Gabon: Mangroves, a refuge for endangered crustaceans, north of Libreville

#Gabon : Unique forests adapted to the extreme salinity of the marine environment, carbon sinks, complex ecosystems and refuges for fry… The role of mangroves is multifaceted and important for the survival of many species of plants and animals.

According to environmental NGOs in Gabon, over the past three years, Libreville has lost more than 70 hectares of mangroves. This phenomenon is so large-scale that certain fish resources, such as crustaceans, are becoming scarce in the northern suburbs of Gabon’s capital. This applies to crabs and shellfish.

Located about twenty kilometers north of Libreville, Cap Esterias, a village that is very popular with tourists, is full of great natural resources. In this little corner of paradise, the local communities live mainly by catching crabs in the mangrove forests. But due to the exploitation of quarries and the destruction of mangroves, the entire local economy is now weakened.

Charlotte Kokoji returns from fishing with a meager harvest. At her kitchen table, she prepares several stuffed crabs to offer to restaurateurs. “It used to be easy to find. It’s hard now. To catch crabs, you have to drive at least fifteen kilometers,” laments the fifty-year-old boy.

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After discussing the difficulties of catching crabs, we, together with a group of fishermen, set out to collect “traps” in the mangroves. An opportunity to discover the dexterity of these young people who know how to make effective traps from pieces of thread. “Usually the crab eats everything: coconut, palm nuts, papaya… This is how the trap is made. You take a palm nut, put it in a box. When the crab enters from the back of the trap, the mechanism closes on it,” explains Ian Penda Madola.

According to this young trapper, 10 traps were enough to get a catch of 15 kg. “But today it is impossible. why Because the whole bush has already been opened for us, we have nothing left,” he says indignantly.

The hike under the mangrove piles will last about twenty minutes. Jan Penda Madola and his brothers in the village, who were hoping for a successful hunt, unfortunately had to settle for 5 kg of crabs caught in traps set the day before. They cost only 10,000 CFA francs.

“I have an uncle who built on crab money and educated his children. They are working today. Now, if we are destroyed [la mangrove], how will we feed our children?” he asks himself. This is because in young Jan’s family we are fishermen from generation to generation. A job that once brought in about 150,000 CFA francs a month, or more than €200. Today, the economic activity of Cap Esterias is under threat.

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Citizen Actions for Local Development of Cap Estérias (ACDL) is sounding the alarm about this environmental disaster. Its president, Paul Copedina Itangino, explains to us the origin and struggle of this local NGO: “After this situation, we thought of creating an NGO that could defend the stakes of preserving the environment and the local economy, which is, in fact, based on land crab fishing, fishing shellfish and other seafood”.

The government is studying more restrictive measures to deter criminals. This is a year after the implementation of a decree requiring land speculators to carry out environmental impact studies before carrying out any activity in the mangroves.

“It is clear that we will not be able to continue to tolerate that each other demeans the common good with impunity. Systematically, when this is done, those responsible for the destruction of mangroves will be brought before the courts. This is to be expected, just like what has been done with regard to wildlife crimes,” warns Jean Hervé Mwe Bé, Director General of the Aquatic Ecosystems Division of the Ministry of Water Resources and Forests of Gabon.

The much-criticized destruction of mangroves in Gabon contravenes the country’s Environmental Code, particularly Article 64, which prohibits building in sensitive natural environments or near coastlines.


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