Save our Sharks - Community Component - Saba
For the Save our Sharks project of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and the Dutch Council of State, 7Senses conducted Participatory Action Research on Saba for 7 weeks in July/August 2016, focusing on the fisheries component of the project by improving the marine ecosystem.
In just 7 weeks, Saban fishermen discovered and developed a way to solve the issue of plummeting redfish stocks, something that had been bothering them for over 20 years without a concrete resolution. Trough this initiative, they indirectly save sharks in a way that suits their personal needs and perspectives. An extra economic incentive to improve living circumstances for sharks is to fish for (marketable) lionfish using lionfish-specific traps, which are currently being tested.
|Project name||Save our Sharks|
|Start date||July 2016|
|Action Researcher||Madelon Eelderink|
|Local researcher||Luke Spencer Hassel|
Together with local stakeholders, 7Senses designed a PAR project for the Save Our Sharks project, in a way that fitted the local context, from the problem framing up to methodology and concept definitions.
As Apex predators of the marine ecosystem, sharks are essential for its balance, variety and health (DCNA 2015). Also Redfish are essential components of the marine ecosystem as important predators; the influence they have on their food sources can even modify the structure of the environment they live in (NIWA 2015). On Saba Island, multiple stakeholders claim that the Redfish population is declining at an alarming rate. Especially fishermen are concerned as for most of them, it is their main source of income. As it turns out, Redfish and sharks depend on each other for their existence. It is in the interest of multiple stakeholders, among which DCNA, SCF and fishermen, to recover the Redfish population.
To discover, develop and implement together with local stakeholders a joint construct of plans for the protection of sharks in Saba territorial waters, which fits each stakeholder’s needs and goals and which they can execute actively and sustainably. As such, we aim to tackle shark extinction from multiple angles.
What joint construct of plans can be co-created, implemented and executed by different involved stakeholders, for the direct and/or indirect protection of sharks in Saba territorial waters?
1) What is each stakeholder’s perspective profile with regards to marine ecosystem related subjects?
2) In what circumstances and under what conditions can local stakeholders cooperate best in shark conservation?
3) What activities can be implemented that would help reaching stakeholders’ individual goals while contributing to shark conservation?
PAR was executed using the theoretical framework of Argumentative Policy Analysis. Within this framework, the following methodology has been chosen for Saba. Individual, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted (N=56) to elucidate each stakeholders’ perspective on the marine ecosystem. Fishermen filled in seasonal diagrams to indicate their fish and/or lobster catch each month of the year. Additional meetings were organized to discuss ideal circumstances for shark conservation –in line with personal needs and goals- and to co-create a joint construct of plans. Structured and unstructured observation was done during interviews and meetings as well as in daily life. A questionnaire was used to determine priorities and to set conditions for multi-stakeholder cooperation. A simulation game was conducted with SCF to identify and test scenarios to further enhance a healthy marine ecosystem. Other methods such as informal conversations and in-context immersion were applied to further increase understanding of the local context of Saba. The outcome of this action research was presented to the Island Council and Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson.
Each PAR project delivers direct outcomes for the local community on the addressed issue: we can share how many people have been reached, what their perspective is on the current and desired situation and what final Community Action Plan (CAP) they have co-created and implemented. In a later stage, local stakeholders will evaluate the impact of the CAP.
All fishermen and their co-workers (N=15) have been reached, as well as other stakeholders with regards to the marine ecosystem. For this action research, in total 56 people have been reached, who participated in this PAR, among which the Saban government, experts, divers, nature conservationists, children, fishermen’s wives, elderly, church representatives and others. According to the nature organisations, sharks are declining at an alarming rate, threatening life under water and in the end also life above water. According to fishermen, since 15-20 years redfish stocks are declining, threatening their daily income. According to divers, lionfish (an invasive species) is increasing at alarming rate, ruining the entire marine ecosystem.
As such, fishermen managed to establish a closed season for the redfish which was implemented April 2017 for half a year. All fishermen have complied to the clauses on the agreement (see below). Three weeks before the end of the closed season, the Governor of Saba opened for redfish again to cover up for the food shortages on (amongst others) St Maarten due to hurricane Irma.
Currently, fishermen and Saba Conservation Foundation are experimenting with lionfish specific traps; if this works, lionfish can become alternative income for redfish during yearly closed seasons, as there is a market for lionfish. These both interventions indirectly save sharks as they improve the immediate environment for sharks (especially coral, where they depend on) and provide more food (increased redfish) for sharks.
By the end of 2019, the fishermen’s organisation (first clause on the agreement) was officially established.
The impact of this Challenge has not been measured yet. However, messages were received from fishermen, a cook and other stakeholders that the redfish has increased in size. Saba Conservation Foundation has provided a histogram showing increased redfish stocks after the closed season. Future research should reveal what the exact impact of this PAR is.
Coordinator & Action Reseacher
Luke Spencer Hassel
Action Researcher, Fisherman
Sustainable Development Goals
Each action research performed by 7Senses delivers one or more reports or other written material. Read here all detailed information on the PAR methodology and outcomes of this action research.