Côte d'Ivoire

Creating Côte d’Ivoire’s First Marine Protected Area

Project Cost: $610,502

Funding Raised: $129,322

$.35 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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The Ivorian NGO Conservation des Especes Marines (CEM) was instrumental in establishing the Dodo River Community-Managed Natural Reserve with support from Rainforest Trust. The reserve covers 12,360 acres of coastal lagoons, mangroves and forests, as well as nesting beach habitat for marine turtles. But until recently, the marine ecosystem next to this area was neglected, making it vulnerable to increasing anthropogenic pressures.

Rainforest Trust and CEM seek $610,502 to establish the 1,754,448-acre Grand-Béréby Marine Protected Area (MPA) and fill this conservation gap. This would create Côte d’Ivoire’s first MPA near Grand-Béréby, San Pedro Region. The new site will include support a zoning system, spatially-explicit management plans such as capacity-building and outreach and protected area-enforcement infrastructure. This project will also strengthen national and local capacities for MPA management.

Photo: Vulnerable leatherback turtle hatchlings. Photo by Conservation des Especes Marines.

Fast Facts

Location:
Côte d’Ivoire

Size/Acres:
1,754,448 acres

Key Species:
Hawksbill Turtle (CR), Slender-snouted Crocodile (CR), Green Turtle (EN), Great Hammerhead (EN), Scalloped Hammerhead (EN), Stingray (EN), Leatherback (VU), Olive Ridley (VU)

Habitat:
Coastline, rocky reef

Threats:
Encroachment from artisanal and commercial fisheries, bycatching

Action:
Designation

Local Partner:
Conservation des Especes Marines

Financial Need:
$610,502

Price per Acre:
$0.35

Biodiversity

The Grand-Béréby coastline is the most significant sea turtle habitat in Côte d'Ivoire. The 30 kilometers of nesting beaches host Green Turtles, Olive Ridleys, and Leatherbacks during the breeding season, while the shallow rocky reefs are foraging grounds for juvenile Green and Hawksbill Turtles year-round.

The shores of Grand-Béréby are also home to the Critically Endangered Slender-snouted Crocodile. Though primarily a freshwater species, the crocodile does occasionally venture into marine estuaries and brackish lagoons. Grand-Béréby fishermen have also recorded sightings of hammerhead sharks. Although the coastal waters of Grand-Béréby host a number of species in decline worldwide, many of their populations have not yet been studied in Côte d'Ivoire and their local conservation status is unknown. Recent marine surveys in the rocky reefs along the coastline have revealed a wide array of corals, sponges, sea anemones, molluscs and green and brown algae. These reefs are home to a rich community of fish, crustaceans, groupers, Daisy Stingrays and guitarfish. In the pelagic environment, species include Vulnerable Silky Sharks and Common Smoothhounds and Near Threatened Spinner Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Bentfin Devil Rays. The area is also visited by Humpback Whales and dolphins of several species, including the Critically Endangered Atlantic Humpback Dolphin. Observers in Ivorian waters have also recorded Endangered Whale Sharks and Vulnerable Blue Marlins and Ocean Sunfish. In addition to protecting threatened biodiversity, the MPA will also help conserve valuable spawning and nursery grounds for important marine life, which will support Côte d’Ivoire’s fisheries.  

Photo: A Critically Endangered Slender-snouted Crocodile. Photo by Conservation des Especes Marines.
 

Challenges

Livelihoods along the Ivorian coastline depend on the coastal and marine habitats to support fisheries, agriculture and the growing tourism industry. In western Côte d’Ivoire, in the region of Grand-Béréby, the coastal economy centers around rubber and cocoa plantations. But outside pressure from artisanal and commercial fisheries has led to competition with local fishermen for fishing areas and catches.

As a consequence, governance and stewardship of marine biodiversity and natural resources in the region are complex. Poverty and the lack of basic welfare also contribute to the complicated environmental problems in the region. In Côte d’Ivoire, fisheries are seasonal, but the resident species reproduce throughout the year. Their eggs, larvae and young inhabit large areas of the continental shelf. There, they are vulnerable to a wide variety of threats. Scientists don’t know whether the current harvest levels of the Grand-Béréby fisheries are sustainable, but the fisheries are in decline. When evaluated along with the over-exploitation occurring throughout West Africa, the health of these marine populations and ecosystems is of serious concern. In addition, sea turtles, sharks, rays, cetaceans and other threatened species are frequently victims of bycatch and almost never released alive.  

Photo: Agricultural production. Photo by Conservation des Especes Marines.
 

Communities

Several communities live along the 90-kilometer shoreline of the proposed MPA, including the town of Grand-Béréby, the villages where CEM has been active for more than a decade (Dogbalé, Roc, Mani, Kablaké, Pitiké) and others closer to the Liberian border such as Boubélé and Tabou. MPA management must incorporate the needs of local communities and their natural resource usage, including non-extractive community development, stewardship and tourism potential.

CEM has a long history of working with these coastal communities and has built a collaborative relationship of mutual respect and open communication. They will continue to strive toward participatory management with local and national authorities, empowering communities through partnerships, multi-disciplinary education and capacity-building. The partner will also share responsibility for surveillance, threat assessment, mitigation and disseminating the benefits from marine protection to the local communities. CEM anticipates this project to have several long-term benefits for these coastal communities including improved fishing harvests around the MPA, reduced conflicts with industrial trawlers in their fishing grounds and employment opportunities in conservation and tourism. There is also potential for the development of sustainable industries from natural products such as crops or crafts for the tourism industry.  

Photo: Measuring a nesting turtle. Photo by Conservation des Especes Marines.
 

Solutions

Despite recent political and socio-economic instability, Côte d’Ivoire is committed to maintaining biodiversity and environmental management in marine and coastal areas. So, Rainforest Trust and CEM propose to create the first marine protected area in Côte d'Ivoire.

The new site will span 1,754,448 acres and be a national model for marine biodiversity conservation while promoting stakeholder engagement, building capacity for stewardship and developing a sustainable framework for natural resource use. The proposed project will capitalize on a keen interest from the government in this MPA. CEM will help facilitate the legal procedures required to enact appropriate legislation and establish the necessary management and surveillance structures. The Grand-Béréby MPA will reflect the complexity of stakeholder and protection concerns and include spatial zoning ranging from strict no-take zones, community fishing zones, tourism access zones and gear-restrictions or seasonal closures to minimize bycatch. Ecosystem-based marine conservation is the most effective way to preserve ecological, economic, scientific, cultural and recreational value for coastal habitats and communities. In addition to protecting endangered biodiversity and ecosystems, the new MPA will protect valuable resource reserves that will spill over into adjacent areas. In fact, reviews of MPA studies worldwide show that the value of marine reserves from enhanced fishing and tourism can exceed pre-reserve value, and the benefits of conservation may outweigh costs in a short time-frame. (Photo: An Endangered Scalloped Hammerhead. Photo by David Garcia/Mision Tiburon.)