This year, Fish Forever embarks on its exciting first effort in Africa, setting its sights on the many small fishing communities along the Mozambique coastline. With support from the Nordic Development Fund and the World Bank, Mozambique’s Ministry of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries will work with Fish Forever to help the country transform its near-shore fisheries.
For many Mozambicans, fishing is life, serving as an essential source of job and food security. Nearly half a million Mozambican people rely on small-scale fishing for employment, and small-scale fishers account for more than 85 percent of the country’s annual catch. Fish is also fundamentally important as food for Mozambicans: the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the Mozambican population derives a full half of its animal protein intake from fish and fisheries products.
Out at sea, Mozambique has garnered attention from scientists, divers and tourists worldwide as a biodiversity hotspot. A 2012 study in PLOS ONE found that the Mozambique Channel is home to the second most diverse coral reefs in the world, after the Coral Triangle. More than 2,000 marine fish species, over 400 coral species, and dozens of marine mammal species are found there. Manta rays, whale sharks, five different kinds of sea turtle, and the rare dugong all move through the channel’s waters.
Mozambique’s fishers and rich marine biodiversity are defining elements of life on the coast. To secure both, Mozambique’s government is exploring how it might shift its current system of open access in small-scale fisheries toward sustainable, managed fishing. As in all Fish Forever countries, these small-scale fisheries are on the decline, stretched to their limits by overfishing. Fishers struggle to keep up with rising demand for fish and perpetually decreasing fish stocks. Further, their community fisheries management organizations need to build capacity to govern their fisheries sustainably, a high-priority objective for the national government.
[Fish Forever] is launching its program with the national government as its implementing partner, with the shared goal of national scale.
The Mozambican government believes Rare's Fish Forever program can help move its fisheries toward sustainability. It’s already carved out enabling conditions for Fish Forever’s approach, having made several recent moves to foster community governance of small-scale fishing. In April 2013, Mozambique’s Council of Ministers and Parliament passed a revised Fisheries Law calling out rights-based fishing management — which includes the territorial fishing rights, or “TURF,” behind Fish Forever’s TURF+Reserves — as a preferred tool for strengthening fisheries management. Additionally, the National Institute for the Development of Small-Scale Fisheries and Aquaculture (IDEPA, formerly IDPPE) — created by the country’s fisheries ministry to find ways to develop artisanal fishing communities — established fishing community councils to empower local people to better manage their fisheries.
Fish Forever plans to work within and strengthen this existing framework. The IDEPA is Fish Forever’s chief implementing partner from within the government. IDEPA staff will become Rare Fellows, receiving master’s degrees in communication and conservation from Rare’s Pride program and building local support for TURF+Reserves. At the same time, Fish Forever and the Rare Fellows will work to enable local governance capacity through the already existing fishing community councils. With technical help from IDEPA and Fish Forever, community members can come together to collectively design and manage their own TURF+Reserves.
With these existing tools in hand, Fish Forever’s partnership with the national government puts the initiative in a unique position: The initiative is launching its program with the national government as its implementing partner, with the shared goal of national scale. This early, direct collaboration with the government primes the country to expand the concept along the entire coast, making use of capacity that Fish Forever will help build during its time on the ground.
This month, the Fish Forever team sets out on an expedition to select the program’s first six sites from a group of more than 16 finalists located across two coastal zones — the Coral coast in the north and the Parabolic Dunes coast in the south. As Fish Forever explores each area, the program will weigh important factors like local socioeconomics and politics, habitat types, and biology. In these places and those to follow, Fish Forever has the opportunity and aim to help newly resilient and self-organized communities bring back bountiful, valuable catch, secure jobs linked to small-scale fishing, and restore and protect the beautiful biodiversity of the Mozambique Channel.