Safeguarding the fish stocks of the Ndoki landscape
Fishing is an important traditional activity for the people living along the Sangha, Motaba and Ndoki Rivers, which snake along the boundary and through the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, are traditionally fishermen. Encamped on its banks, they rely heavily on the rich fish diversity of these rivers, their tributaries and wetlands. As traditional fishing methods evolve and the human population of the area grows, coupled with increased transport and commerce of fish in urban areas far from the fishing grounds, a need has arisen for improved management of this important resource.
On May 25th 2017 conservation authorities, local stakeholders, government representatives and the region’s fishing communities met in Ouesso to enact an agreement to sustainably manage the fish stocks of the area. At the meeting local fishermen officially committed their buy in to a memorandum, in the form of a mini-charter, created by the departmental authorities and the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park management unit to promote the sustainable management of the fisheries resources for present and future generations.
The ‘mini charter’ is a summary document containing the conditions for sustainable fishing in the waterways surrounding the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park (Sangha, Ndoki and Motaba). It is also an agreement showing the voluntary consent of fishermen to meet the principles of responsible fishing set by the FAO fisheries code, ratified by Congo, as well as national fisheries laws such as Law No. 3-2010 enacted on 14 June 2010 to prevent unsustainable fishing practices. This management tool enables the governance of fishery resources through the establishment of a board of village chiefs, community development management committees, natural resource management committees, heads of families and community leaders. These community entities should be the main actors in fisheries management as they live with and use the fish resource for their livelihood each day. For these fisherman the mini charter will act as a guide to the protection of fisheries resources through awareness and strengthening their self-management capacity in order to reduce pressure on fisheries resources.
By working more closely with local fishermen there is hope that the authorities protecting the wildlife of northern Congo can build a relationship that ensures not only sustainable fisheries management, but also improved protection for all wildlife.
WCS studies on the outskirts of Nouabale Ndoki National Park (Poulsen et al 2007; 2009) have shown that fishing is an effective alternative to seasonal subsistence hunting. The pressure on terrestrial wildlife and the threats to fish resources are increasing. The decline in fishery resources causes fishermen to increasingly use destructive fishing techniques, such as fishing with mosquito nets, that may lead to local or even total extinction of important fish species. Depleted fish stocks may also lead people to increasingly rely on bushmeat to meet their protein requirements which would be detrimental to the area’s wildlife population.
An unforeseen benefit of this meeting was felt soon after the workshop when a group of fishermen reported to the local conservation authorities that a boat carrying illegally captured African Grey Parrots had been seen moving down the Sangha River. Rangers reacted to the information and managed to locate the suspects and seize the 45 illegally captured parrots in their possession. By working more closely with local fishermen there is hope that the authorities protecting the wildlife of northern Congo can build a relationship that ensures not only sustainable fisheries management, but also improved protection for all wildlife.