7 Nov 2018 - How a temporary fishery closure increased octopus population and improved the livelihoods of fishers in the island of Rodrigues and mainland Mauritius.
Along the beautiful coastlines of the Republic of Mauritius, the art of octopus fishery has been an integral part of the livelihoods and way of living of the fishing communities. The most abundant and common species is the Octopus cyanea – a native of Mauritius.
On the island of Rodrigues, local octopus fishers noticed - over time - a significant reduction in their catch. Unsustainable fishing practices such as catch of small individuals and juvenile females, open and unregulated access to the octopus fishery, and the effects of climate change on the coral reefs that provide a home to the octopus, were driving the Octopus cynea to extinction and jeopardizing the livelihoods of the local artisanal fishers.
The Community Takes Action
With technical and financial support from the GEF Small Grants Programme, the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and the local NGO Shoals Rodrigues Association, decided to take action to address the problem. Their solution? A voluntary closure of the octopus fishery in the waters of Rodrigues for 2 months a year. This innovative idea also received support from the FAO Smartfish Programme, implemented through the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).
“I have been fishing octopus for the last 30 years. I have seen the decline in octopus. Through this project, during the closed season I carry out alternative environmental work around the island of Rodrigues, including searching for and reporting illegal poaching activities. When the fisheries re-open, my catch is better due to the health of the octopus population, and so is my income.” - Fisherwoman at Port Sud Est
Despite a few initial challenges, the closure was a great success, with immediate and visible results for the local fishers, who demonstrated ownership of the project by carrying out primary monitoring tasks and actively reporting on cases of illegal fishing to NGO representatives.
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