Dried fish exports to São Tomé island are an essential income-generating activity practised by fishers (men) and fish traders (women) in communities of artisanal fishers on Príncipe island. Furthermore, this activity is one of the few income-generating activities that women can access and is one of the few sources of external fund injection into the coastal communities on Príncipe. In June 2020, Fundação Príncipe conducted a telephonic survey to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of 22 rural communities on Príncipe (n=132, snowball sampling). The results revealed that the value chain for both fresh and dried fish had been strongly impacted by the pandemic. Unemployment and the collapse of the tourism industry had dramatically reduced the demand for fresh and dried fish on the island, forcing fishers and traders to sell at lower prices. Moreover, disrupted boat transport had greatly restricted the ability to export dried fish, due to reduced frequency of shipments and a travel ban that prevented traders from going to São Tomé to sell fish. Finally, traders - who obtain the fish they export directly from fishers - reported not having enough funds to buy fish and salt it in sufficient quantities for export due to the COVID-19 induced financial crisis.
A Value Chain Analysis to understand these issues was conducted between August and September 2020. The results were presented on March 4, 2020. See video below, and full report here.
This week, our fish is the fanciest sea creature of the Gulf of Guinea! This flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) was caught on camera on the past September 2019, in a shallow area close to São Miguel (São Tomé). The pectoral fins of this species are divided in two, and the anterior half can move independently forming two sensorial “fingers” that they use to scratch the bottom in search for food. The other half are their characteristic “wings”, which they can open when threatened to scare off their predators. It is quite common to see this well-dressed fish hovering elegantly over São Tomé and Príncipe’s sandy bottoms with their colourful fins expanded.
This activity is part of an initiative funded by the Blue Action Fund and Arcadia Fund, led by Fauna & Flora International, and implemented by the local organisations MARAPA, Oikos and Fundação Príncipe, with the objective of establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas in São Tomé and Príncipe. The 2019 videos from São Tomé are currently being analysed by Adam Dixon, a master’s student of the MSc Biodiversity and Conservation programme at the University of Exeter.
Pufferfish invasion! This swarm of pufferfish was caught on camera on the past September 2019, during the BRUV fieldwork in São Tomé. We are using BRUVs to survey marine biodiversity in the archipelago of São Tomé and Príncipe to understand species distributions and identify priority conservation areas. This activity is part of an initiative funded by the Blue Action Fund and Arcadia Fund, led by Fauna & Flora International, and implemented by the local organisations Fundação Príncipe, MARAPA and Oikos, with the objective of establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas in São Tomé and Príncipe. Every year, during Gravana season (June to September), large swarms of smooth puffers (Lagocephalus laeviagatus) invade São Tomé's coastal environment. The sharp teeth of these puffers give them their local name (coelho, "rabbit"), and are able to cut through nets, ropes and fishing lines, causing great economic losses amongst the Santomean artisanal fishers. In the past, this "rabbit" was not valued by the local fishers, as the large and highly toxic gallbladder of these animals quickly wastes the meat if it's not removed. It was not uncommon to find piles of smooth puffers rotting on the sand in the fishing communities of the south of São Tomé. This started to change with the decline of other fish species and the growing puffer population. Now, every year, during Gravana, fishers actively target them, coming back from the sea with the canoes loaded with pufferfish. Dozens of palaiês (fish traders) gather at the landing sites to gut the fish as quickly as possible. Canoes are filled with water, where the fish is soaked for an hour to clean it, then it is salted and sold all over the country. The reasons for the reported population growth of this fish are unknown. Some fishers hypothesise that the reduction in numbers of shark, the only supposed predator of this fish, might be causing the puffer populations to boom, displacing other species.
On the past February 2, 2020; Fundação Príncipe's trip to Tinhosas was covered by national television. Fundação Príncipe has been sampling seabirds and monitoring marine biodiversity using BRUVs at the Tinhosas Islets since 2017. You can watch the full interview here!
Last week we finished the first BRUV sampling round of the Blue Action Fund project in São Tomé! During the last two weeks we successfully sampled 75 points in the south of São Tomé. Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (BRUVs) are a non invasive technique that use an underwater camera with a bait in the front, which sits on the seafloor and records uninterruptedly for 90 minutes. We are using BRUVs to understand species distribution around the island and identify priority management areas for the design of a network of Marine Protected Areas.
The first week of training of the extension workers of the project Kike da Mungu/BAF has just finished! Twice a week, they will be working with the fishers during the landings to collect information about their fishing activities -including catch and fishing effort- using the smartphone app ODK. This activity will happen in 10 communities of southern São Tomé. We visited the ten communities of the project, where the extension workers, who are from the communities themselves, presented the activity to the fishers. It's been great getting to know the communities in the south of São Tomé!
We are still analysing the BRUV videos from the last sampling round in december and some cool footages are coming out! Check out this hungry snapper trying to eat the bait cage!
I was interviewed on March 1, 2019 to talk about the biodiversity monitoring currently being done in Príncipe Island using Baited Remote Underwater Videos. You can listen to the whole interview here!
Originally published in omaliprincipeen.weebly.com
On Saturday, 9th of March we had the last BRUV sampling day of the project! Since April 2018, 260 hours of video have been recorded over 28 days of field work. We have already identified over 95 species in the cameras, including sharks and rays. For the next two months we will finish analysing all the videos to understand the distribution of fish species around the island, so as to identify priority areas for conservation and management. BRUV sampling will continue for the next years both in São Tomé and Principe!