Madagascar's first community-run marine protected area
An experimental, community-led scheme in Madagascar aims to demonstrate how partnerships between local people, research institutes and NGOs can deliver marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods. An estimated 11.5 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is now held in protected areas but only about one half per cent of the world’s seas and oceans enjoy the same rights.
A partnership between the local community, international NGOs and research institutions aims to demonstrate the economic, conservation and fisheries benefits that can arise from establishing Madagascar’s first community-run Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The village of Andavadoaka, and its offshore islands represent some of the most remote and biodiverse coral habitats in the western Indian Ocean. The poverty-stricken Vezo population is entirely dependent on marine resources for subsistence and family income. Octopus constitutes the largest portion of marine life harvested in the region, caught through a fishing technique that is destructive to the underlying reef habitat. Fisheries data and observations from fishermen now indicate that octopus is overexploited.
The partnership is working with the Andavadoaka community to implement Madagascar’s first experimental community-run Marine Protected Area, developing management solutions to help sustain the traditional artisanal fishing economy as well as minimise the environmental impacts of human activities on the region’s marine and coastal environments. In an effort to preserve the local octopus population and to increase the size (and value) of octopus caught in the region, an entire reef flat was declared an octopus no-take zone from November 2004 for a period of six months. The closure followed meetings with local stakeholders and was supported by a local law introduced specifically to protect the no-take zone.
The MPA project is also working to develop alternative sources of income, in particular ecotourism, aimed at generating revenue for the community and for the local management of the initiative.