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Our Lake, Our Future: Sustainable Fishing Initiative

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, OELO has launched a sustainable fishing initiative in nine villages on Lake Oguemoué.

Residents of Lake Oguemoué rely on fishing as a livelihood, but as fish become scarcer, fishing methods are changing. Fishermen report that they are increasingly fishing year round rather than seasonally, using smaller mesh sizes for their fishing nets, using illegal monofilament nets that are less expensive than legal nets and readily available for purchase in Lambaréné, and using practices forbidden by Gabonese law such as making loud noises to drive fish into nets to increase their catch (OELO Solutions Communautaires 2012). 

On July 30, 2013 OELO hosted a general assembly at Odimba village on Lake Oguemoué concerning fishing. This meeting was the culmination of 17 focus groups with 49 participants held in 9 villages on Lake Oguemoué at the end of 2012.  In our focus group work, a decline in fish stock quality and quantity was the top environmental concern of residents on the lake. We asked them to identify potential solutions that they would support to improve the quality of fishing on the lake. We then shared these community-proposed solutions with partners at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the provincial Fisheries Department, and a fisheries biologist who works for the Government of Gabon to identify the strongest suggestions. We compiled a fishing agreement of the strongest propositions and shared it with each of the 9 villages for final edits and feedback (OELO, Accord de la Pêche 2013).

The general assembly held to sign the final agreement was attended by 50 residents of the lake and 15 guests from the larger region, including the President of the Departmental Council, representatives from the Fisheries Department, representatives from the Ministry of Water and Forests, the Head of the Canton, and representatives from a nearby logging operation (OELO, Assemblée Générale 2013). The fishing agreement was signed by 42 fishing residents (OELO, Accord de la Pêche 2013).  It includes actions to collect and properly discard abandoned fishing nets implicated in needless killing of fish through “phantom fishing,” stopping the use of illegal monofilament nets, using net mesh sizes over 45mm to prevent the capturing of small fish, forbidding the practices of “tappage” and “eroca” on the lake which involve making loud noises to drive fish into nets and are illegal in Gabon, collecting hazardous wastes like batteries at village collection points to prevent lake pollution, leaving a to-be-determined area of the lake for fish reproduction, requiring fishermen coming from villages outside the lake to present fishing licenses to the Chef de Canton in order to fish on Lake Oguemoué, and patrolling the lake waters for illegal activities. Copies of the agreement were given to each village and a laminated copy of the signed agreement was posted to the door of the house of the Chef de Canton in Odimba village.

In 2015, our activities will include:

1) Gathering information on local fishing techniques and gear through interviews

2) Initiating a participatory study on lake fisheries at key landing sites to monitor population changes with time

3) Mapping areas of fish spawning, rearing, and aggregation to identify potential no catch zones

4) Setting up a network to patrol for illegal activities and setting the basis for a co-management fisheries agreement

5) Designing a net-exchange program to replace illegal monofilament nets with multi-filament natural fiber nets

Activities

Sustainble fishing agreement signed by 42 local residents.  
A participatory study using GPS trackers maps fishing routes on the lake.