URI Coastal Resources Center awarded $11.5 million grant to promote sustainable fishing practices in Senegal

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – April 25, 2011 – The Coastal Resources Center and the Fisheries Center at the University of Rhode Island have been awarded an $11.5 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development to support efforts by the government of Senegal to reform its fishing industry and promote sustainable fishing practices.

It is the first project in Senegal by the URI centers, although they have worked on coastal management and sustainable fisheries initiatives in several other sub-Saharan Africa countries for many years.

“Many of the fisheries in Senegal are severely overfished, with too many fishermen chasing too few fish,” said Brian Crawford, director of international programs at the Coastal Resources Center. “To prevent overfishing, they need to make improvements in the way they govern the resource and move toward better co-management approaches where fishermen are more engaged in the decision making process.”

One of the challenges, according to Crawford, is that fishing has been considered “a social safety net within the Senegal economy” whereby farmers and others who were struggling financially could easily switch to fishing. Restricting access to fishing, which is likely to be one result of proposed reforms, could mean that some Senegalese who want to fish would be prohibited from doing so.

“But before they get to that point, we need to look at the legal and institutional structures in place that govern decisions about who can fish, where, when and how,” said Crawford.

The grant will enable the Coastal Resources Center to establish an office in Dakar, Senegal, and hire local staff and collaborate with local partners, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, a local university, and several community and fisherman’s organizations. Together with the fishermen, they will identify two fish stocks for which they will facilitate a participatory process to develop management plans. They will assess the status of the stocks and identify the many implications of potential management measures on the fishery and the fishermen.

“We will also assist the Senegal Department of Marine Fisheries to develop institutional mechanisms that promote co-management approaches that worldwide have been proven more effective at managing fisheries resources and still provide food security to the population,” Crawford said.

The team will also develop strategies to protect critical marine habitats and threatened marine species and identify national and community scale actions that can be undertaken to adapt to coastal affects from climate change. The project will also pilot an initiative similar to the Sea Grant and Land Grant models in the U.S. that links local universities with private sector and government stakeholders in order to better use science in management decision making.

“It is a long term process, so we don’t expect that there will be huge changes in the biological conditions over the five year life of the project,” Crawford said. “But we want to build a foundation of enabling conditions so that those changes can eventually be achieved even if not until after the project ends.”

The Project is being led by James Tobey at the Coastal Resources Center and by Kathleen Castro from the Fisheries Center, with technical support and guidance from several URI faculty and researchers..

This project is one of seven international initiatives run by the Coastal Resources Center and funded by USAID grants totaling about $8 million annually.