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Title: Fishers and the West African manatee in the Fresco lagoon complex, Cote d'Ivoire : common property, conflict and conservation
Author: Akoi, Kouadio
ISNI:       0000 0001 3403 8961
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2004
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In this thesis I investigate the indigenous common property resource management system, and the conflict between the community and the endangered West African manatee (Trichechuss enegalensis), in the lagoon complex of Fresco, one of the six most important habitats for manatee in Cote d'Ivoire. 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 rises 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 profitable 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 shrimp, crabs and oysters. However, several factors constitute a serious 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 improved.
Supervisor: Leader-Williams, Nigel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: GN Anthropology