Wetenschap - 26 april 2001

Co-management practices may help some fish populations survive

Co-management practices may help some fish populations survive

Fishermen in Indonesia should see their fishing grounds as a limited resource instead of an infinite source of livelihood. Only then will they help sustain healthy fish populations, believes Hans van Oostenbrugge of the Fisheries and Ecology Group.

Van Oostenbrugge conducted research towards his PhD in the coastal area of Ambon, an island in the Moluccan archipelago, in eastern Indonesia. Together with Dr Lida Pet-Soede he studied the options for co-management, a form of fisheries management whereby fishermen and local authorities work together. Van Oostenbrugge: "As in many tropical regions, authorities have a hard time enforcing management policies such as limiting fish catches. It is better to involve fishermen in fisheries management."

Overfishing

When fishermen realise that their activities can reduce the size of fish stocks, they are more willing to cooperate with government officials and work out a management plan for their fishing grounds, according to Van Oostenbrugge. This increases the chance of preventing overfishing. By living in a community on Ambon, and keeping track of their fishing methods and the amount of fish caught, he assessed the chances of co-management succeeding. "Co-management in fisheries has been put into practice in the Philippines and has been successful. It can also work in Indonesia, but not for every type of fishing."

Reef fish

It could work well on coral reefs, says Van Oostenbrugge. "As most reef fish do not migrate to other areas, and catches of these fish are relatively stable, fishermen can see the effect of their fishing on the local fish population. They can then help determine a sustainable level of fishing." In other areas, however, it may not work so well, for instance where pelagic fish are fished for. "Pelagic fish, such as skipjack, mackerel and sardine, tend to school and migrate large distances beyond the borders of fishing grounds, which means that the amount caught each day fluctuates a lot. In these cases it is very hard to determine a sustainable level of fishing, and fishermen cannot easily see the positive effects of reducing the amount of fishing on the fish population in their own area. This means they are not so likely to cooperate with fishing authorities to achieve more sustainable management of their fishing grounds."

Hugo Bouter

Fishing takes many forms in Indonesia, some of which are more suitable than others for co-management practices to help preserve fishing stocks. Photo: Richard Alleman

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