Endangered species are identified at national, regional and international levels using assessments that estimate the risk of extinction of the species in the wild (e.g. the IUCN Red List). Species that are considered at risk subsequently become the subject of conservation management measures promoted at various levels (from national legislation to international treaties). Marine megafauna species, including marine turtles, mammals and sharks, are among the species that are protected by various local and international agreements. However, the perception of 'endangered' species will change substantially according to your audience: a fisherman and a conservationist will have probably different points of view. As fishermen are the main users of marine resources, being able to communicate appropriately with them is fundamental for a successful conservation program. It is therefore essential to understand their perceptions on 'endangered' species in order to 1) communicate more efficiently about conservation and 2) implement more sustainable practices.
In summer 2015, we carried out a pilot project at two locations in Egypt (Alexandria and Port Said). Using short questionnaires, we asked 62 fishermen of all ages what they thought about endangered species. The results of the pilot survey, presented at the 36th International Sea Turtle Symposium, revealed that fishermen are aware that some species are protected but it is not clear why they are endangered. Furthermore, the role of species like marine turtles and marine mammals within the ecosystem is not completely understood. While the conclusions reached during the pilot project cannot be generalized because the sample size was not large enough and was not representative of the different groups of fishermen, we highlighted some important questions and gaps that, we believe, will provide essential information for a more effective conservation education strategy. Therefore, this project aims at understanding how fishermen in Egypt, along the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, perceive endangered species, including marine turtles, marine mammals and sharks, in order to identify a more effective communication strategy to discuss about conservation practices.
Specifically, this project will aim to:
1. Understand fishermen's perception of endangered species;
2. Evaluate the effectiveness of past communication strategies used to spread awareness on endangered species;
3. Identify a more effective communication strategy when sharing information with fishermen on conservation measures;
4. Provide a capacity building opportunity for local university students that will improve their social science skills;
5. Provide a catalogue of fishing boats, fishing gears, mooring places and fishing grounds.
The information produced by this study would allow identification of appropriate fisheries management action to ensure sustainability, protection of marine biodiversity and maintenance of the ecosystem services. The catalogue obtained would also have a historical/cultural importance providing a preliminary database about the fishery along the Egyptian coasts. This project will provide essential information to design and implement a more effective conservation education and outreach strategy targeting fishermen in Egypt on the value and importance of endangered species and the effects of bycatch and consumption. It is our believe that a more effective communication that take into consideration fishermen's point of view will be more efficient and inspire long-term behavioural changes.
Why is this important?
Conservation education is an essential element to limit human impact on endangered species, however it is important that the language and format used during these activities is accessible to the targeted audience. In Egypt, limited work has been done with fishermen even if bycatch and consumption rates of endangered (and protected) species like marine turtles and sharks are still high. Our pilot project carried out in sumer 2015 revealed that most outreach activities targeting fishermen faild to explain the importance of endangered species within their ecosystem and to highlight the role of fishermen for the preservation of marine resources. We think that with a better understanding of fishermen's perceptions of endangered species we could build more effective communication and outreach strategies and inspire them to change certain behaviors, therefore (in the long term) reducing bycatch and consumption.