The marine protected areas of Turkey do not only protect marine biodiversity, but also provide secure sources of food and income for coastal communities through activities such as tourism and fishing. In some areas, income from fishing is a significant part of household income, which makes the introduction of ‘no-take’ fishing zones (NFZ) through restriction or banning of fishing, a challenging task. But, this is exactly what the members of fishing cooperatives in the Gökova and Datça-Bozburun SEPAs have agreed to do.
Fishing communities on these coasts were faced with a decline in key fishery species and a consequent loss of income, due to over-extraction and illegal fishing. This prompted community leaders to reach a voluntary agreement to introduce 10 no-take zones over 3,538 ha within the Gökova and Datça-Bozburun protected areas. Turkish fisheries experts engaged with fisherfolk to develop a fisheries management plan and collect socio-economic data that demonstrated how ‘no-take’ zones can benefit communities directly, by providing breeding sanctuaries and nursery grounds to give previously overexploited species a chance to recover. The Turkish government, national environmental organizations and international donors, including the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) and UNDP, supported research, advocacy and education efforts as part of the process.
Initially, fishing co-operatives resisted the establishment of ‘no-take’ zones, but, after years of cumulative effort to build trust, and the experience gained along the way, the attitudes of the fishing cooperatives towards this intervention changed. The first six ‘no-take’ zones, covering an area of 2,038 ha were established in Gökova Bay, initiated by the GEF SGP and supported by UNDP. Monitoring in Gökova Bay later showed an improvement in fish stocks, including juvenile and adult populations of golden grouper, as well as an increase in the income earned by fishing communities. Encouraged by these results, the communities of Datca-Bozburun, with support from UNDP, then worked to establish four more ‘no-take’ zones, over an area of 1,500 ha in Hisarönü Bay.
This experience shows that with proper planning and participation of the affected communities, and meaningful dialogue, ‘no-take’ zones can be effective fisheries management tools that contribute both to marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods.