Fishers and the West African manatee in the Fresco lagoon complex, CoÌ‚ted'Ivoire : common property, conflict and conservation
In this thesis / investigate the indigenous common property resource
management system, and the conflict between the community and the
endangered West African manatee (Trichechuss enegalensis)i,n the lagoon
complex of Fresco, one of the six most important habitats for manatee in Cote
d7voire. The Fresco lagoon has been, and still is, an important means of
transport and a valuable fishery for the local community, which depend on it
for their livelihood needs. The lagoon becomes temporarily disconnected from
the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis. Its water level fises to its highest when
the inlet is closed, as freshwater inflow, resulting mainly from rain falling in the
lagoon's catchment, continue to accumulate behind the closed inlet. The
vegetation communities that appear on the flooded shoreline during the
highest water level are composed of 63 species from 61 genera and 34
families. A degrading mangrove forest dominates much of the shoreline.
The indigenous resource management system in the Fresco lagoon was
established during the 17th century, and was structured under an informal
indigenous resource management institution, known locally as the N`gni
system. The N`gni system was based on customs and traditional beliefs over
the spirit of the water. The N`gni system sought to regulate fishing in the
lagoon, to prevent conflicts, which may arise from the commonly used gate
fishing method, and to maintain continual reverence for the spirit of the water.
This was achieved by a set of rules and regulations and by dividing the lagoon
into family territories based on the prevailing traditional land tenure system.
The state has adopted a new land tenure regime and a free enterprise
economic system. The Administrative Decentralization Reform has allowed
the establishment of Fresco Town Council. As a result, the N`gni system was
abolished and replaced by a government driven co-management committee in
1967, with a strong community representation.
Fishing in the sea, which was more proritable for the community, has since
stopped. The lagoon, which was initially set aside for fishing only during bad
periods in the sea, is now a year round fishing ground, because access to the sea is difficult since the 12 districts of Fresco have been resettled. Younger
generations are now losing their skill at fishing in the sea. Finally, as the
increasing human population causes further impoverishment of the
community, pressure on the lagoon increases.
The community still generally retains a positive attitude towards the Fresco
lagoon complex and recognizes the link between their cultural identity and its
value as an important fishery. However, opinions on the success of present
day management and options for future management vary according to ethnic
origins, whether native or non-native, the length of residence in the area, and
the villages in which users reside.
Fishes, crustaceans and molluscs from the lagoon are harvested by the
community and methods used include thrown netting, laid netting, line fishing
and baskets for shilmp, crabs and oysters. However, several factors
constitute a sefious challenge for future sustainability of resource use in the
lagoon, including: the community now fish only in a lagoon of relatively small
size; the human population is increasing, the inlet is breached almost every
year giving little time for fish to grow; the degradation of the mangrove forest
is ongoing resulting in lost of nutrients and of a refuge to fish and manatees
and, the new coastal highway now improves access to the region.
The West African manatee is a solitary animal, less active during the day than
during the night, that spends its time resting, moving, feeding and cavorting.
Its activities are linked to tidal stage and season. Manatees feed on fruit, mud
and deposited plant material, but leaves of emergent plants and grasses
found on the water's edge constitute the bulk of their diet. Feeding occurs
mostly during night and long feeding excursions are frequently undertaken to
riverine locations in the wet season for periods lasting from I night to several
weeks. Manatees show a high rate of site fidelity. The home ranges of
individuals are independent but overlap almost completely, suggesting that
the species is not territorial. The time manatees spend on performing an activity is, in general, determined
by the prevailing activity. However, human presence also impacts on time
spent on certain activities, and manatees swim away or flee in response to
humans at close distance. Manatee flight reactions are a direct response to
approaching boats, the number of people transported and the type of activity
in which they are engaged. Manatees avoid feeding on emergent plant along
the water's edge when people are nearby. Nevertheless, the local community
had a positive attitude towards the manatee overall, although most of them
believe that manatee population in the Fresco lagoon had declined.
To minimize conflicts between manatees and humans in the Fresco lagoon,
the number of users should be strictly limited and areas heavily used by
manatees should be zoned and human activities regulated in these areas.
Finally, the ongoing public awareness campaign should continue and even be