Madagascar: Pioneering safer fishing

Madagascar: Pioneering safer fishing

Many of Madagascar’s people rely on the ocean to survive. As the world’s fourth largest island, it has 5,000 kilometers of coastline.

As global fish stocks are increasingly threatened with collapse, people in southern Madagascar have pioneered safer fishing alternatives to protect the country’s natural resources.

“When I was a kid, I went fishing with my dad and there was plenty,” said Clin Ratsimbazafy, who is part of a grassroots initiative to stop overfishing.

“But that changed, and we had nothing, until we learned how to preserve marine resources,” he said while repairing his nets in the late afternoon sun in Andavadoaka, a village on Madagascar’s southwest coast.

Madagascar’s first locally managed marine area (LMMA) was set up in 2006 and is called Velondriake, which means living with the ocean. It has blossomed, spawning more than 100 LMMAs on the island and as far afield as Fiji and Costa Rica.

Visitors have come all the way from Mexico to learn about Velondriake’s octopus reserves – areas closed to fishing to allow octopuses to grow to full size, replenishing stocks and maximizing catches.

“Once we told them about how the depletion of the resources would negatively affect them, they realized how important it is to protect the resources that they use every day,” said Velondriake President Richard Badouraly.

Working with the government, communities now manage 11 percent of the Malagasy coastline, often using customary environmental law known as the dina, according to Blue Ventures, a United Kingdom-based conservation group supporting the initiative.

Velondriake is the largest locally managed marine reserve in the Indian Ocean, spanning 640 square kilometers. 

Badouraly hopes that other communities will adopt the grassroots conservation approach before endangered species become extinct. “My hope for the future is that all communities will be satisfied with the harvest of the sea, and everything will grow.”  Reuters