Written by Tim Daw.
Finally we in the OctoPINTS team met with our MWAMBAO and Blue Ventures (BV) collaborators at the end of the rainy season November 2019 in Zanzibar. This was an exciting workshop that brought together the wide experience of MWAMBAO and Blue Ventures in supporting Octopus Closures and community development in Zanzibar with the conceptual and modeling approaches of the Stockholm team and the academic expertise on East African societies and fisheries of Rosemarie (Rose) Mwaipopo and Andrew Wamukota.
To kick-off, I introduced us to a participatory fishing game (based on a Seychellois fishery as a co-management capacity building), which provided a high-energy opening for the meeting and a chance for the participants to get to know one another. After a short reflection on the game (which is in itself a type of fishery ‘model’) we launched into breakout groups to discuss the focus of the modeling effort in OctoPINTS, and exploring the key social-ecological dynamics of Octopus Closures. Although the OctoPINTS project is focused on temporary octopus closures, for NGOs working on the ground, the long-term aim is to develop the capacity of coastal communities and their local institutions to self-organize and implement sustainable development initiatives. This capacity needs to be reflected in our conceptual model and is in any case, a critical determinant of how Octopus Closures play out. We also discussed the modeling approach, sharing insights into the agent-based modeling methodology and how the project aims to build understanding through reciprocal relationship between empirical field research, expert knowledge and iterations of agent-based modeling. Rose also led an insightful discussion of the role of gender relations in environmental governance in coastal Tanzania.
Immediately before the workshop, Liz and Fatma had completed a month of intensive qualitative research in three communities where MWAMBAO is working with the local fishery committees to implement reef closures for octopus. The workshop provided a great opportunity for Liz and Fatma to present their initial findings and discuss them with our MWAMBAO and BV colleagues. We also had time to hear reflections and key outputs from the special session hosted by OctoPINTS at the WIOMSA symposium in Mauritius in July, and we hosted Andrew Gordon from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for one afternoon to introduce the SWIOCeph project and potential links between the represented organizations and projects.
After very active discussions and tons of flip chart sheets we had populated the three phases of the MWAMBAO closure model: 1) inception and design, 2) implementation and enforcement and 3) the re-opening, recording and feedback with detailed descriptions of the activities occurring in each of them. In addition we elaborated on how these activities (or processes) can influence each other, to finally influence the “success” of the closure model. These key outputs of the workshop will now feed into conceptualization of an agent-based model, led by Emilie and developed in collaboration with the team and informed by our empirical fieldwork.
Of course the team members visiting Zanzibar, couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the field and improve our understanding of the research context. Aliy Abdurahim and Ali Juma, MWAMBAO, kindly arranged for Emilie, Maja, Tim, Liz, Andrew and Rose to visit the Kizimkazi site. The day started witnessing the spectacle of the morning fish auction on the beach. At least 50 boats unloaded a staggering array of pelagic fish, and two enormous, deep red, and apparently rarely-seen squid. These were auctioned individually, or in small bunches on the beach to traders who then mostly transported them by the ‘dala dala’ minibus, to the Darajani market of Stone Town.
Following breakfast, we focused more specifically on the octopus, as the Shehia fishing committee (SFC) members took us to visit the closure site. They showed how skilled fishers can detect and remove octopus from their holes, with only a pair of wooden sticks. After a close encounter with the team, the octopus was released to show it’s remarkable color display and camouflage abilities (we were in the closure after all). Back at the landing site, we observed the auctioning, weighing and documentation of octopus catches by MWAMBAO local catch recorders. Finally the team held a lunch meeting with members of the SFC to discuss with them their octopus closures, the challenges they face and the benefits that they recognize.
From my perspective, the workshop brought the project to life in many ways, giving a deeper familiarity with the system, building common understandings and friendships across the team and sharing our perspectives on the road-map for the OctoPINTS project. I’m very grateful for our hosts at MWAMBAO for facilitating such a rewarding meeting and participating with so much commitment. Now we have to build on these working relationships and synthesized insights, and use our unusual combination of existing practice and knowledge, models, fieldwork and stakeholder interactions to support our collective understanding of the successes, challenges, winners and losers of octopus closures.