Attitude, perception and awareness of stakeholders towards the protected marine species in the Andaman Islands
Examining stakeholder's knowledge, perception and attitudes are necessary for effective implementation of laws that are designed to protect and conserve marine biodiversity. In order to understand knowledge, awareness and perception about the law and the species that are protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, I interviewed (N = 159) stakeholders (77 fishermen, 39 authorities and 41 middlemen/traders) in the Andaman Islands, India. Within respondents, mean awareness about different protected marine species was (80%) amongst authorities, followed by (63%) amongst traders/middlemen and (59%) amongst fishermen. The awareness about a few charismatic groups i.e., mammals, reptiles and cnidarians high; whereas awareness about elasmobranchs, fish, sea cucumbers and molluscs low amongst the respondent groups. Amongst several species traded in the islands, the sea cucumber, the trochus and the turbo are in high demand, and there is demand from middlemen and fishers to delist these species. Generalised model revealed that the years of fishing experience, occupation, annual income and age of respondents are important factors in determining awareness of locals towards protected species. Solutions suggested by stakeholders are strict enforcement of the law, education and awareness of protected species, a special task force for dealing with the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, need to curb poaching from foreigners etc. All fishers sell their catch to middlemen/traders who in turn send their catch to mainland India (Tamil Nadu and Kolkata). The knowledge about which government department is responsible for implementation and monitoring of the law is limited amongst all stakeholder groups.The study demonstrates that stakeholder's knowledge, perception and attitude can offer valuable insights towards strengthening the law that protects marine species. Similar studies should be carried out across different coastal states to understand the level of awareness of stakeholders towards protected marine species. Creating awareness, inclusiveness of local stakeholders in decision making, empowering authorities in monitoring can help in strengthening the existing law framework for protected marine species.