Good governance appears to be a prerequisite for local support of strong fisheries restrictions, the key finding in a recently published study of 16 fishing villages in East Africa that are struggling to achieve fisheries sustainability.

Authored by Tim McClanahan and Caroline Abunge of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the study titled “Perceptions of governance effectiveness and fisheries restriction options in a climate refugia” appears in the latest edition of the journal Biological Conservation.

“Governance of common-pool resources such as fisheries is a critical part of marine conservation and sustainability, but this study shows how local perceptions of the effectiveness of governing institutions themselves can impact levels of agreement and eventually compliance,“ said Dr. McClanahan, lead author of the study.

The sustainable use of coral reefs requires a complex balance between fisheries productivity, human needs, and effective governance. According to conservation scientists from WCS who surveyed communities, perceptions of effectiveness were critical to their preferences for specific management restrictions; the stronger the governance effectiveness, the more willing people were to accept stringent fisheries restrictions.

Hoping to gain insight into how perceptions of governance and fishing restrictions can help or hinder conservation efforts, WCS researchers conducted surveys in coastal villages located along a region of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania considered to be a climate change refugia, a seascape characterized by oceanographic characteristics that serve as a buffer against the effects of climate change.

Between 2008 and 2017, the researchers surveyed members of 16 villages located in southern Kenya, northern Tanzania, and Pemba Island, Tanzania. Survey participants included coastal community leaders, members, and individuals from the region.

Once collected, the data were analyzed to uncover the key drivers of perceptions of potential compliance in fisheries management systems. The scientists found that, in communities where monitoring efforts were perceived as effective, species-specific conservation and marine protected areas were viewed positively. In coastal villages where monitoring was viewed as insufficient, restrictions on fishing gear, size limits, and seasonal fishing closures were the preferred form of management. Thus, villages relatively near one another could have vastly different views on what management strategies work most effectively.

Studies that measure the impact of stakeholder perceptions can be used to improve management plans in coastal areas where marine resources are shared by many communities; they can also be used to inform capacity needs of institutions in charge of governing important seascapes containing coral reef systems and fish stocks. The study suggests that good governance and its perception among fisheries stakeholders will be a key element in building more sustainable fisheries.

As part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative, WCS monitors the health of coral reefs around the world and advocates for the protection of marine areas alongside the communities who depend on them most.

This study was generously funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


About Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative:

As climate change increasingly threatens key ocean ecosystems, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative is working around the world to advance evidence-based conservation practices and implement data-driven policies to protect our oceans and the 3 billion people that depend on them. Launched in 2014, Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative currently operates with partners Rare, Oceana, Global Fishing Watch, and the Wildlife Conservation Society in 10 countries that are top fishing nations – Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Peru and the United States – to win science-based policies, protect priority coral reefs least vulnerable to climate change, and increase transparency through the adoption of national fishing data platforms.