Mas Piska pa Boneiru: A social mapping study of the fisheries sectors of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius

Why is it so difficult to manage the fisheries sector on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius and how should this be tackled in the future in order to have long-lasting results? In the past, there have been several attempts to achieve more sustainable and better-managed fisheries practices on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, but they (partially) failed. Success has been achieved regarding conservation of certain species, for example, the sea turtles. There are several institutions responsible for, related to, or with an interest in fisheries management on the three islands. In the ideal situation, these institutions and stakeholders would collaborate to manage the sector. However, this is where it goes wrong: collaboration is not going smoothly, or is non-existent.

Since the constitutional change in 2010, the Netherlands is more prominently present on the islands in terms of policy, legislation, and management. Because the Government of the Netherlands has an international accountability concerning fisheries (i.e. contributing to global monitoring of fish stocks), has more capacity to and is in general more active in getting things done (i.e. cultural difference), more pressure has been put on the fisheries sector of the three islands to be managed. Since 2010, several projects have been executed (e.g. monitoring research, attempts to create a fishery cooperative, EEZ legislation, and implementation of a shark and marine mammal/cetacean sanctuary). However, on all three islands structural collaboration with the fishers remains an issue according to all stakeholders. The World Wide Fund for Nature – The Netherlands (WWF-NL) has been working on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius for many decades and has an interest to develop economically viable and community-supported sustainable fisheries. As WWF-NL learned about the difficulties present on the islands regarding the fisheries sector, WWF-NL also became more involved in attempting to realize sustainable fisheries management on the islands.

Aware of the fact that managing the fisheries sector is as much a social as an ecological issue, WWF-NL asked Stacey Mac Donald (KITLV) to assist with identifying the social bottlenecks and specifically the come up with solutions for these bottlenecks. The question raised was under which circumstances it will be possible to engage fishers in an organized manner in the development of sustainable fisheries. To come up with workable solutions, WWF-NL set up the ‘Social Mapping’ project to get a better understanding of who the stakeholders are and what their position is regarding fisheries management. To do so, first a description of the fisheries sector on each island (Chapter 3) and the different institutions, organizations and stakeholders responsible for fisheries management on the three islands were identified (Chapter 4). This produced two key findings:

Of all the of stakeholders and organizations involved with fisheries, many often do not know who is responsible for what (or why); 2. Confirming what was already known: the fishers, who are the primary stakeholders, are not structurally or sufficiently involved in the entire process of fisheries management.

Because it was believed the issues are most pressing on Bonaire, an intervention study on Bonaire was conducted in which the researcher collaborated closely with the fishers. Initially the intervention aimed to identifying how to best organize a meeting with fishermen in order to involve them in fisheries management practices. This developed into establishment of a fisheries cooperative (Chapter 5). Based on the intervention study and interviews, the different views about fisheries and fisheries management of the stakeholders became evident (Chapter 6). These insights were used to develop several models to visualize and explain the existing social and psychological bottlenecks preventing the islands from achieving successful sustainable fisheries management (Chapter 7). The complexity and interconnectedness of these bottlenecks resulted into a few key solutions, developed into a roadmap to achieve widely supported sustainable fisheries management (Chapter 8).

The table below presents an overview of the bottlenecks on various stakeholder levels, the corresponding consequences and recommendations on how to overcome these bottlenecks. The repetitiveness that occurs illustrates the interrelatedness and the complexity of the social aspects regarding fisheries management.

Ultimately all the bottlenecks presented in the table lead to the issues the primary stakeholders – in varying degrees – are concerned with to begin with: - Decline in biodiversity - Declining fish stocks - Declining coral reefs - Dying culture and profession - Decrease income of the fishers - No compliance to legislation - Unwillingness for behaviour change.

These issues are in turn closely related to each other. While it may seem a daunting task to resolve all the existing bottlenecks, this does not necessarily have to be the case as can be seen in the solutions presented. Stakeholder participation is a key element of successful fisheries management. Due to the complexity of fisheries management, there is not one optimal interaction approach: the initiators of, as well as participants in fisheries management processes should decide and negotiate on how much and what kind of interaction is necessary, appropriate and desirable. The responsibility for finding an appropriate degree of interaction lies with the initiator of fisheries management. Transparency about the chosen strategies (and limitations) to engage in the interaction processes is the key to reaching consensus about the degree of interaction. It is recommended that:

On all islands a fisheries cooperative must be established, by means of strong, continuous facilitation. This facilitation cannot be simply imposed on the fishermen, but must be wanted and accepted. 2. The fisheries departments of all public entities must be strengthened in terms of knowledge, urgency and capacity. 3. The urgency among both the local and national government to address and manage the fisheries sector must be enlarged through joint lobbying from NGO’s and fishers. 4. A systematic stakeholder analysis should be carried out to ensure representative involvement of those stakeholders relevant to the fisheries management question. Clear objectives for the participatory process need to be agreed among stakeholders at the outset. It should be made explicit who are considered stakeholders in the issue at hand, which of these groups can participate and in which form, and who decides on all of this, in short: who is the owner of the participatory process. 5. Where relevant stakeholders should be involved as early as possible and throughout the process. The different contexts of departure (i.e. the interests of the different stakeholders) must be shared at the beginning of a participatory process. 6. A transdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, long term, legally binding fisheries policy plan and management plan must be developed by a stakeholder-working group. The management plan should clearly define – in a legally binding way if possible – the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in fisheries management. 7. To ensure participation continuity, transparency and clarity throughout the development of a fisheries policy and management plan a fisheries engagement officer must be installed. Preferably by the National (and local) government. However, to ensure the position of the fisheries engagement officer remains as neutral as possible, a joint funding construction could be created (e.g. the salary of this officer is jointly funded by the key fisheries stakeholders: national & local government, NGO’s and fisher representatives). A key prerequisite for a jointfunding construction is that clear and concrete agreements are made in advance among the stakeholders about the role, responsibilities, opportunities. Moreover, it should not be possible for the financing parties to (easily) deviate from or ignore these agreements. 8. A sustainable financial model must be developed for fisheries management for all three islands to prevent the sole reliance on perceived (political) urgency. 9. Throughout the development of the management and policy plan, pilot projects must be executed, the communities must be informed through public campaigns and the plans must be evaluated and adapted accordingly.

What this report illustrates, is that in fisheries management the focus must not lie solely on solving the final outcomes (i.e. decline in biodiversity, declining fish stocks, dying culture and profession etc.), but rather concentrate on the facets (i.e. bottlenecks) underlying the existence of these issues. In the case of fisheries management, this entails that a lot of focus and energy must be placed on guiding and improving the process of fisheries management.


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