Ms. Gökmen Argun, National Coordinator of SGP Turkey, was invited to share Turkey's experience on promoting sustainable, recreational fishing practices at a workshop convened by MEDPAN, the Network of Marine Protected Area Managers in the Mediterranean. The presentation was part of the 2013 Mediterranean Experience Exchange Workshop on Surveillance and Regulation in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). While MPAs are reserve areas which allow limited, sustainable fishing, most MPA ecosystems in Mediterranean countries are affected by destructive fishing practices. Surveillance is one way to limit uncontrolled fishing activities, but education and communication can offer other effective ways to adress both ecological and socio-economic components of unsustainable fishing. Two projects of SGP Turkey had drawn the attention of MEDPAN evaluation specialists who found the projects to be innovative in their strategy by initiating dialogue and cooperation between the stakeholders.
Similar to other Mediterranean countries, Turkey's marine ecosystems have been seriously affected by illegal fishing and overfishing practices which are often disguised as recreational or amateur fishing. Fish species that are in high demand by the local gastronomy, such as the grouper, have been decimated and become rare. The hunt for these tasty, precious fishes has attracted unscrupulous amateur fishermen who are competing with local and external, professional and artisanal fisherman. One of the most damaging fishing practices is the continued use of illegal speargun hunting by the amateur fishers.
According to a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Turkey, the marine ecosystem of Kaş-Kekova experienced a drastic decline in fish species between 2002 and 2011. Stock of the common Sea Bream, Pagrus pagrus, vanished to all but 5% and grouper family stocks declined by 60-90%. Excessive amateur boat fishing and dive boats also caused other damages to the marine ecosystem, affecting particularly the Posidonia meadows which shrank around 60% between 2006 and 2009.
For the project in the Special Environmental Protected Area (SEPA) of Kaş-Kekova, the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) worked with the Underwater Research Society (SAD), an internationally renown organization focusing on the conservation of endangered species and marine or coastal habitat hot spots. During this project, SAD aimed at changing behavioral fishing practices among Turkish amateur fishers in Kaş-Kekova, recognizing that monitoring and surveillance alone is not sufficient to solve these challenges. In particular, the project sought to raise awareness among amateur fishermen as to the need to fish responsibly and to jointly discuss solutions to minimize the negative effects on marine ecosystems. What made this project unique and interesting for other MEDPAN participants, was its innovative approach in initiating a dialogue between competing, if not conflicting, key stakeholders. Indeed, the complexity and cooperation gap in amateur fishing poses a serious problem as there are an estimated 4 million potential recreational fisherman in Turkey, of whom 200,000 are speargun hunters.
The project team introduced international codes of practice for responsible recreational fishing through a "Responsible Amateur Fishing" booklet based on the FAO guidelines for responsible fisheries. It was developed in cooperation with a wide spectrum of stakeholders including governmental agencies – (Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Environment and Urbanization), academic bodies (experts, scientists), professional small scale fisherman NGO's, professional big scale fisherman NGO's, amateur fisherman NGO's, coastguards, local municipalities, local regional conservation and research NGO's, scuba diving tourism sector members, fishing market (restaurants, fish selling points, supermarkets, fisherman cooperatives etc), underwater sports federation, hunting equipment markets, internet forum leaders, and media. The booklet is part of a "Responsible Fisherman Education Kit" that includes as well stickers, CDs, alternative educational 3D game sets for children and course material based on SAD archives. Around 2,000 copies were distributed to relevant NGO's and Governmental organizations spanning from the Black Sea to the East Mediterranean.
In addition, the stakeholders also discussed other related subjects such as responsible amateur fisherman licenses, spear gun licenses, education criteria, penalties, as well as spatial planning standards for spear gun and alternate amateur fishing activities in MPAs to lower illegal fishing and commerce in MPAs. The commitment was reinforced through an intensive media campaign that targeted 240 media outlets, direct contact and supporting online tools, including website and Facebook page. Owing to impressive media coverage (over 50 articles were published), both on a local and national level, the project team managed to get the support of key stakeholders such as the Turkish Underwater Sports Federation/Speargun Hunting Branch, the Amateur Underwater Hunters Society, a leading Amateur Fishing NGO, and the National Traditional Artisanal Fishing Society.
The project set an important example for the cooperation of relevant stakeholders to reduce the affects of illegal and over fishing in MPAs. Lessons from this project show that strong management capacity is needed to cope with a wide range of different stakeholders. Strong, specialized NGOs could take on that role, coordinating the cooperation of those stakeholders. The project also successfully demonstrated that the demands of the stakeholders can be channeled into mutual points of agreement, leading to improved practices at the local and regional scale. One key factor in the success of the project was certainly the wide-spread support it enjoyed from governmental agencies, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other international institutions, as well as national and internationally renown scientists.
Building on this experience, the Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative Project (COMDEKS) replicated the project on a larger scale in Turkey's Datça Bozburun Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA). COMDEKS promotes biodiversity-friendly natural resource management practices that benefit both nature and human well-being, applying a comprehensive landscape approach to its projects. The projects initiated the pilot phase of a larger UNDP Turkey initiative that will be implemented on a national scale, in collaboration with the GEF Small Grants Program, WWF Turkey and the MEDPAN South Project.
Photos courtesy of SAD.