This week, CBMC’s Ismael Mascareñas presented our work with the communities in the Upper Gulf of California to fisheries scientists and managers at the 5th annual “shared fisheries quota management” meeting (MCC – Manejo Compartido por Cuotas) hosted by EDF de México.
Every year, marine fisheries scientists, fishermen, managers and policy makers gather in La Paz, Baja California Sur, to discuss ways in which to improve Mexico’s fisheries management practices. This years meeting was focused on 3 main areas. How to:
1) Make real and useful changes to management at regional scales.
2) Get more fisheries stakeholders involved in fisheries management and policy.
3) Strengthen the sense of community among fisheries stakeholders.
Ismael was invited to the meeting to discuss the Citizen Science Program run by the Gulf of California Marine Program. The presentation discussed the importance of generating applicable data using the help and knowledge of local communities. Drawing upon the trackers program, Ismael described how the GCMP collects large amounts of data on the movement of fishermen in the upper gulf and disseminates its findings to all relevant stakeholders as well as the scientific community through the dataMares website.
The trackers program is an initiative started by the GCMP that uses GPS data-loggers (trackers) to record the movement of fishermen as they fish in the upper Gulf. As well as providing useful information on fishing effort, locations and durations, the project is unique in that it engages many people in the local community. Volunteers hand out and collect the trackers daily from the fishermen who voluntarily use them as they fish. The data is accurate, collected willingly and has real-world application.
Real world application
Recently the Mexican government announced a gillnet ban in the upper Gulf which will begin once the gulf corvina fishery season ends in May. The closure comes after years of struggle between conservation foundations and fishermen related to the decreasing population size of the Vaquita marina porpoise. The closure will have a significant impact on the livelihoods of approximately 2,500 fishermen in the upper Gulf. Using the data collected by the trackers program, the GCMP were able to calculate accurate values for the subsidies needed to compensate the fishermen during the closure. A value much higher than that calculated by the Mexican government. The data therefore helped the fishermen of the upper Gulf negotiate the subsidy that will be given to them and others involved in the productive chain during the fishing ban. The trackers / citizen science program has also been used in ecological applications. It has better described the fishing patterns in the upper gulf during the spawning of Gulf Corvina as well as the ecology of this important commercial species (http://issuu.com/gulfprogram/docs/erisman_etal2012_ingles).
Ismael’s presentation generated a lot of interest from participants at the MCC meeting. The main questions and interest focused around how the GCMP has managed to form such good relations with the fishing community in the upper Gulf. Ismael’s answer was easy. Transparency. Ismael highlighted that transparency is key. Scientists have to be 100% open and honest and involve fishermen from the start of the project, through the data collection and during any presentation of final results. Ismael went on to discuss the additional importance of drawing on the fishermen’s knowledge and respecting their decision to be involved at whatever level. This participation not only helps GCMP scientists to collect data but also helps all participants to better understand the marine systems on which they rely.
The GCMP understands the importance of transparency, community engagement, robust and consistent data collection, and applicable, real world science. The trackers project has proven immensely successful and continues to collect data in the upper Gulf of California, Bahia Magdalena, Punta Abreojos and Espiritu Santo.
Andrew F. Johnson
Postdoctoral Researcher at SIO
Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on the impacts of marine fisheries on fish populations and habitats. Since beginning his studies in marine biology in 2002, Dr. Johnson has traveled extensively, working with nine different fisheries in six countries gaining valuable experience in a range of fishing methods and management strategies. His doctorate at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University (UK, 2012) focused on determining the habitat requirements of demersal fishes and how this knowledge can be used in MPA design. He is passionate about integrating sound ecological knowledge of fishes and ecosystems with the behaviour and patterns of fisheries in order to help predict the future impacts of current exploitation levels. He aims to use such synergies to aid the Gulf of California Marine Program in the design of future,