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Integrating Fisheries and Habitat Management: Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea

by Khristine Custodio last modified Aug 23, 2012 06:09 PM
This note covers an effort to address the over-exploitation of fisheries. Increasing levels of fishing effort, coupled with continued decline in the total area of habitats critical to the life-cycles of most species, have raised serious concerns for the long-term sustainability of artisanal fisheries. Given the feed back loops between fish stock and habitat quality on the one hand, and fishing activities and habitat quality on the other it was necessary to develop a regional initiative aimed at improving the management of fish stocks and their habitats.

Fisheries refugia are, “Spatially and geographically defined, marine or coastal areas in which specific management measures are applied to sustain important species [fisheries resources] during critical stages of their life cycle, for their sustainable use.” It appears that the refugia concept is a successful approach to addressing a significant barrier to effective management action that addresses fish stocks and habitats important to critical stages of the life cycle of those stocks, namely the adverse reaction to the Marine Protected Area concept that is elicited from fishing communities and fisheries officers at the local and provincial levels. It is anticipated that the experiences gained in this region will be suitable for application in other large marine ecosystems where over-fishing and the use of inappropriate fishing gear are significant impediments to more sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. This experience is considered important because of the potential global fisheries benefits associated with effective fisheries and habitat management at the local level, which is particularly important in the case of Southeast Asia due to the continuing importance of fisheries to food security, and maintenance of livelihoods.

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