Threats to Biodiversity in the Gamba complex
Logging, hunting, fishing, oil and gas, agriculture
Industrial logging is increasing, often by foreign companies, with new players coming from countries such as Malaysia. With a few exceptions, the quality of these operators is poor and the government capacity to monitor illegal or unsustainable logging is weak.
Timber is evacuated at low cost via the lagoons and rivers to the ocean, and loaded for export in Port Gentil. Opening up the forests also leads to unsustainable levels of illegal vehicle-based commercial hunting and poaching.
Since the population is so small, village-based hunting by foot is not a threat to wildlife populations in the Complex. However, vehicle-based hunting in savanna areas and logging concessions, as well as long distance transport of bushmeat to urban markets is a serious problem.
In the northern part of the reserves between the 2 national parks, access is difficult and actually controlled in the oil concessions. Illegal hunting is therefore low in these hard to access areas.However, the most northern and eastern peripheries of the Complex offer easy access to bigger markets, larger human population density and more roads. Poaching is a major threat to this region, and this is an area where immediate and strong action should be taken.
Managing fish stocks is critical to ensure both sustainable resources at a national level and long-term protein availability for local populations. Fish stocks and seabed are currently being severely depleted by illegal offshore trawling. Accidental bycatch of sea turtles is another major concern.
A further issue is the use of uncontrolled semi-industrial inshore fishing using prohibited techniques which could cause severe conflicts over fish stocks and fishing grounds between traditional fishermen and commercial foreign fishers.
Oil and Gas
Oil production in the region started around 1965 from both offshore and onshore fields. Since 1998, overall production rates have declined. Within the Gamba Complex, the 2 large operators (Shell Gabon and Total Gabon) currently work according to clear standards and guidelines limiting overall direct environmental impact.
Shell's operations are certified under ISO14001. A number of smaller operators are also active and the environmental standards of their operations are not as well known. Offshore pollution in the form of oil on the ocean surface and oil washed up on the beaches occurs occasionally. Investigations into the source of this pollution are generally inconclusive.
A fall in economic opportunities linked to the downsizing of the oil industry could compel many residents to turn to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Possible threats are the establishment of plantations in the Complex' protected areas and national parks.
The high elephant populations lead to crop destruction. In the local context of small dispersed annual slash and burn plantations, effective protection methods are still to be found. The situation leads to conflicts between wildlife/park management authorities and local farmers.
What is WWF doing in Gamba Complex to address these threats?