From Catastrophe to Recovery: Stories of Fishery Management Success

A Long and Participatory Process towards Successful Fishery Management of Gökova Bay, Turkey

Vahdet Ünal and Zafer Kizilkaya


Abstract.—In Gökova Bay (Turkey), in the Mediterranean Sea, a number of problems were encountered within the small-scale fishing sector, including illegal fishing activities and declines in landings of valuable species, especially groupers (Serranidae) and shrimps (Decapoda crustaceans). Fishing income was not sufficient to sustain the livelihood of fishers who depended solely on fishing. Thanks to a collaboration with academics, government administrators, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local fishery cooperatives, six no-fishing zones (NFZ) were officially declared in July 2010 to support small-scale fisheries in Gökova Bay. Establishing NFZs, however, increased illegal fishing due to the lack of enforcement and made problems worse rather than providing a solution. In 2012, the Mediterranean Conservation Society (an NGO) established a marine ranger system by training and employing local fishermen as marine rangers, equipping them with fast boats, and working in close cooperation with the Coast Guard. These actions and many others (e.g., supporting marketing of invasive species) have led to conservation of fish stocks as well as an increase in fishers’ incomes. Dramatic increases in abundance for some species have occurred in comparison to previous years. Biomass of predator fishes, such as groupers, increased significantly in NFZs. Mean fishing income per vessel reached the highest level ever recorded. Today, we are near the end of a long process to reach a solution for all stakeholders (fishery cooperatives, academics, NGOs, and government officials) in Gökova Bay. Lessons learned in the process were the importance of working together, building trust and cooperation among stakeholders, implementing a marine ranger system for enforcement, creating marketing opportunities for invasive species, and developing a data collection system for improved monitoring. These lessons may be replicated in other areas of Turkey and elsewhere in support of sustainable fisheries.