COVID19 relief for those in need, whilst protecting the environment
In the holiday paradise of Watamu, residents are heavily reliant on tourism. For most villagers, employment in hotels, boda-boda transport, fishing and curio-selling are important income sources.
Tourism has busy and quiet times, but this year COVID19 ended the season two weeks early, brought greater job losses and a shrinking of all activities. Everyone is feeling the pressure, even those who are known for helping others during the slow times are running out of reserves. The daunting reality is that by the June/July restart of normal tourism season, many of the usual jobs will not be there.
Consequently, there is increased pressure on the natural environment.
A great deal more fishing is going on. Community members and our patrol team are reporting seeing strangers around – people from afar who have come to try their hand at fishing to survive these tough times. Many folks who would otherwise be employed in hotels are also heading to the ocean for their sustenance, and many children (who would normally be at school at this time), are fishing in the creeks and shallows. These newcomers are not always aware of approved fishing methods and there’s a lot more illegal & makeshift fishing gear in use – such as mosquito nets.
With so many more people competing for dwindling fish-stocks, most fishers are not landing even one full kilogram per day. Compounding the matter is a lower than normal market price – instead of the usual Ksh250 (about $2,50) per kilogram, fish-mongers and the few customers are only paying between Ksh150 to Ksh180 per kilogram. We observed fisherman working a whole day and only bringing in Ksh50 worth of catch.
More fishing activity also means more pressure on Sea Turtle ByCatch and hungry times can lead to more turtle poaching. Local Ocean Conservation (LOC) anti-poaching monitors have reported an increase in turtle poaching incidents during COVID19 lockdown. As conservation is always dependent on the active participation of, and direct benefits to the surrounding communities, we are responding by implementing short term COVID19 relief to assist community conservation activities. Our goal is to be able to do the following:
1) Community conservation relief days:
Every 2-weeks community conservation events will be held where communities will be able to earn cash or food credits for their help in conservation efforts such as mangrove rehabilitation & protection, beach cleanups, etc.
2) Increased Conservation Hero support:
Stipends & rewards for active conservationists and anti-poaching informers.