Daven Amin, a grad student studying statistics and computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences, spent two months in Ghana helping to create a survey of fishermen that will be administered by local CRC staff to measure the progress and success of the CRC-led Sustainable Fisheries Management Project. Daven lived with a local co-worker, spent long days in an office creating the survey, and was challenged in selecting a random sample of people to survey because there are no street addresses there. Electricity is also unreliable, so creating and training staff to administer the electronic survey using tablets was also a challenge. Because it’s a paperless survey, the data immediately go to a cloud where it can be analyzed in real time.
Learn how the project gave him a chance to put his skills to use in a unique place.
If a problem is systemic, then addressing it at identified critical points might be the best way to solve it. The URI Coastal Resources Center (CRC)-led Leadership for Fisheries Management program that recently concluded in Ghana, Africa, took that approach, both in and out of the classroom.
CRC, based at the Graduate School of Oceanography, and the College of the Environment and Life Sciences’ Fisheries Center have come together for years to offer such programs on campus and across the globe. This 10-day Ghana course differed a bit in that it brought together two dozen participants from all parts of the Ghanaian fisheries system (and one from Malawi)—from chief fishermen and women processors in villages, to boat owners, to government officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations.
“One of the strengths was that you had people from throughout the system, and you had everyone talking to each other, which is unique for Ghana,” said Glenn Ricci, a coastal manager at CRC and co-leader of the course along with Kathy Castro of the Fisheries Center.
In addition, the course was offered early in the tenure of the CRC-led USAID/Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), which aims to help Ghana rebuild its collapsing small pelagic fishery, providing a broad window of opportunity for learning and implementation. “The primary difficulty is that even though there are strict rules and regulations in place, very few people are complying with them,” Castro said. SFMP and the fisheries leadership courses strive to change that.
The program, hosted at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), included faculty participants with the aim of building their capacity to offer these courses in the future. Next year, SFMP and UCC will co-facilitate and jointly implement the course.
Unlike some of the fisheries management programs CRC offers, which focus more on the technical aspects of fisheries, this course focused more on building leadership skills and empowering participants to understand that they can influence behavior throughout the fisheries system. The program covered how to influence people, how to understand your role in influencing positive behavior change, how to address conflict through finding common interest and understanding with those you might think you share no common ground.
With SFMP now underway, “there will be a great deal of follow on. We will offer programs like this twice a year. We want to create a group of 100 leaders throughout the fisheries system, strengthen their knowledge and ability to influence discussions from the local to the regional and national level. The courses are just a small part of a larger capacity development strategy to foster learning outside of the classroom,” Ricci said.
Ghana’s small pelagic fishery is crucial to its food security, and with SFMP, the timing is perfect for supporting a cadre of local people who can lead the country toward some tough decisions on how to reduce fishing effort in hopes of rebuilding fish stocks. For a renewed strategy to work, all stakeholders throughout the fishery system have to believe in the actions, despite low levels of trust and a history of ineffective management. Improved relations across the fishery system can make a new small pelagics fishery management plan more meaningful going forward.
In addition to classroom instruction in leadership, goalsetting, developing co-management plans and creating action plans, the group did a preliminary community analysis and then ran a stakeholder meeting in the fishing village of Elmina, Castro explained. This gave them hands-on experience to understand how local people see the way forward, what their visions are and to learn to listen more and talk less: a skill critical to being a successful leader. “It was very good for them to talk and listen to each other,” she said.
One message that emerged is that women fish processors have a good deal of power in the fisheries system. Many own boats and decide what fish to buy. “If organized, they could really influence the system,” Ricci said, much as the women in Cayar, Senegal, have as part of the CRC-led USAID/COMFISH project.
SFMP is there to guide and support Ghanaians’ progress toward a sustainable fishery, “but really it’s for them to do,” Ricci said. “The goal is to develop a viable network of informed, motivated people that understand the fisheries system and the power of vision driven changes.”
Throughout the tenure of SFMP, which concludes in 2019, CRC will return to Ghana with additional programs that build individual capacity that then strengthens the organization and ultimately the institutions and networks made up of those individuals and groups.
“It’s the follow-up, learning by doing method. It’s the CRC way,” Ricci said.
What goes into creating habitat and biodiversity hotspot maps of the vast ecosystem of Malawi’s long, narrow, biodiverse Great Lakes region? Start with four CRC staff members, five diligent extension officers working for the nation’s Department of Fisheries, three conscientious field assistants, one month in the field, four distinct lake habitats, eighteen communities, 36 focus groups, 36 individual maps, 30 workshop participants, countless hours of travel, information gathering and data analysis, a strong commitment from the Malawi FISH Project team, and local communities generously sharing their local knowledge.
CRC’s Glenn Ricci, Coastal Manager, Daniel Jamu, FISH Deputy Chief of Party, Cathy McNally, post-doctoral fellow, and graduate student Bill Favitta (Master’s of Environmental Science and Management, CELS) spent most of July and part of August working hand in hand with the local Malawian field team. Together they gathered and processed information from local shoreline communities and scientists in Malawi, using GIS technology to map the massive freshwater lakes. Their work is part of the United States for International Development (USAID)-funded Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats Project (FISH). CRC is providing technical expertise developing sustainable fisheries management plans for the five-year biodiversity and climate change adaptation project led by PACT, an international NGO. It is CRC’s first foray into a freshwater environment.
The CRC team started with a foundation of local ecological knowledge amassed earlier in the year via a suite of participatory rapid appraisal (PRA) methods carried out by the in-country field team comprised staff from PACT and the Department of Fisheries. In each community, the team convened focus groups engaging the village chief, Beach Village Committee Members, fishermen, women processers and fish traders in mapping exercises to compile fish species-specific information as well as habitat knowledge best mined from local people. “The field team started with a blank piece of paper that had only an outline of the lake, and asked the community members to share their perceptions and insights with them,” McNally said. For example, community members know their lakes the way others know their city block. Where are the rocky areas, the deep areas, important aquatic vegetation? What habitats do the fish harvested by artisanal fishers use for mating, nursery grounds, and adult feeding areas?
The habitat information and species-specific life-stage habitat requirements collected from the communities were compiled and used to create a number of GIS data layers. Favitta took the data synthesized by the field team for each lake and created eight separate maps, a habitat and biodiversity hotspot map for each lake. The resulting maps were validated by the communities during follow-up visits and were corroborated and augmented with additional information provided by local fisheries experts in a two day workshop.
“We went out to make links between fisheries species and habitats and identify where the main biodiversity hotspots are in each lake,” Favitta said. For two of the more remote lakes—Chiuta and Malombe—this was the first effort to map their habitats. “The local residents and fisheries extension officers were really excited to be a part of it,” he said. The local knowledge was crucial.”
And the information they shared enriched the work. “The amount of primary data collected from the local communities to create these maps and document their perceptions of the greatest threats to their resources added a greater level of meaning to the work, and validated and expanded upon other research conducted in the region”, McNally said.
The project team also asked the communities to describe any efforts that they had taken to date to mitigate the most pressing threats to the fisheries and reflect upon intrinsic strengths that the FISH project could build upon.
“I think the comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach, looking at the issue through multiple lenses—biodiversity, climate change, co-management, community resilience—also set the work apart,” Favitta said.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm exhibited by the local communities and fisheries extension staff,” McNally noted. “It was informative and fun to watch the fisheries extension staff employing different techniques to draw out the information from the communities and exciting to see them take full ownership of the PRA activities and follow-up validation visits.”
Scientists and fisheries researchers then reviewed the maps and data and provided feedback during a stakeholder workshop. Favitta eventually pulled together all the information gathered, digested and validated to build comprehensive GIS-based maps of the four lake ecosystems. Favitta, Ricci, McNally and the field team then continued sharing that feedback with the local communities. So far, the in-country project team has visited 13 of the 16 communities involved.
“I was surprised to see just how closely the local ecological knowledge gathered from the communities overlapped with the information shared by the local fisheries scientists, and hope that this encourages others to meaningfully involve local community members,” McNally said.
Working closely with the communities was a highlight for Favitta. “It provided a great perspective on the people that will be supported by the FISH project.”
Based on the accuracy and breadth of information gathered, the FISH project will be able to go into the communities and propose joint practical solutions to the threats identified by the communities. For example, one idea to help mitigate the pervasiveness of illegal fishing is to create “bush parks’ in the lakes as a deterrent. A bush park is a framework built in the water and filled with woody debris that eventually becomes covered in algae, which attract fish for feeding. “It serves as both a deterrent for illegal fishing activities while also boosting the local fish resources. These help protect local community’s waterways and resources for the local people,” Favitta said.
Back in Rhode Island, the CRC team is writing up the findings, which will highlight the community’s input and ideas and help to guide project activities going forward. The next stage of the project will use the maps and data to determine what interventions, such as “bush parks,” should be pilot tested and perhaps scaled up during the life of the project.
“It’s one step in the dialogue of what kind of project interventions can be pursued with the local communities to address the greatest threats facing them,” McNally said.
Two years of persistent, participatory work guided by the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) have culminated in a historic approval of fishery management plans in Senegal.
On September 30, the Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy signed and formally approved three sardinella collaborative Fishery Management Plans for the fishing zones of the Petite Cote, Grand Cote and Cap Vert. These three zones make up a majority of sardinella landings and represent key supporting management mechanisms to the national sardinella management plan.
The approval is a result of the two-year inclusive, participatory, and capacity building process for fisheries co-management guided by USAID/COMFISH initiative implemented by CRC, which is part of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.
Approval of the plans represents a unique achievement in one of the most important marine fisheries in Africa. Local fisheries governing bodies, known as Local Artisanal Fisheries Councils, have developed and will implement the management plans.These plans and the process for their development have the potential to be a game-changer in Senegal’s fisheries sector and are concrete symbols of the trust and appreciation from partners and beneficiaries for the partnership effort.
Sardinella is a pelagic species of great importance to the Canary Current marine ecosystem. The species alone accounts for over 80 percent of fish landings by artisanal fishers in Senegal, and is one of the main sources of animal protein in Senegal – over 70 percent. The management plans are a boost to long-term food security in the country. They serve the goals of safeguarding livelihoods for communities working in all aspects of sardinella fisheries (including small-scale fish processing), and optimizing revenues produced by fisheries resources while helping keep fisheries stocks in good health.
USAID/COMFISH (United States Agency for International Development/Collaborative Management for a Sustainable Fisheries Future in Senegal) is working with local fisheries actors and relevant fisheries departments to promote the development of similar participatory plans for other sardinella fishing zones, and to develop collaborative management plans for the estuarine species locally called bonga (a shad species).
USAID/COMFISH is a five-year project funded by USAID to support the collaborative and sustainable management of fisheries in Senegal. CRC implements the project in partnership with national and local actors in Senegal.
Senegal has established itself as one of only a few nations to develop a national Climate Change Adaptation Plan specifically for marine fisheries. High-level U.S. and Senegalese government representatives launched the plan in October with the goal of helping the sector and its fisheries communities to cope with the negative impacts of climate change and climate variability.
A partnership of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Fisheries spearheaded the development of this plan with support from USAID, through its fisheries project, USAID/COMFISH, implemented by the Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography along with local partners.
Like other key sectors of the Senegalese economy, the fisheries sector is hard hit by climate change. Manifestations of climate change in this sector include changes in fish location and migration patterns, increasing climate variability and number of accidents at sea, coastal erosion affecting fishing communities and landing sites, and flooding.
This national plan is part of a long process that will help the entire fisheries sector in Senegal better adapt to climate change by helping to increase the resilience of coastal/fishing communities. Fisheries play a critical role in the Senegalese economy. This sector involves over 17 percent of the working force, contributes over 2.5 percent to GDP and is one of the main sources of animal protein (over 70 percent) in the diet of the Senegalese people.
Since its inception in 2011, the USAID/COMFISH Project has been working with the Government of Senegal to assess the vulnerability of coastal communities, strengthen the capacity of local actors and institutions in the fisheries and climate change sectors while helping communities plan and undertake proactive adaptation actions to climate change.
A delegation from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana will visit the University of Rhode Island next week as part of a $24 million sustainable fisheries project led by the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography.
The Ghana delegation will meet with URI President David M. Dooley Jan. 27 to expand on a memorandum of understanding that the universities signed in May 2015.
The agreement includes opportunities for cooperative research as well as faculty and student exchanges in Ghana and at URI. The West African university has a longstanding partnership with URI through CRC-led coastal management and food security projects in Ghana. Currently, CRC is leading the implementation of the five-year, $24 million United States Agency for International Development Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project. The USAID grant is the largest ever awarded to URI.
Two fisheries experts from URI’s coastal center, Brian Crawford, in-country project director, and Najih Lazar, senior fisheries advisor, have been living in Ghana for the past year to help lead the project. Its goal is to revitalize marine fisheries stocks through responsible fishing practices and improved governance and ultimately benefit the more than 100,000 women and men involved in the Ghana fishing industry.
As part of this project, CRC and URI are working to build the research, educational and outreach capacity of the University of Cape Coast in coastal and fisheries management.
“Collaboration with the University of Cape Coast is an important element of the project, as one of the critical objectives of it is to build the skills and knowledge of Ghanaian stakeholders so they can continue the vital work of sustaining their fisheries sector and coastal communities long after this URI-led project has ended,” said Donald Robadue, sustainable fisheries project manager at CRC.
Leaders from both universities will discuss several aspects of the collaboration, with particular emphasis on student and faculty exchanges. These include developing an undergraduate program for URI students in Ghana during J Term, identifying areas of joint research among faculty, exploring opportunities for professional development and examining other areas of potential cooperation in marine fisheries, aquaculture and coastal resources.
The University of Cape Coast delegation also will visit URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus to meet with Graduate School of Oceanography Dean Bruce Corliss and talk with CRC colleagues about the details of the ongoing collaboration.
Thanks to the work of CRC and its colleagues at R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, R.I. State Building Commission and R.I. Sea Grant, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety is bringing its national Fortified Home program to Rhode Island. The building and remodel certification program requires upgraded standards to make structures more resilient to natural hazards, such as storm damage.
CRC’s Pam Rubinoff has been on the frontlines of this work, not only as a coastal management professional but as a homeowner, and she is sharing her story to help get the word out about the Fortified Home program.
The topic of designing and building coastal homes that can withstand impacts from climate change, increased storminess and sea level rise is a timely one in Rhode Island. Learn more about a Charlestown, R.I., architectural firm’s approach to the issue.
It’s nothing new to Rhode Island that strong storms can mean damage to homes and businesses.
What is new, says Fred Malik, director of FORTIFIED Programs at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), is that Rhode Island is well on its way to being a model FORTIFIED state. “There is a significant value to the property in Rhode Island with a lot of coastal exposure,” says Malik. “Rhode Island provides a great opportunity to involve the entire community to better protect residential and commercial properties from coastal exposure.”
The residential program, FORTIFIED Home™ Hurricane, is “a set of engineering and building standards designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to minimum building code requirements that will reduce damage from specific natural hazards.” Builders and homeowners choose to adhere to the voluntary set of standards. Late last year, a new home in South Kingstown was the first in the state built to FORTIFIED residential standards.
The FORTIFIED Program is gaining traction in Rhode Island in part due to the efforts of CRC, which provides science-based information, education and tools to coastal communities struggling to plan for increasing numbers of storms, one likely aspect of climate change. Through this work, CRC convenes opportunities for building regulators and professionals, as well as home and business owners, to learn about FORTIFIED.
Malik, in Rhode Island to train several local building professionals as certified FORTIFIED Home™ Evaluators, says with so many local property owners located along the coast, he is already seeing the residents of the Ocean State become increasingly interested in strengthening their homes to withstand storm damage. “Residents of Rhode Island typically live in their properties all year round and understand the risk hurricanes and Mother Nature can wreak on their homes and communities. They are ready to do something to strengthen their properties and protect what is priceless to them,” he said.
Pam Rubinoff, a CRC senior coastal manager helping lead the center’s resiliency work, did just that: she replaced her roof, damaged in a 2015 storm, with a FORTIFIED roof —one built to specifications and with materials guaranteed to withstand storm winds and water. The roof cost more than a regular roof, she says, but gave her peace of mind that it would withstand the next storm to come through the area. “Going this route may not be for everyone, but it gave me a level of safety I didn’t have before, so it was worthwhile to me, as a homeowner.”
A FORTIFIED Wise training will take place May 10 at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus. For more information or to register, please visit the training and certification programs online.
From offshore wind farms to underwater archaeology, CRC and its partners across GSO, URI and the state shared new research resulting from the Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), which celebrated five years of comprehensive and collaborative work during a stakeholder meeting March 29 at URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus.
The Ocean SAMP project received approval in 2010 and is enabling the state to learn more about Rhode Island’s offshore waters. By prioritizing public input and stakeholder engagement, the Ocean SAMP seeks to contribute to a regional effort to manage the resources of ocean waters. The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) initiated the project in partnership with GSO. CRC and Rhode Island Sea Grant facilitate the SAMP process.
The Ocean SAMP is is a model ocean plan for the nation, according Betsy Nicholson, Northeast regional director, Office for Coastal Management for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . Five years in, the program has proved to engage stakeholders and increase knowledge of the study area by 50 percent according to CRC’s Director of U.S. Coastal Programs and Rhode Island Sea Grant Extension Leader Jennifer McCann.
The Ocean SAMP played a significant roll in engaging community members in conversations regarding the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, a pilot project on track to be operational by late 2016, according to Aileen Kenney, vice president of permitting and environmental affairs for Deepwater Wind for Deepwater Wind, which is building the wind farm. Construction began last year, and the foundations for the turbines are in place with installation of the towers and turbines slated for August..
The offshore wind farm will be the first in the United States, and is expected to reduce Block Island electric rates by an estimated 40 percent according to Deepwater Wind. “I think doing things like [the SAMP] has helped Rhode Island become a leader in renewable energy,” Kenney said.
Commercial fishermen were some of the primary stakeholders concerned about the impact of the offshore wind farm. Industrial fisherman Fred Mattera admitted though he has concerns about the wind farm, outreach from the Ocean SAMP helped him feel involved in the process. “It’s happening in the industry’s back yard,” Mattera said. “It’s a difficult, bitter pill for [fishermen] to swallow.” Mattera credited Deepwater Wind and the Ocean SAMP for opening transparent lines of communication between fishermen and developers. “From someone that’s had a lot of reservations, I’m impressed with what they’ve done so far,” he said.
One of the questions the wind farm raised was how the turbines would affect local species. URI College of Environmental Science professor Peter Paton and his team tagged and tracked 25 piping plovers, a bird frequently seen on Block Island. Data Paton collected indicate that less than 10 percent of the birds fly under an elevation of 300 meters, which would keep them above the 270-meter tall turbines, he said.
The Ocean SAMP’s conservation efforts extend beyond the Block Island Wind Farm project, however. GSO professor John King has been conducting an underwater archeology project to identify — without disturbing — areas of the coastal shelf that, 15,000 years ago, according to oral history, were dry land occupied by the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Part of his project has been to engage and educate local tribal people in the process of identifying sacred ground so they can take part in dialogue to protect these areas.
GSO professor Jeremy Collie has also been conducting underwater research through the Ocean SAMP. His SAMP work focuses in part on offshore lobster populations. By using ventless traps that allow him to survey juvenile lobsters and bycatch species, he has tracked data that indicate a healthy population with a range of sizes. Collie also found that a common shell disease is having less of an impact on offshore lobster populations in the test site than on than coastal populations. In addition, the CRC has two URI graduate students, Nicole Andrescavage and Christian Fox, working to update the SAMP so it is a living document. “This is your document,” Fox said to stakeholders. “It belongs to you as much as it does to the state.” The students have tracked changes in recreation and tourism in Rhode Island’s coastal areas as part of the SAMP.
As research enabled by the Ocean SAMP uncovers more data and information of Rhode Island’s offshore waters, thoughts for a Narragansett Bay SAMP may be brewing.
“The irony of all this is that the Ocean SAMP is more advanced and protective of our offshore waters than we are of our bay waters,” Grover Fugate, executive director of the CRMC, said. “We need to provide the same level of protection for our inshore as we do our offshore.”
As a young boy growing up in a coastal village in Ghana, URI graduate student Evans Arizi could see the economic importance of fish.
He saw local fishermen in Metika and Anlomatuope — fishing villages near the border of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa — paddle their canoes into the waves and watched international boats cast nets into the water to reel in Ghana’s main source of protein.
He also saw how frequently fishing resources were exploited.
“The challenges are many,” Arizi, 29, says. “Some fishermen are using inadvisable methods of fishing, and the territorial waters are not protected due to insufficient logistics, so anyone can come in there and fish.”
In Ghana, lack of government investment in sustainable fishing policies has created a plethora of problems with illegal fishing. Because fishing laws are not properly enforced, vessels frequently use incorrect gear, like nets that are too small to free bycatches and immature fish, therefore increasing their catch and profits but depleting the stock of young fish before they can reproduce. Though fishermen are supposed to report juvenile catches, many do not out of fear of punishment. Arizi says local fishermen sometimes adhere to practices that pollute waters and lead to species degradation.
“Local authorities back these illegal practices out of greed,” he says. “(They think,) ‘Let me think of my stomach, let me not think of others.’ ”
Arizi aims to help change that culture at home, and the path to that goal has taken him to URI. He was introduced to the university through CRC. As an undergraduate, he participated in a fish stock assessment training program that was part of a CRC sustainable fisheries project in Ghana, which “provided many useful relevant materials” to local fishing communities, he says.
CRC currently leads a group of partners in the five-year Sustainable Fisheries Management Project in Ghana funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/Ghana SFMP). The project aims to improve conditions for sustainable local fishing practices, help fishing communities become stewards of their resources, strengthen information systems for managing fisheries and increase awareness for protecting fisheries ecosystems and the people who rely on them for their livelihoods, among other goals.
To help create the next generation of fisheries scientists and leaders in Ghana, the project is facilitating student exchanges and scholarship opportunities at URI in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, Arizi’s alma mater. Through CRC, Arizi applied for a scholarship to earn a PhD in Biological and Environmental Sciences at URI. He was accepted and moved to URI to begin the three-and-a-half-year program in January. It was his first time outside of Ghana.
“When the opportunity came for me to come here I was so excited,” Arizi says. “I felt that by coming here I would get the necessary materials and resources to be equipped to handle the opposition (to implementing and enforcing sustainable fishing laws in Ghana).”
Before coming to URI, Arizi worked as a principal research assistant for the Department of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. That experience, his fieldwork with CRC and his course work as an undergrad and graduate student at the university in Ghana brought the fisheries challenges into sharp focus. Much of it comes down to competition, Arizi says.
“When an individual spots a friend doing such an unwarranted act (like illegal fishing practices), he will decide to do the same,” Arizi says. While he believes the government needs to implement and enforce fishing laws recommended to them by many — including SFMP, which helped the country draft the recently adopted National Fisheries Management Plan — the most important change needed is in the behavior of fishermen.
“The fishermen have to change their behavior and also put their trust in others, he says.
Arizi hopes that his wife, whom he married a month before moving to Rhode Island, eventually can join him. Currently, however, his main focus is his studies. “I don’t want to get any Cs, not at all, so I have to work hard,” Arizi says. “My wife keeps on encouraging me to do well.” He is the first member of his family to go to college; however, he hopes his six siblings can follow his lead.
Though Arizi says that working to excel in his five classes often means waking up early in the morning and staying up late at night, he likes graduate school.
“God has done a lot for me, because of all my friends who started out in school at the same time, I’m the only one who made it to this level,” Arizi says. “I like education; knowledge is power.”