Partnerships Are Critical to Successful Fisheries Management

By Nyawira Muthiga | November 21, 2019

Coral reef fish important for biodiversity and food security. Credit: TIm McClanahan/WCS.

I am from Kenya, where we are known for our wildlife and our long distance runners. Recently one of our most famous marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge made history by breaking the two-hour marathon barrier. It took a dedicated partnership between many different people for Eliud to achieve this incredible feat.

Both wildlife and our runners succeed in part because of collaborations for training, science, and adaptive management that exceeds the local capacity. I believe using similar models of partnerships can generate benefits for people and biodiversity.

“My work relates to coral reef conservation and small-scale fisheries in Kenya. Coral reef ecosystems are a good example of where biodiversity conservation and food security are inextricably linked.”

WCS Fiji Director Sangeeta Mangubhai with the author at the November 2019 International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome, Italy. Credit: ©WCS

Building partnerships is a complicated process that starts with defining joint objectives and getting commitments from all relevant stakeholders to work towards a common goal. So, what kinds of partnerships do we need?

Good partnerships need to have characteristics that encourage participation and communication and promote accountability. They involve relationships at all levels (local to regional to global) but proportional to potential influence or impacts.

Importantly, they create linkages directly related to key management processes and responsibilities. They have information exchange mechanisms that are useful and economically realistic. Good partnerships also address real issues that stakeholders face — including social, ecological, political, technological etc.

Coral reefs and small-scale fisheries are mostly managed through marine protected areas (MPAs), co-managed areas (CMAs), and — more recently — other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). In my experience, these approaches have challenges that can be resolved by building partnerships at the different levels.

Kenya annual fishers’ forum organized by WCS and the Kenya State Department of Fisheries brings together fishers, conservation and fisheries managers and practitioners to discuss research findings, network and share experiences. Credit: Emily Darling/WCS.

Countries have agreed to deliver on several global conservation and sustainable development commitments, such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. However, fulfillment of these commitments requires mechanisms to build needed linkages across and within agencies, including down to the managed area. Efforts must be undertaken to ensure that national policies, regulations, and management plans are effectively implemented.

“Building partnerships is a complicated process that starts with defining joint objectives and getting commitments from all relevant stakeholders to work towards a common goal.”

That is why we not only need to form new partnerships but also to strengthen existing ones. Such collaborations should provide regular monitoring to evaluate performance and encourage adaptive management. Perhaps as important, they facilitate greater learning, serve as forums for information exchange, and help provide a steady stream of scientific and other information useful for management.

Nyawira Muthiga is a conservation scientist who directs the Kenya marine program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). With Tim McClanahan, she received the 2018 Award for Conservation Excellence (ACE) for her distinguished conservation work in coastal Kenya, East Africa, the Western Indian Ocean and around the world for more than 30 years

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Wildlife Conservation Society

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WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

Our Ocean, Our Future

Conserving and managing the marine biodiversity of our oceans is a monumental task that few countries have the capacity to do on their own. WCS is responding by investing in ocean protection, sustainable fisheries, and marine species conservation where the need is greatest

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