Rodrigues is a semi-autonomous dependency of the Republic of Mauritius, situated within the Mascarene Archipelago, a recognized global biodiversity hotspot. The island is of volcanic origin and is encompassed by an extensive fringing reef, with a wide shallow lagoon that covers an area of 240 km2. Fisheries are a vital source of employment, income and subsistence livelihoods in Rodrigues and play an important role in the local culture and traditions, and therefore their sustainable management is a priority. The fisheries of Rodrigues are highly diverse with over 100 fish species from a range of families recorded in fisheries sampling so far. In addition a variety of invertebrate species are also exploited. However, through the years, intensive fishing pressure in the lagoon has resulted in drastic declines of both finfish and invertebrate landings and degradation of lagoon habitats. Some important commercial species could become rare or even locally extinct if they are not protected. The isolation of Rodrigues also contributes to unusual and perhaps unique marine assemblages, and supports some endemic fish species.
Since 2001, the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has undertaken a programmatic approach to promote integrated coastal and ocean governance in the area. Initially, during the period from 2001 till 2004 SGP supported the project “Sustainable Reef Fisheries Development in the Rodrigues Lagoon”, which became the catalyst for current marine conservation efforts in Rodrigues and resulted in the identification of 4 Marine Reserves in the northern lagoon by the fisher community. During implementation of this project, an inventory of local fish species was carried out by a team of local and international marine scientists to determine their populations. Several new endemic species of fish and corals were discovered during these surveys, namely “the Rodrigues Damsel” and the “Rodrigues Acropora”, named after the island. These studies and discoveries have been acknowledged in leading scientific journals namely in the UK (Allen & Wright, 2003; Heemstra et al., 2004).
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