New Framework Developed to Define Complex Mangrove Fisheries

Policy makers will now have a better understanding of fishers that rely on mangroves for their lives and livelihoods

Mangrove forests are rich and complex ecosystems that many fish – and fishers – rely on for survival. However, the current narrow definition of who is a mangrove fisher means certain groups are excluded from decision making, meaning that policies decided without their input may be misguided or even harmful to these communities. 

A new report from Nippon Foundation Nereus Program researchers published on April 21 in the journal PLOS-ONE will help policy-makers tailor mangrove fishery definitions to specific places and situations. Using this framework will help regions meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of providing access to marine resources and markets for small-scale artisanal fishers.

Mangroves are typically located around the equatorial band between 25° North and 25° South. They provide important habitat for a wide variety of terrestrial, estuarine and marine species — from fish to birds and manatees — and supply nutrients and sediments for seagrass-bed and coral-reef habitats. They are also considered important players in climate change adaptation, mainly through carbon sequestration. The world’s mangroves, on average, can store three to five times more carbon than upland tropical forests.

Now, thanks to Nereus investigators, we have a better understanding of the fishing activities associated with mangroves. The team interviewed local fishers around the Perancak Estuary in Bali, Indonesia. This case study demonstrated the complexity that a mangrove-fishery can entail, where fishing is connected to the mangrove forest by fishers of multiple sectors, functions, locations and temporal scales. Some of the findings include:

  • The mangrove in Bali is not only used by traditional fishers but by fishers from other sectors during periods of bad weather that prevents fishing at sea or during periods of low catches of Bali sardinella, one of the main offshore targets in the region. The mangrove therefore has many overlapping users at any one time. 
  • Three mangrove-fishing communities within Bali reported different uses and functions of the mangrove for their livelihoods, highlighting that mangrove-fisheries are diverse in their characteristics even in close proximity.

“The actors and their uses or benefits from the mangrove for fishing are much more diverse than is usually communicated, which means it’s likely that not all of these uses are recorded or represented when we make management decisions,” said Rachel Seary, lead author of the report and researcher from the University of Cambridge. “It’s important that we represent all uses when we make management decisions so that underrepresented groups don’t lose out.”

The Nereus Program and the Ocean Nexus Center closely collaborate to bring social and natural sciences together to improve our understanding of the oceans and the people who rely on them. A key pillar of their work is developing engaging science communication materials beyond publication in peer-review journals, ensuring the applied research resonates with the people in charge. The research team developed a compelling infographic as a companion to the paper.

view our infographic on your iPhone here