Viability and Sustainability of Small-Scale Fisheries in Latin America and The Caribbean - From Fishing Fish to Fishing Data: The Role of Artisanal Fishers in Conservation and Resource Management in Mexico
Although, the involvement of artisanal fishing communities in conservation and management is now commonplace, their participation rarely goes beyond providing local and traditional knowledge to visiting scientists and managers. Communities are often excluded from ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making, even though these measures can have tremendous impacts on their livelihoods. For the past 17 years, we have designed, tested, and implemented a community-based monitoring model in three key marine ecosystems in Mexico: the kelp forests of Pacific Baja California, the rocky reefs of the Gulf of California, and the coral reefs of the Mesoamerican Reef System. This model is intended to engage local fishers in data collection by fulfilling two principal objectives: (1) to achieve science-based conservation and management decisions and (2) to improve livelihoods through access to knowledge and temporary employment. To achieve these goals, over 400 artisanal fishers and community members have participated in a nationwide marine reserve program. Of these, 222 fishers, including 30 women, have been trained to conduct an underwater visual census using SCUBA gear, and, to date, over 12,000 transects have been completed. Independent scientists periodically evaluate the training process and standards, and the data contribute to international monitoring efforts. This successful model is now being adopted by both civil society and government for use in different parts of Mexico and neighbouring countries. Empowering community members to collect scientific data creates responsibility, pride, and a deeper understanding of the ecosystem in which they live and work, providing both social and ecological benefits to the community and marine ecosystem.