The mangrove-fishery relationship: A local ecological knowledge perspective
Mangroves, one of the major coastal ecosystems of tropical and subtropical regions, are critical habitats for fish and crustaceans, and provide a number of ecosystem services to people. While mangrove uses have been widely documented based on local ecological knowledge, seldom has this approach been used to analyse the mangrove-fishery relationship. By conducting semi-structured interviews (n = 82) with fishers in three different villages surrounding the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, the most important lagoon system in the Colombian Caribbean because of its size and productivity, we evaluated fishing activity over time, mangrove use and mangrove-fishery linkage, and fishing and gear spatial distribution. Respondents believed that mangroves are critical habitats for fishery resources because they function as nurseries, food source and reproduction areas, and considered that the resource would be in jeopardy in the absence of mangroves. While fishing is the main activity in mangroves, they are also used for firewood, construction and to make fishing gear, but how fishers use mangroves varies across villages. Fishing is concentrated close to mangroves (<20 m) and fishers' villages though there was some gear and species-dependent spatial variation across villages. Given that the system is highly degraded and conservation and fishery management plans are urgently required, we suggest combining scientific with local ecological knowledge in the planning and implementation of restoration and conservation plans to increase the chances of such programs being successful.