Coastal Fisheries Initiative

Global push to restore mangrove forests for fishing communities in West Africa

Coastal Fisheries Initiative is key enabler to help fish sustainably, empower women in fishing communities and protect marine life


UN agencies and international conservation organizations met to push forward plans to restore mangrove forests in West Africa to benefit the local communities and economies that depend on coastal fisheries.  

Mangrove sites in Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal will undergo assessment and reforestation plans under the Coastal Fisheries Initiative (CFI), a multi-agency development program to preserve marine resources, improve fisheries governance and strengthen the seafood value chain in West Africa, Latin America and Indonesia.

Worldwide, mangroves are suffering degradation or being lost completely. In Côte d’Ivoire, the number of mangrove forests has fallen by around 50% in the last 30 years and by 16% in Senegal. This is despite the benefits they provide as coastal habitats for fish to feed, reproduce and shelter thanks to cooler waters, a higher oxygen content and sprawling roots that act as a sanctuary from larger prey.

“The Abidjan Convention and its partners such as FAO and GEF have important educational work to do to make fishermen understand that cutting mangrove wood to smoke fish, for example, is against their own interests. Because mangroves are nurseries - areas where fish reproduce, where they are protected and where they grow before going into the ocean. Protecting them is protecting the resource that feeds us”, said Abou Bamba of the Abidjan Convention, a UN Environment body for marine-related programmes in West, Central and Southern Africa.

Restoring one-third of mangroves to support fisheries in Côte d’Ivoire

Over the next three years, and under the Coastal Fisheries Initiative, UN agencies and partners will map, analyse and carry out restoration plans on around one-third (3,750 of 11,635 hectares) of accessible mangroves sites in Fresco and Sassandra in Côte d’Ivoire.

In Sassandra, mangroves are home to key commercial fish such as sardine and herring and provide livelihoods for almost 2,000 fishers in small-scale fisheries. Mangrove wood is often chopped down to smoke fish – a processing job done by over 2,000 women – and represents 65%, or 1,000 tonnes of all fish traded.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of 6 countries under the CFI, a $36 million, multi-agency drive to make coastal fisheries more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable in Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Indonesia, Peru and Senegal. This will involve implementing the ecosystem-based approach to fishing, integrating more women in fisheries governance as well as improving working conditions and quality of fish products in the seafood value chain.

“Coastal fisheries play a huge role in food security and livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire. The Coastal Fisheries Initiative, led by FAO in West Africa, will ensure that Ivoirians can feel benefits of sustainably managing their fisheries, restoring mangroves and marine ecosystems while empowering women in fisheries,” said Samy Gaiji, FAO Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, at the start of the CFI Global Partnership Annual Meeting in Abidjan.

The meeting, held this year between 5-8 November, brings together UN agencies FAO, UNEP, UNDP, the Global Environment Fund (GEF) as the main donor, Conservation International, the World Bank and WWF to take stock of progress made and share best practices in sustainably managing coastal fisheries and mangroves.