Rooted in the Mangrove Landscape: Children and their Ethnoichthyological Knowledge as Sentinels for Biodiversity Loss in Northern Guinea-Bissau

Keywords: Human-nature relationships, Artisanal fishing communities, Participatory monitoring, Child taxonomy, Knowledge erosion, West Africa


Biomonitoring fish species losses in data-deficient estuaries of West Africa can be facilitated by consulting small-scale fishermen as on-the-spot sentinels. Children are often prominent fishing actors in rural societies, but scientific studies looking at their ethnoichthyological knowledge are lacking. This study examines childhood fish knowledge inside a Diola village in Northern Guinea-Bissau, discussing how gendered division of labor affects the distribution of such knowledge. By using a photo-based identification methodology supplemented with participant observation and key informant interviews, we compare differences in children’s knowledge, perceptions of their mangrove environment, and associated fish diversity. The results show: a) a high level of ethnoichthyological knowledge among the children; b) girls identified fewer fish species than boys; c) both boys and girls show difficulties in correctly naming the fish less visible in the local mangrove ecosystem. We highlight the importance of children’s participation in landscape use and maintenance for their cognitive development. Additionally, we conclude that the assessment of children’s endogenous knowledge is important for biological conservation, securing fish diversity, and sustainable exploitation efforts in mangrove socio-ecosystems while respecting local bio-cultural identity.

Author Biographies

Pieter-Jan Keleman, Forest Research Center and Associate Laboratory TERRA, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Pieter-Jan Keleman is an ethnobiologist interested in participatory research, focussing on aquatic biodiversity linked to mangroves, and its uses by local communities in coastal Guinea-Bissau.

Dr. Marina P. Temudo, Forest Research Center and Associate Laboratory TERRA, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Marina P. Temudo is an Ethno-agronomist and Rural Sociologist working on Political Agronomy and Human and Political Ecology in the African continent.

Dr. Rui M. Sá, Center for Public Administration & Public Policies, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Rui M. Sá is a biological and environmental anthropologist working on natural resource uses in West Africa.


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A map of the article's study area: Elalab, Guinea-Bisseau, West Africa
How to Cite
Keleman, P.-J., Padrão Temudo, M., & Moutinho Sá, R. (2023). Rooted in the Mangrove Landscape: Children and their Ethnoichthyological Knowledge as Sentinels for Biodiversity Loss in Northern Guinea-Bissau. Ethnobiology Letters, 14(2), 10–21.
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