The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) held a panel discussion session entitled ‘Protected Areas and Sustainable Hunting and Fishing’ on Saturday, 15th November 2014 as part of Stream 4 – Supporting Human Life during the World Parks Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sydney, Australia.
In the past local people were often excluded from protected areas, making it difficult or impossible for them to accept protected areas that forced them to leave their lands and deprived them of the possibility to harvest appropriate renewable natural resources. However, times are changing and the concerns and needs of local populations are beginning to receive the attention they deserve. Part of these concerns is the right to sustainably harvest fish and wildlife in and around protected areas.
The joint FAO – CIC session began with a keynote speech from the Advisor to the Minister of Environment of Estonia, Hanno Zingel. In his speech, Mr. Zingel spoke of the importance of addressing the needs and aspirations of local people in the planning of protected areas and gave an insight into the legislation governing hunting and fishing in protected areas in Estonia, where both activities are allowed in certain categories of protected areas and under specific conditions.
Later, the session examined the role of hunting and fishing in the planning and management of protected areas, whether these activities could support local community-based development and how management can maintain the wildlife habitat and hence a valuable food source. Four panellists from around the world, each with a background in the sustainable use of fish and/or wildlife, discussed these issues and answered questions from the floor.
First up, Colgar Sikopo from Namibia looked at whether well managed hunting and fishing in some or all of the IUCN categories of protected areas can be permitted as a basic right for people living in and around these protected areas. Scott Dowd then used a Brazilian example to address whether hunting and fishing in and around protected areas helps provide income for local people and finances for protected area management. This was followed by an example from the Philippines, presented by Merlijn Van Weerd and Marites Gatan-Balbas on how the benefits perceived by protected area managers and decision makers match those of the local communities. Lastly, Dr. Madeleine Nyman of Finland looked at what, from her experiences, were the main differences between the positive and negative biodiversity impacts of sustainable hunting and fishing in protected areas as compared with other recreational activities in these areas.
The discussions that ensued were interesting and lively. With hunting and fishing in protected areas being a controversial topic in itself, the session provided some further material to fuel discussions and helped to clarify certain questions. Whilst it was clear that there was no one size fits all solution, it was concluded that sustainable hunting and fishing, including falconry, as part of protected area management, have the ability to support livelihoods and cultures, increase food security, generate income, maintain wildlife numbers within the ecological and social carrying capacity of the environment, and build crucial local support for the conservation of biodiversity and habitats.