May 28, 2020

RIST & WCS INDIA MARINE PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY

RIST and WCS-India have embarked on a partnership to realize the shared goal of conserving the unique diversity of India’s coastal habitats and seas by working with communities, the Government of India and partner organisations.

Our efforts are focused on three broad themes: (1) strengthening the existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) network, (2) conservation of sharks and rays, (3) Mitigating bycatch.

STRENGTHENING OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS

As a signatory nation to the Convention on Biological Diversity-1992, India has committed to protect at least 10% of its marine areas by the year 2020. WCS- India with generous support from RIST aims to strengthen India’s existing MPA network by working closely with the government by strengthening existing MAPs management and facilitating the process of notifying new MPAs. These areas will be declared in the form of community reserves, sanctuaries, national parks, conservation reserves or designated areas.

Healthy coral reef ecosystem inside marine protected area of India (Picture: Vardhan Patankar)

WCS India has kick-started the process of creating new a MPAs off the western coast of India near Maharashtra by 2021. As a part of this proposal to RIST, WCS India will continue this work on, and also focus on at least twelve other potential new MPAs across India over the next three years. WCS India & RIST also aim  to strengthen the management of existing MPAs.

The best practices that WCS will promote include state-of-the-art technology (called SMART, please see:  https://smartconservationtools.org/) to report threats and track enforcement responses in real time. WCS will also provide training to relevant law enforcement authorities on the rules and regulations related to marine natural resource use.  In addition, we will evaluate new MPAs in the wider context, address gaps in enforcement machinery and develop legal framework and promote creation of a marine wing within the Forest Department, which will lead to considerably more resources within the Government of India flowing towards marine conservation.

CONSERVATION OF SHARKS AND RAYS

A shoal of eagle rays at Angria Bank (Photo: Rohit Sawant)

India is home to more than 100 species of sharks and rays, and it is the third largest shark fishing nation of the world and on average India catches 50,000-90,000 tons of sharks annually. Currently only 10 shark and ray protected through formal regulations. In this context, WCS-India with generous support from RIST plans to conserve shark and ray species that are in need of urgent protection, manage shark and ray fisheries for sustainability, ensure responsible trade in shark and ray products and encourage responsible consumption of shark and ray products.

MITIGATION OF BY-CATCH

A juvenile Indian Ocean humpback dolphin caught in a purse-seine net at Maharashtra (Avik Banerjee)

With support from RIST- WCS-India aims to implement specific bycatch mitigation strategies in targeted hotspot areas along the Indian coastline by first advocating for improved fishing rules and regulations, for example- a ban on gill nets in and around important seagrass meadows. Secondly, we will train and assist key government officials to carry out the improved regulations, build enforcement capacity, raise awareness of regulations through community and stakeholder outreach, and build intelligence on the illegal marine trade through investigations on boating activity and fish markets. Finally, WCS-India will create and launch rigorous monitoring systems using GPS technology, while gathering data to improve enforcement efforts and be able to better inform marine planning.