Right on the Sahara Desert’s Atlantic coast, Banc d’Arguin National Park (PNBA) is an internationally renowned and large protected area comprising of shallow coastal waters, seagrass beds, mudflats, islands and a shifting coastline. The region has been recognized internationally for its remarkable biodiversity, its important fish breeding nurseries and the mudflats are highly productive, supporting many aquatic invertebrates, which in turn attract large numbers of fish, turtle species, dolphins and wading birds. In fact, the park’s expansive mudflats provide habitat for well over two million migratory waterbirds that come to it each year from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland.
"The local Imraguen population depends on fishing for their livelihood. However, a number of species have been exploited at an unsustainable level, causing an imbalance to the ecology of the park. These days they are catching fewer fish and need to find other ways to earn a living." - Mahmoud Chihaoui, Project Manager.
The park’s ecological integrity is threatened by various types of unsustainable fishing practices. A number of species have been targeted and exploited at an unsustainable level, especially sharks and rays for their fins. Such fishing causes an imbalance in the ecology of the park. However, the local Imraguen people depend on fishing for their livelihood and with fish populations under severe threat, local communities in Banc d’Arguin National Park have no choice but to find alternative ways of generating income.
The WOW project helped build local capacity for ornithological ecotourism within Banc d’Arguin National Park. Capitalising on the emerging opportunities created by the international ecotourism market, the project focused on developing a nature guiding programme for the local Imraguen population. Close to 20 Imraguen from different villages were selected to undergo intensive language training and to participate in a special guiding course which included an ornithological component combined with the geography, history and the ecology of the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin. To maximize the park’s potential, the field team also worked to improve local tourism infrastructure, conducted a market analysis to target tourism potential better and worked closely with international tour operators to raise the profile of Banc d’Arguin National Park as a destination for ornithological tourism.
Wetlands International (regional office in Dakar, Senegal) and the Parc National du Banc d`Arguin were the two main local implementing agencies for this demonstration project. In addition, the project was supported by FIBA, PRCM, the German GTZ and IPADE (Spain).
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