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World Oceans Week event: Where are the small-scale fishers?

World Oceans Week event: Where are the small-scale fishers?

Exploring the impact of the 30×30 conservation goal on coastal communities

30×30 is a conservation goal seeking to protect 30% of global land and ocean by 2030. Such an unprecedented scaling of protected areas brings challenges, opportunities, and trade-offs. Putting 30×30 into practice will have a significant impact on communities, small-scale fisheries, and Indigenous people.

Blue Ventures and the ICCA Consortium held a panel session for Too Big Too Ignore’s Small-Scale Fishers Open House as part of World Ocean Week 2021 to address the impacts 30×30 may have on small-scale fishers. Speakers with experience working with coastal communities across the Indian Ocean explored several issues related to 30×30. What gets protected? Where? How? Who receives the funding? And what does this mean for local and Indigenous communities?

Marine conservation is about people

Tahiry Randrianjafimanana, national management advisor for fisheries and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with Blue Ventures in Madagascar, shared his concerns about the practical challenges of implementing the 30×30. The sheer scale of this goal means quadrupling the area of the ocean and doubling the area of land currently protected. He argued 30×30 is a top-down approach focussing on biodiversity and climate, not people. For example, a complete ban on extractive fisheries would be detrimental to small-scale fishers and coastal communities.

Tahiry explained that in Madagascar, local stewards have often proved more effective in environmental protection than government. Despite the positive impact, Indigenous communities will not be part of the decision making around protected areas. Tahiry stressed that a communities-first approach is vital. Human rights and community leadership must be at the center of the 30×30 decision making process.

Coastal communities are already contributing to conservation efforts

Prisca Ratsimbazafy of the MIHARI Network of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) in Madagascar showed how LMMA communities play a major role in managing the ocean, the coast, and its resources. They are, argued Prisca, already contributing to the 30×30 conservation goals. Conservation here involves community participation in decision making, patrolling the LMMA, organising peer-to-peer learning and exchanges. 

Communities choose where and when to implement no-take zones or temporary reserves and come together to protect and restore mangrove forests. These activities all contribute to conservation while at the same time protecting the communities’ livelihoods. 

Prisca explained that coastal communities had accumulated knowledge over generations to preserve habitats and the local environment. It is essential that this knowledge is used for planning and implementing a framework such as 30×30. Drawing on existing Indigenous knowledge could prevent further harm to marine life and Indigenous communities.

Secure human rights to protect the ocean

The final speaker was Mohammad Arju, communications coordinator for the ICCA Consortium. Arju explained that millions of people are forced off their land due to conservation efforts. He gave the islands of Maheshkhali and Sonadia in Bangladesh as examples, where communities were evicted by the government to create protected areas. Yet, they had managed and protected the environment there for generations. 

Arju explained that Indigenous people had to abandon their existing governance systems during the rise of international development practices. This led to their exclusion from decision making about their land and sea. Arju fears the 30×30 framework will only make things worse for Indigenous communities around the world. 

Arju’s urgent recommendation, therefore, was to “support Indigenous peoples, local fishing communities, and coastal communities to secure their collective territories, and strengthen their self-determined governance systems.” With many communities already meeting 30% targets within their areas, all three panelists agreed that a communities-led approach is essential if we are to secure a sustainable future for our ocean. Communities and conservation needs are intricately intertwined and must not be addressed as separate issues.

Watch the full panel discussion ‘Where are the small-scale fishers? The impact of 30×30 on coastal communities

Find the details of the 30×30 conservation goals in the United Nations Convention of Biodiversity’s Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, page 9 (a)2. 

Read the ICCA Consortium’s Territories of Life: 2021 Report about the need for Indigenous peoples and local communities to secure their human rights, particularly in self-determination, cultures, and collective lands and territories.

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