Andika-sur-Mer, a Vezo fishing village of just over 200 people located about 20 kilometers south of Morondava on Madagascar’s west coast, closed their first temporary mangrove reserve in December of 2011. Our Conservation Coordinator, Brian Jones, captures some of the sights from that opening day.
Following a village meeting, where departure points were agreed upon, the village President gives the go ahead, and it’s a mad dash to the mangrove channel. Gear in hand, most of the fishers have already picked out in their minds where their preferred spot is. This temporary reserve has been closed to fishing for 4 and a half months and the hope is that today the community will reap the benefits of their patience.
The hand-scrawled sign, which stands on the edge of the mangrove reserve area, indicates the closure and opening dates. During the closure, the villagers of Andika-sur-Mer were responsible for ensuring that no one broke the closure - one of the main reasons they chose the mangrove channel which surrounds their village.
A team of fishers haul their net to shore. The catch is good, and it’s smiles all around, but these two did their best to look serious when they caught sight of my lens. The young girl behind them wasn’t so self-conscious.
As the catch is beginning to pile up in these hand-woven baskets on the shore a village elder looks on and barks instructions as his children and grandchildren place the nets. Many Vezo boys begin learning how to fish at the age of 5, and are skilled enough to paddle their molanga pirogues out into the open ocean by the time they are 10 years old.
Rafidison - elected President of Andika-sur-Mer village looks on. His apprehension was palpable at the meeting that morning; he feared that there had been theft and that the reserve may not live up to his village’s expectations. He’d been instrumental in the push for this reserve, and so his reputation was partly on the line. He looked so relieved and content to see the nets coming back full, and to listen to the young guys whooping it up in the mangrove, that I didn’t want to risk ruining his moment by having him see me snap this photo.
The vice-mayor, who lives in Andika, notes the weights caught by each fisher. He set-up next to our weighing station (we monitor the catch to study the long term impacts of reserve closures like this) and purchased all of the fish straightaway. It’s important to make sure markets exist and buyers are ready on a reserve opening day, or the fishers will see little benefit beyond a hearty meal that evening.
A team of young men and women work to scale and gut the fish- a fairly heroic task considering over 700 kilograms of fish were hauled in over the course of the day. Despite the work, there was plenty of reason to smile.
After cleaning, the fish are salted and sold on to local markets in Morondava, the regional capital.
The fishers of Andika-sur-Mer were so impressed with the results of this first closure, they called a village meeting that evening and agreed to re-close the reserve, beginning the next morning, for an additional five months.
This is only one of many similar days and similar success stories.
Blue Ventures has been working in Madagascar for more than a decade, pioneering locally led marine management such as this. We started with octopus and as news of this remarkable fishery boom spread, neighbouring communities started copying this approach. Crucially, this sparked interest in more ambitious coastal management efforts, leading to the creation of the country’s first locally managed marine area governed by a small network of fishing villages.
Since then, this periodic fishery closure model has gone viral along hundreds of kilometres of Madagascar’s coastline, spawning a grassroots marine conservation revolution with 62 more locally managed marine areas established to date. Today, over 10% of the island’s seabed is managed by communities, for communities.
These experiences have guided our journey searching for new approaches to demonstrate that marine conservation can be in everyone’s interests, and that taking less from our ocean can give us much much more. Our vision is to support our global partners to reach at least three million people in tropical coastal regions by 2020.