Monday, April 4, 2016

The legislative puzzle of trying to establish a socially fair Marine Protected Area

Coastal areas are one of the most important environments for human development. It is where most people are (or wish they were…), but it is more than that, it is the place we derive important monetary resources from, such as fish, salt and even petroleum, and cultural services too, such as recreation and simple attachment: we just love the coast! However, when we are leisurely enjoying the beach we do not always realize the number of different socio-economic sectors and ecological functions that are dependent upon estuarine and coastal areas, and even if we do, most often we do not think about conflicting interests the use of such services might have.

Foto de: Luana Prestrelo Palmeira

We do not think, for example, that each one of those economic sectors is responsible for lobbying for the development of their own laws or for following the existing ones regarding the use of space and zoning arrangements. Some of these rules are international and cannot be changed, which helps explain why there is so little interaction and convergence between these laws. Small-scale fisheries are one of the activities that take place in estuaries and coastal areas, and as we have extensively said here, it is a very important activity for the livelihood of thousands and thousands of families, mainly in developing countries. It is no wonder then that small-scale fisheries are in constant conflict with several socioeconomic activities (such as tourism, navigation routes, navy security zone and city infrastructure development) and with ecological conservation needs.
Foto de: Luana Prestrelo Palmeira

Such conflicts could be solved with proper marine spatial planning where activities happen in specific zones. The logical first step for that would be the identification and mapping of all existing uses, regulations and conflicts. Logical but uncommon… Most studies are limited to the identification of the main conflicts, such as between small-scale fisheries and marine protected areas, or more rarely, conflicts regarding oil and gas exploitation. We, from the Laboratorio de Biologia e Tecnologia Pesqueira (LBTP - UFRJ), tried a more thorough approach within amultiple-use coastal estuary. We saw that when fishing zone restrictions are developed without regarding all legislative groups, those restrictions are more likely to overlap, making it difficult to fish within regulation boundaries. For example, one area that would be perfect for fishing is actually under some other legislative protection due to oil exploitation. Specifically in this case study the most important fishing grounds were inside prohibited fishing areas due to navigation routes and pipeline safety zones. With economic growth those restrictions are increasing and use conflicts are being aggravated, jeopardizing fishing activity. The usual neglect towards fishermen’s livelihood, and their exclusion of the decision-making process led to a restricted fishing legal zone that contributes to their marginalization and poverty situation. Ignoring fishermen’s needs will not aid the establishment of successful marine protected areas or of appropriate zoning systems, after all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.