Managing ghost fishing in the Colombian Pacific with a community-based strategy

team photo in the sea
  • Country: Colombia
  • Organisation: Fundación para la investigación y conservación biológica marina (ECOMARES)
  • Support area: Conserving biological diversity
  • IKI funding: 86,470 euros
  • Project start: 01/09/2022
  • Project end: 31/03/2024
  • Website:

Rich marine ecosystems are degraded by abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gears in the Tribugá Gulf of Colombia. These gears continue to fish and trap animals and thus kill marine life. Concrete management actions are needed to achieve sustainable fisheries and maintain food security and ecosystem health. This IKI Small Grants project designs and implements a community-based management strategy. The strategy includes the adoption of new fisheries management measures to reduce the problem of ghost fishing gears and the creation and training of a local group in charge of surveillance and cleaning of ghost fishing gears on identified hotspots. It further concerns with enhancing knowledge and awareness of ecological impacts of ghost fishing and financial mechanisms for long term implementation of the strategy. The project partners with the local ethnic authority which plays a key role in the inter-institutional alliance created to support the co-management of the regional protected area.


The Tribugá Gulf encompasses about 60,000 hectares of coastal and marine ecosystems of the northern Colombian Pacific coast. Along the Gulf, nine coastal communities, with around 9,000 people, depend on artisanal fishing and tourism for food and income. Despite different conservation measures in place, marine biodiversity in the area is threatened by potential port infrastructure, but even more by unsustainable fishing practices and ghost fishing that affect fisheries yields and a recreational tourism sector. Two strategic ecosystems, mangroves, and rocky reef-mounts, locally known as riscales, provide essential habitat to fisheries resources. However, they are suffering from gradual degradation associated to abandoned, lost, or discarded artisanal fishing gears. Local fishers often use riscales as fishing grounds and handlines or nets might get entangled or abandoned. Industrial fishing does not take place within the Gulf area thanks to the establishment of a regional protected area in 2014.


The main target group is the Community Council Los Riscales, the ethnic local authority, which plays a key role in the inter-institutional alliance established to support the co-management of a regional protected area. The management strategy resulting from this project strengthens the council capacities to promote conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable fisheries. With around 1,800 people, the artisanal fishers and their families are the project’s main beneficiaries. Additionally, the Gulf’s inhabitants indirectly benefit from the project since a sustained provision of fisheries resources is linked to food security and nutrition, as well as to the economic well-being of the entire population.



The IKI Small Grants projects collaborates with the Board of the Community Council Los Riscales, the local ethnic authority in charge of managing natural resources. It works on new fisheries management measures to reduce ghost fishing, in a participatory process with fishers’ representatives. It further creates a Ghost Fishing Group, which is trained in surveillance and cleaning of ghost fishing gears. Furthermore, the project increases knowledge and awareness of social-ecological dynamics and impacts of ghost fishing and identifies and assess financial sustainability mechanisms of the ghost fishing strategy.

To do so, the project firstly visits nine coastal communities to present the project’s objectives, methodology and work plan to the community leaders. It then carries out a series of workshops with fishers’ representatives on management measures. Based on signed agreements with fishers, selected individuals receive support in the form of fishing gears, equipment, or materials to comply with new fisheries measures. The project continues with selecting and training several members of the community in scuba diving and ghost gear retrieval. Afterwards, the group carries out surveillance and cleaning activities at priority sites. The retrieved material is adequately disposed, reused, or recycled.

A rapid assessment of the ecological impact of ghost gear at priority sites with rocky reefs and mangrove habitats is conducted, including interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders. Results of these ecological and socio-ecological diagnosis are disseminated and used for educational material. Finally, the annual costs of implementing the ghost fishing strategy and the feasibility of different financial mechanisms are assessed.


IKI Small Grants supports ECOMARES in their organisational capacity development through:

  • A training on managing and dealing with conflictive situations in multi-actor constellations and a training on proposal writing and fundraising.


ECOMARES is a non-profit environmental Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), established in 2009 in the city of Cali (Colombia) with the purpose of contributing to the research, conservation, and restoration of biological diversity, especially marine ecosystems. Its members have worked as teachers, researchers, natural resource managers, and conservationists, both in Colombia and internationally, in countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and South Africa, among others.

ECOMARES manages, researches, restores, and educates to achieve its conservation objectives, and aims to be an organisation recognized nationally and internationally for the excellent technical quality of its work, for its high professional level and dynamism, and for its positive influence on knowledge and preservation of the natural heritage.