Living dangerously on the edge
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CTA. 1999. Living dangerously on the edge. Spore 82. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Almost half of humanity lives near the coast. Many people draw their living and livelihood from this narrow strip of land nudging the ocean. The last two explosive decades have seen tremendous changes to the fragile ecological balance of coasts....
Almost half of humanity lives near the coast. Many people draw their living and livelihood from this narrow strip of land nudging the ocean. The last two explosive decades have seen tremendous changes to the fragile ecological balance of coasts. The pressures of growing populations and their occupations have seriously damaged the environment, sometimes irreversibly. Everyone suffers the consequences, some more than others. Not that the occupation levels of the coast are even : there are great stretches of virtual deserts, such as in Somalia and Namibia, and other areas with several hundred people on each crowded square kilometre. The rush to the coast is only recent: coastal settlements, started by fishers, are relatively new. Then came the towns, followed by ports and industries, while people left the rural areas of the interior for the coast. Gradual population growth put pressure on the use of the many natural resources; first and foremost on fishing and farming, but also on hunting, salt harvesting, shell and shellfish gathering, sand quarrying, and firewood collection. The communities undertook different activities, but as the pressure on resources grew, their interests began to clash. Other pressures from tourism, industry, and aquaculture started to play their part. If population pressure had been less, these various activities could have coexisted in harmony. Wastes discharged by towns and factories dilute into the sea, up to a point. The fishing population can grow without reducing the catch, up to a point. Aquafarmers can drain off their ponds, tourists can flush their wastes away in their bungalows, and small farmers can cut down mangroves. Up to a point, the impact of each group's activities on the environment is negligible. But up to which point? After a given point, the richest people will open other posh hotels elsewhere, other fish ponds elsewhere. The largest trawlers will go further away and fish, elsewhere. Fishermen who stay behind and go nowhere will fret about the drastic falls in their catches, not knowing where all the fish went.1 Where have all the fish gone? Standing on their frail boats, fishers can see tangibly that there are fewer and fewer fish. Catches are down by about 60% compared with 15 years ago. Take Senegal, a country that relies heavily on fisheries both for feeding its people and for exports; the statistics show a clear drop in the catches of fish with a high commercial value (sole, mullet, sea bream, and grouper). Some species that have grown popular recently, such as cuttlefish or octopus, are stable; for others, like hogfish, the catches have fallen already.2 On a global level, the FAO has calculated that some 50,000 coastal fishermen will lose their livelihood in the next 15-20 years if nothing is done. Their numbers have increased and techniques have improved, but the causes of falling catches do not lie here alone. Discharge of urban, industrial, and agricultural effluents into rivers or directly into the sea leads to chronic pollution from bacteria, industrial waste, and pesticides. Fish are dying at a time when their value as a source of income and protein is all the more important for local people. Another form of environmental degradation, deforestation, is a more insidious factor; it worsens the phenomena of erosion along the coast just as it does inland. Rivers carry down erosion sediments that are deposited at the mouth. The accumulated sediments literally suffocate the environment, changing it almost irreversibly, as in the case of the Limpopo estuary in Mozambique. Development managers in many ACP countries often underestimate the value of coastal fisheries in economic and social development. Its recognition is not just a solution, it is a prerequisite. The real solution in most cases requires the involvement of all stakeholders so that they act together. Participation is a key element at the heart of integrated coastal zone management. This is a new approach, but it should not be seen as just the latest fashion in development concepts. Never, since the emergence of systems research, has the fate of people depended so much on the challenge this theme poses for researchers and leaders in development. 1 M Ducrocq. Premi?res enquptes propos de l'exploitation des raies et requins par les ppcheurs Nyominkas du Sine-Saloum (Sénégal). Mission report. March 1999. 2 Marchés Tropicaux. April 1999. For further information Dossier 'Integrated Coastal Zone Management'. In Agriculture and Rural Development. Volume 6 p 27 No 1, April 1999. ISSN 0343-6462. Available from CTA Responsible Fish Utilization. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 7. 1998. 39 pp. ISBN 92 5 104180 6. $8.00 , euros 7.80 Aquaculture development FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 5. 1997. 40 pp. ISBN 92 5 103971 2. $8.00 , euros 7.80 FAO Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 00100 Rome Italy
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