Successful Marine Protected Area in Madagascar Galvanizes a Whole Region

Photo copyright Florence Canal

Madagascar is one of the world’s largest islands and contains a wide variety of marine habitats that are home to many endangered marine species. Recently, increased fishing pressure as a result of the commercialization of the country’s fisheries has posed a grave threat to Madagascar’s aquatic life.

About a decade ago, commercial exporters established themselves in Madagascar and have since provided easier access to higher paying markets for seafood products such as octopus and pelagic fish, which in turn has increased both the value and exploitation rates of these targeted species. Between 2002 and 2003 there was a 35% increase in octopus exports to France.

The fishing village of Andavadoaka, located in southwestern Madagascar, decided to take action. In collaboration with Madagascar’s Institute of Marine Science, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Blue Ventures Conservation, the villagers set up a trial “no-take” marine protected area (MPA) in 2004, aimed at protecting octopus populations.

Despite the fact that nearly three quarters of the Andavadoaka villagers rely of fishing for their livelihood, these local fishermen signed a dina, or traditional law, which officially closed the no-take zone to octopus fishing. They also agreed to take on the responsibility of surveillance and enforcement of the dina so that illegal fishing did not occur in the area, essentially creating a community managed MPA.

The MPA turned out to be quite successful, resulting in an average increase of nearly 50% for the mean weight of octopuses caught. These larger octopi found inside the reserve also have much higher reproduction rates than smaller individuals and therefore contribute more to the population, providing an additional benefit.

The news of the positive effects of the octopus reserve had spread quickly and led to a replication of the no-take zones along Madagascar’s southwest coastline. The success of the closure system ultimately resulted in 23 villagers presenting dinas for a no-take zone, which they believed should become a larger MPA. Thus, the Velondriake Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) was established in 2006 and continues to protect the marine resources of southwestern Madagascar and support the livelihoods of local fishermen and communities.

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