Fish, birds and people – a future for all

The Banc d'Arguin National Park lies on the west coast of Africa in Mauritania. Created in 1976 to protect both the natural features and the valuable fisheries which make a significant contribution to the national economy, the park covers 1.17 million hectares of land, coast and sea. In winter it is home to more than two million migrant shorebirds from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland and supports a wide range of species including flamingos, broad-billed sandpipers, pelicans and terns.

Fishermen unloading fish, Mauritania Photo: Jim Thorsell

The uniqueness of Banc d’Arguin earned its classification as a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) in 1983 and as a World Heritage Site in 1989. But, like many other national parks around the world, Banc d’Arguin faces several challenges including pressures of over-fishing and pollution from the oil and gas industry. Work is needed to reinforce the laws and regulations concerning the sustainable use of the park’s natural resources and the framework for consultation between the parks various partners and donors needs to be improved. There is also a need to find ways to ensure sustainable financing of the national park.

But there have been several achievements, explains Youssouph Diedhiou, IUCN’s World Heritage focal point for West and Central Africa. The park has succeeded in involving the local people, the Imraguen, in its management and sustainable use of the area’s resources.

“The Imraguen base their living on fishing using traditional methods and those living within the park benefit from exclusive fishing rights in the 6,000 km2 of park waters. In exchange, they must continue to use their traditional fishing technique without motors or specially-adapted nets. They must also respect the rules concerning the protection of species, especially during the breeding season.”

The Imraguen are members of an administrative council and participate in all decision making concerning the park’s management. Responsible fishing allows the development of a sustainable fishing industry that is significantly improving the lives of the communities living in and around the park.

IUCN’s Protected Areas Programme for West and Central Africa conducts regular evaluations of the management effectiveness of Parc d’Arguin which help to develop improved management measures. Park managers and other officials receive regular training on participatory management, ecotourism, and management planning.

For more information contact:

Geoffroy Mauvais: Regional Coordinator, Protected Areas Programme for Central and West Africa

Youssouph Diedhiou: Programme Officer, World Heritage: Protected Areas Programme for Central and West Africa

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