In the Congo, the government has approved the extension of the Conkouati-Douli national park towards the Atlantic Ocean. This decision will strengthen the conservation of marine fauna, in particular marine turtles, dolphins and humpback whales.
At a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 25 October 2023, the Congolese government adopted a draft decree amending decree no. 99-136 bis of 14 August 1999 creating the Conkouati-Douli national park. The decree increases the park’s total surface area from 504,950 to 795,550 hectares, a marine extension of 2,900 km2.
This decision “enables the Congo to align itself with the Kumning-Montreal agreement (adopted in 2022 in Canada, editor’s note) concerning the adoption of a new global framework aimed at halting the decline in biodiversity by 2030, in particular through the expected protection of at least 30% of land and sea”, explains Thierry Lézin Moungalla, the Congolese government spokesman. According to the Noé association, which is responsible for the delegated management of this biodiversity hotspot, Conkouati-Douli now has a total maritime area of 4,275 km2.
The fight against illegal fishing
“To this can be added a land area of 3,680 km2, giving a total park area of 7,955 km2“, explains Bas Verhage, Noé’s fundraising director. The association, based in Paris, France, will therefore have to step up its activities at sea, thanks in particular to Conkouati Shark, a 9 m vessel. But extending the park “will require us to increase our means of maritime transport to reach greater distances at sea, where the limit of the extension is 123 km from the coast (as opposed to 25 km at present), requiring us to carry out missions lasting several days, with greater safety measures (very long-distance means of communication, rescue boat, etc.)”, explains Bas Verhage.
Above all, this extension should reduce illegal fishing off the Congolese coast. This activity, which has been denounced for years by a number of environmental organisations in the Gulf of Guinea, is attributed to Chinese trawlers engaged in industrial fishing. However, “the Conkouati-Douli national park is home to a large fish breeding area, with mangroves and a lagoon connected to the sea via the mouth. Illegal fishing close to the coast and in the park depletes stocks of juvenile fish and fish destined for small-scale fishing, on which a large part of the Congolese coastal population depends”, explains Bas Verhage from the Noé association.
A symbol of the Congo’s commitment to biodiversity
In his view, extending the park out to sea will protect turtles, dolphins and humpback whales. The terrestrial part of Conkouati-Douli straddles the districts of Nzambi and Madingo-Kayes, in the extreme north-west of the Division of Kouilou. The park is also close to the villages of Cotovindou and Louléma, along the border between Congo and Gabon.
The natural area is watered by the Noumbi, Ngongo and Niambi rivers. It has a very dense flora, typical of equatorial vegetation. Its lush forests are home to more than 8,000 chimpanzees and 2,000 western lowland gorillas. Conkouati-Douli National Park is also home to more than 1,000 forest elephants. These pachyderms live alongside numerous species of migratory birds that flock to the park’s many wetlands.
Jean Marie Takouleu