Interview with Grantee: D’Shan Maycock, Project Manager of Friends of the Environment Working with small communities may sometimes appear easy to do but can sometimes be very challenging. Abaco Island is an island in the Northern Bahamas that is a total of 650 square miles. It is only 120 miles long and 10 miles but getting around can be extremely difficult at times with limited resources. Abaco Island is known for its world class fishing, both commercially and recreationally. Many visitors repeatedly visit to participate in sport fishing activities and many locals depend on fishing as a lucrative income to provide for themselves and their families. There are several fishing communities located on the mainland of the island as well as smaller fishing communities located off the mainland.
In 2009, Friends of the Environment began working with the local fishing community in Abaco to reduce the amount of juvenile Spiny Lobsters fished out of the water. This activity was identified as the top single threat impacting healthy lobster populations and marine biodiversity. As this resource has such a high commercial value associated with it, we realized that our organization lacked the capacity to implement new policies to effectively manage this fishery. It was clear that there were many gaps in the effective management of this fishery. As a result we decided to implement a Pride Campaign to inspire fishers and other key stakeholders to change their ways and promote positive actions that could lead to a well managed fishery. This resulted in the launch of the Size Matters Pride Campaign to get fishers to only fish legal size lobsters.
The campaign immediately became successful and seafood processors have reported that it is believed to have helped reduce the number of undersized lobsters sold to processors for export sales. Because of the success of the campaign, it was evident that the work needed to be continued beyond the initial support. At this time we decided to take advantage of funding opportunities available through the Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP). In an island community such as Abaco with limited resources available, it is sometimes difficult to reach out to key communities and primary target audiences effectively. Abaco Island is unique in that people reside in various communities from the north to southern points of the island. Therefore, there must be creative ways to reach out to these audiences. Media is not always a reliable source and transportation can sometimes be costly. In fact, in order to reach some fishing communities, it requires large amounts of fuel, booking charter flights and numerous ferry rides. The GEF-SGP has made it possible for us to have the capacity to work with specific target groups on our island. It allowed us to continue to build on previous work and reach our target audience so that we could see change on the ground and promote wise use and marine biodiversity. With the support of the SGP, we were able to conduct sustainable catch workshops in traditional fishing communities that we could only reach by boat, plane or driving distances of 60 miles or more. These workshops proved very successful as fishers enthusiastically engaged in sessions from 9 am- 3pm in 4 fishing communities. School children also benefited as more than 480 of them were able to directly benefit from ecosystem based field trips to the mangroves and coral reefs or participate in school presentations. We were also able to purchase much need equipment to allow us to execute our work effectively, such as a laptop and camera needed to capture photos of meetings and other project activities. Support from the SGP also allowed us to market our message creatively by providing promotional materials such as t-shirts, tumblers, posters, pens, hats and a video which is still be developed. These materials have helped to get our message of sustainable fishing to audiences that cannot get information on the traditional media outlets of radio and TV. It also helps us track how many instances of sharing opportunities we have as we can account for the amount of materials distributed, placement and use of it post distribution. As a result of the GEF-SGP support, we have been able to reach out to a new group of people to work with in conservation. It has allowed us to build constituency in our community and effect positive change for improving our local fisheries resources and the promotion of biodiversity.