Our Sea Our Life: Marine conservation, fish spill-over and the exploitation of octopus in Nsangue Ponta

by ZSL on

Our Sea Our Life is a project coordinated by ZSL, working with six vulnerable communities to manage local fisheries. Jeremy Huet, project coordinator, reports from the community of Nsangue Ponta, Mozambique, on their latest fisheries co-management plans. 

The Palma administrator: “Nsangue Oyé!”
The crowd: “Oyé!”
The Palma administrator: “Nsangue Oyé!”
The crowd: “Oyé!”

That’s how it all started: the district administrator leading the cheers with the community of Nsangue Ponta on this special day - the inauguration of their Community Fisheries Council office. But not only has the office been formally opened, the majority of the 700 inhabitants of Nsangue Ponte have also already agreed to create a temporary octopus closure of 180 hectares, as well as a permanent closure of 20 hectares.

Community Fisheries Council office in Nsangue Ponta
Community Fisheries Council office in Nsangue Ponta

Inauguration of the Community Fisheries Council office in Nsangue Ponta
CCP office inauguration, Nsangue Ponta

Temporary closures for the species are not new in the area: the first ever temporary octopus reserve was created in Quiwia, another Our Sea Our Life community in the North of the region, a year ago. The first opening of the reserve in Quiwia in March 2016 was so successful that neighbouring communities have been inspired to do the same.

Fisheries management is no longer an abstract concept for local communities; effective management of fisheries can result in more octopus, more fish, and bigger catches, and can generate bigger incomes. That’s how the community of Nsangue Ponta came to the conclusion they could also benefit from entering the realm of community-led fisheries co-management. 

Border of the temporary reserve for octopus (180 ha) and of the permanent reserve (20 ha)
Border of the temporary reserve for octopus (180 ha) and of the permanent reserve (20 ha)

The difference in Nsangue Ponta compared to Quiwia is the creation of the first permanent reserve alongside the temporary closure for the species. Temporary closures are a good management tool to engage a large number of community members because they offer quick and tangible results, which can aid the acceptance of the co-management process by local communities.

When juvenile octopuses recruit to the reef at this site, they are about 6 months old, having spent their earlier life off-shore, and they weigh about 250g. If you protect them during this period of their life on the reef for around 3 months and allow them to grow, the octopus can reach 3 to 4 kilos by the time the reserve is opened again.

However, within a week of re-opening the area, the local fishers can deplete the octopus stock and the area needs to be closed again to allow the stock to recover.  A nearby no-take area, where no one is ever authorised to fish, can help to replenish a temporary reserve, through the phenomenon of spill-over. This is what the community of Nsangue Ponta have decided to implement, and they refer to it as a ‘replenishment zone’ (otherwise known as a permanent zone or no-take zone).

All we hope is that it becomes a new source of inspiration for the creation of other replenishment zones in Quiwia and other coastal areas!


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