As the situation became dire, worried fishermen rallied the entire village to take action in an effort to save their livelihoods and maintain their way of life. The village came together to establish the Local Fishermen’s Committee of Ngaparou (known by its French acronym, CLP), with the goal of implementing a community-based fisheries management aimed at restoring fish stocks and promoting a healthy marine environment. Supported by $15 million dollars in funding from the World Bank, this Senegalese component of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP) enables the people of the Ngaparou to confront the challenge of over-exploited fish resources with sustainable solutions while benefiting from a social safety net.
To tackle the problem of overfishing, the CLP had to convince fishermen in Ngaparou “that it was better to refrain from fishing in certain zones in order to benefit from markedly higher fishing yields when these areas, which were subject to protection, are reopened,” explains Mansour Ndour, the local project facilitator.
With the agreement and cooperation of the village’s fishermen, the CLP divided Ngaparou’s fishing perimeter into three areas spanning 3 kilometers wide and 12 kilometers long. “We have a closed area where all fishing is prohibited, and a reef area where fishing is allowed during certain periods of the year and where we apply stricter fishing procedures than even those in effect nationally, particularly with respect to fishing nets,” says CLP member Ibou Ndoye.
However ensuring compliance with the rules concerning the protected areas has proved to be difficult. Despite the fact that voluntary community surveillance missions perform an average of 20 trips per month to drive away illegal fishermen, there continues to be problems with poachers who often use violence to threaten surveillance volunteers. Furthermore, the future of this surveillance is uncertain given that these volunteers operate without a legally defined status and lack access to any kind of recourse when they are victims of attacks.
While attacks at sea and changing traditional habits can be challenging, the CLP continues to persevere as the rewards reaped are well worth the work with statistics reflecting the CLP’s significant impact over the past few years. The average weight of lobsters caught in the area has increased by 72%, from 295 grams in 2005 to 420 grams in 2010. Lobster yields have more than doubled from 1.5 kilograms per catch in 2006 to 3.5 kilograms per catch in 2010. Demersal fish species that live on the ocean floor have gradually reappeared and pelagic (deep-sea) species as well as juvenile fish flourish in the community managed zone.
The women of Ngaparou are also benefiting from the positive impact of the CLP’s community-based management strategy and the higher yields of fish captures. Waré Signaté, a fishmonger and member of the CLP, has seen an increase in her income as well as the incomes of women around her thanks to the use of a refrigerated truck, put at their disposal by the CLP. “We are now able to transport fish and crustaceans to the market of Mbour instead of selling them off cheaply to wholesale fish merchants who come from other areas,” says Signaté.
“Beyond the positive results of the project, I am really impressed by the sense of a newly rediscovered pride expressed by the villagers. I believe this comes from the fact that they have demonstrated their ability to organize themselves as a group to implement a larger communal strategy, despite the challenges stemming from such a novel initiative,” notes Bérengère Prince, Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist in charge of the WARFP.
It comes as no surprise that visitors from other regions of Senegal and foreign delegations from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde travel to Ngaparou to draw inspiration and learn from the accomplishments of this coastal village in the hopes of recreating this success.