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The Barren Isles archipelago receives recognition for its international importance for biodiversity

The Barren Isles archipelago receives recognition for its international importance for biodiversity

The Government of Madagascar has recently designated the Barren Isles archipelago as a wetland area of international importance, in a process supported by WWF Madagascar. This designation, under the international wetlands convention, was celebrated by local government and project partners at the Melaky Economic Fair in Maintirano this month.

The convention, otherwise known as the Ramsar convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that identifies wetland sites of global importance. One of the five new sites in Madagascar is the Barren Isles archipelago, which extends between 15 and 65 kilometres southwest of the town of Maintirano on the west coast of Madagascar.

Shallow marine areas up to 6m depth at low tide qualify as Ramsar wetlands, and the Barren Isles archipelago is made up of nine low-lying islands and many more sand banks scattered across 40km.

These islands are home to nesting seabird and turtle populations, while the waters surrounding them host an abundance of threatened marine species, and the extensive reef ecosystems include at least 39 coral genera and 150 species of fish. Over 4,000 fishers also use these islands as part of their traditional fishing grounds.

Blue Ventures is working to develop a model for locally-led fisheries management that protects the Barren Isles’ ecosystem while securing the rights of traditional fishers. Recognition of the area’s global importance under the Ramsar convention will reinforce the efforts led by local communities, and supported by Blue Ventures and partners, to defend this area and its resources from threats such as over-fishing and extractive industries.

As well as Ramsar certification, the Barren Isles archipelago has already been designated as a future permanently gazetted marine protected area (MPA) under local management, with work underway to secure definitive status. This process began when Blue Ventures and partners successfully secured temporary protected status for the Barren Isles archipelago in 2014, after seven hard years of work.

Covering 4,300 km2, it is the western Indian Ocean’s largest marine protected area, from which all industrial fishing has been excluded and small-scale fishing will now be regulated with the use of licenses and gear restrictions.

Blue Ventures has been working with the government of Madagascar to support sustainable fisheries management across the entire Melaky region. This process has so far led to the national shrimp trawling association’s recent decision to cease trawling in the ‘sensitive corridor’ between the Barren Isles and the mainland over the 2017 fishing season.

During the opening ceremony of the Melaky Economic Fair, an annual event showcasing the region’s economic opportunities, on September 8th, the Ramsar certificate was officially given by the Regional Prefect to the parties involved in the achievement, including heads of regional and district administrations, mayors, representatives of government ministries, representatives of the community management association for the Barren Isles MPA, and Blue Ventures as the primary support partner for the Barren Isles MPA.

At the Economic Fair itself, the Ramsar certificate was displayed at a booth showcasing the Barren Isles, organised by Blue Ventures, where the local team was on hand to explain and discuss all aspects of the work to protect the Barren Isles.

Blue Ventures also took part in a conference on developing sustainable tourism in the wider region of Melaky. This conference was led by the Regional Office of the Environment, who asked Blue Ventures to present on the new Ramsar certification. During this presentation Blue Ventures was able to emphasise the importance of sustainably managing resources to mitigate poverty.

Read more good news from the Barren Isles archipelago.

Read Jean Berthieu’s account of presenting fisheries data to Barren Isles communities.

We would like to thank our funders for their support, including: the GEF through UNEP under the Dugong and Seagrass Project, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Darwin Initiative through UK Government funding.

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