patterns. Overtime, it has become apparent to understand fisheries from the community perspective, incorporating their indigenous knowledge into formulation of scientific policies to manage this resource. In this feedback, we hoped to hear how the communities understand fisheries data, how it helps inform their daily activities and their perception of fisheries data collection and feedback sessions.
What is fish catch data, feedback and their importance?
“As a fish trader, I believe I am at the center of the fight against illegal and destructive fishing. If a fisherman brings me fish that has been caught using a spear gun, it’s my responsibility to educate them on its effect. Furthermore, if I refuse to buy such fish it will discourage a fisherman from using the unsustainable gear. Therefore, being part of a fish catch data feedback doesn’t just benefit me, but the rest of the value chain I am part of.” Leinata Maurice small scale fish processor, Majoreni BMU
“This is the first time since I joined the Beach Management Unit 3 years ago that I have been involved in such a forum. I am very happy to be part of this meeting and it makes me feel my opinion is valued.” Amina aliathman, octopus’ gleaner, Kibuyuni BMU
Remarks on delivery method used in the 2nd fish catch data feedback
How we will use the feedback insights in our day to day activities
“Fisheries data can be used to make comparisons between Beach Management Units giving fishermen information on what areas to fish, what species and methods to use to encourage regeneration and ecosystem healing. Additionally, it gives an avenue for targeted ecological monitoring and co-management opportunities among Beach Management Units (BMUs) with shared fishing grounds.” Hassan Shee, executive committee member, Jimbo BMU
“Fisheries data and management is not meant to only serve the purpose of conservation. The primary role of fisheries management is economic empowerment of the people. Through data, we can see the level of dependence on fisheries resources and come up with suitable alternative sources of livelihoods for the people to counter over-fishing.” Rajab Bidu, Majoreni BMU
Fish catch data may be complex but keeping it complex isn’t serving any good. We need to develop better and interactive ways of data visualization to elicit interest and better interaction and understanding by fisher folk communities who are the resource managers to embrace it for decision making.
These feedback and validation sessions opened the Pandora box of gender disparities that exist within fisheries and how they affect the fisheries value chain and data collection. From this feedback, some groups highlighted that Female data collectors are verbally harassed in their line of duty, posing a challenge for them to effectively collect data.
At the same time, small scale fish processors commonly known as mama karangas are on the disadvantaged side of this spectrum.
A Mama Karanga is perceived as not a lucrative market for fish. She is said to have small financial muscles compared to her counterpart, the fish dealers who in most instances are men, can’t buy vessels, and even if she has a vessel she can’t possibly have a market for the fish.
“I own a boat which I have given fishermen to work for me. When they land the catch however, it has to go through a fish dealer before it gets to me. It’s not fair but that’s how the system works, “Amina, (Not her real name)boat owner.
Additionally, there was realization that in most of the Beach Management Units we visited, the market is a major determinant for the manner the fishery resource is exploited. For instance, most fishermen acknowledge that catching big fish is only lucrative if you have constant supply to big hotels. Otherwise, they catch small fish because they have a ready market within their villages and beyond.
Co-management and its knowledge is not strange or new to us. What we need to do is enforce. Political interference and leaders failing to enforce without favor is a huge problem facing enforcement in fisheries management - Batuli Omar, Fisheries data collector, Kibuyuni BMU
We would love to capture as much fish catch data as possible but this is challenging because of existing unofficial landing sites. Also there is too many fishermen and only two data collectors in our BMU.” Bimize Amiri, fisheries data collector, Kibuyuni BMU
“Spear gun fishing is termed illegal by the government but on the other hand it supports the economy of Mwandamu village and we don’t see how and why spear gun fishing should be illegal: The spear gun users target big fish, supply to big hotels and use more effort in their work so when you tell us not to use this method, we don’t understand why.” Hassan Bakari, Mwandamu BMU
As astonishing as Hassan Bakari’s argument may sound, it is supported by the data we have. Indeed, it is true that Mwandamu’s fish data records indicated that the spear gun fishermen caught relatively big fish between October and December 2022. While this may be true, spear gun fishing is a destructive fishing method and even though it may seem lucrative, its consequences are unforgiving. Spear gun fishing breaks corals robbing fish of breeding grounds, results in fish moving home and fish caught using this method pose a health risk to consumers.
This argument also showed us the importance of having relational data to support the fight against illegal and destructive fishing methods and the need to collect data that is tailor made for specific communities, to meet their needs and answer existing gaps. If we don’t adopt such approaches, these facts may never make sense to our target audience and there will continue to be a disconnect between the message and the audience. Without embracing this, how will we be able to convince Bakari that spear gun fishing is unsustainable?