An evaluation of co-management approach as a strategy of fisheries resources' conservation: a case of beaches in Mbita District, Kenya
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Over thirty million people live in the Lake Victoria basin and depend directly or indirectly on the lake's resources. Despite the acknowledgment of the importance of community involvement in fisheries resources' conservation in Lake Victoria by both government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), little is known on effectiveness of community involvement in its management. Co-management approach to fisheries management was adopted due to failure of the traditional fisheries management approaches. However, there has been a negative trend in terms of fish catch despite the implementation of co-management. Therefore, the study sought to evaluate the concept of co-management in fisheries resources conservation since its implementation in the beaches of Mbita District. The study objectives included: To establish the extent to which co-management has reduced illegal fishing methods in beaches of Mbita District, to determine the level at which co-management has reduced conflicts among fisheries stakeholders in the beaches ofMbita District, to investigate the extent to which co-management ensures participatory formulation of laws and regulations in Beaches of Mbita District and to investigate the extent to which co-management has contributed to environmental management in beaches of Mbita District. The significance of the study was not only intended to be useful in the formulation of policies but also add important knowledge to the management of natural resources and give an input to the body of existing research work. The study was also intended to be used to infer conclusions on co-management in other neighboring Districts where similar strategies are being implemented to conserve fisheries resources'. The study sought to determine the outcome of co-management as a strategy for fisheries' resources conservation in the District. A cross-sectional survey design was used as a research design due to the expansive coverage of the study area. The research instruments were mainly questionnaires. The study's total population comprised of9,360 fisheries stakeholders who are members of62 beaches in Mbita District, Kenya. A sample size of 384 was statistically derived from the target population to represent the entire population. Statistical sampling method was used to sample the beaches in the three divisions proportionately according to their percentage weight in terms of population size. Furthermore, a statistical theory sampling technique was used to sample beaches due to large numbers and expansive distribution along the shores of Lake Victoria. Data collected was reviewed and cleaned at collection point every evening for a period of three weeks. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and fmdings presented in tables. The study found that co-management approach had positively influenced fisheries resources' conservation in Mbita District. Illegal fishing and conflicts among fisheries stakeholders had reduced while environmental management and participatory formulation of fisheries laws and regulations had been enhanced at the beaches in the district. Finally, the study made recommendations that are hoped to be useful to government and other stakeholders. The study recommended further study on co-management in another type of natural resource and made the following contributions to the body of knowledge: Co-management strategy is an effective approach in curbing illegal fishing; Conflicts are best handled in a bottom-up approach with least input from government; Awareness creation in environmental management among the fisheries stakeholders is key to a safe and healthy environment and active involvement of natural resource users such as the members of beach management units (BMU) in formulation of policies and regulations ensures high degree of compliance to fisheries laws and regulations in beaches of Mbita District, Kenya.