Madagascar’s bold blue vision puts communities at centre of marine protection

Madagascar’s bold blue vision puts communities at centre of marine protection
1
Dec

Madagascar’s President Rajaonarimampianina has committed to triple the country’s marine protected areas and establish a legal framework to protect community management of fishing grounds, heralding the announcement of the country’s largest locally managed marine protected area in the Barren Isles archipelago.

Madagascar featured centre stage at the once-in-a-decade IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney as world leaders, scientists, conservationists and local community members gathered for the world’s most important global forum for advancing protected areas. The Blue Ventures team joined over 6,000 delegates from 170 countries to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving biodiversity.

During a dialogue of world leaders streamed live online, President Hery Rajaonarimampianina renewed his country’s commitment to protecting its unique biodiversity. Having already surpassed the island’s 2003 Durban Vision – a pledge made at the previous World Parks Congress to more than triple the total area of Madagascar’s protected areas – President Rajaonarimampianina committed to reinforce this newly expanded protected area system, as well as to triple the coverage of the country’s marine protected areas.

“Madagascar has achieved its [Durban] goal, but we can and will do better. Our natural capital is one of our greatest assets. This is why we are placing biodiversity and natural resources at the heart of our new national development plan,” explained President Rajaonarimampianina during his address at a WWF-organised side event celebrating progress in marine conservation.

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Highlighting the tremendous progress made in the country’s local marine conservation movement over the past decade, President Rajaonarimampianina noted: “We have positive models by which to chart our course. We look to successful examples of locally managed marine areas [LMMAs], of which Madagascar is proud to be a pioneer in the Western Indian Ocean region.”

Expressing his Government’s commitment to address a policy gap that can prevent local communities from securing management rights for traditional fishing grounds, the President also announced plans to establish legal and regulatory frameworks for community management of marine and coastal resources. This action will create a pathway for the formalisation of LMMAs, which now cover over 7% of Madagascar’s inshore seabed.

Madagascar’s Minister of Environment, Ecology and Forests, Anthelme Ramparany, reiterated the government’s support for the LMMA movement, announcing the creation of the Barren Isles marine protected area, which at 4,300km2 is now the country’s largest protected area, pushing the island beyond its 2003 commitment to expand marine protected area coverage to 10,000 km2. Minister Ramparany explained: “This [LMMA] model demonstrates that biodiversity conservation goes hand-in-hand with the improved livelihoods of local communities.”

The Barren Isles archipelago, situated off the western coast of Madagascar, is home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean region, and supports the livelihoods of thousands of small-scale fishers. Blue Ventures is working with local communities and authorities to establish a community-managed marine protected area around the islands.

“Oceans cover over two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, but currently less than 1% benefit from full protection against extractive activities such as fishing, mining and energy exploration,” said Dr Alasdair Harris, Executive Director of Blue Ventures, during a keynote address highlighting the role that protected areas can play in rebuilding small-scale fisheries.

“It’s hugely encouraging to see such a strong focus on the need to better protect our oceans throughout the Congress. While the challenge is daunting, successes like Fiji’s LMMA network, which now covers nearly 80% of the country’s coastal waters, show us what can be achieved by putting communities in the driving seat of conservation efforts.”

“We’re thrilled about President Rajaonarimampianina’s commitment to expand protection of the marine environment,” said Gildas Andriamalala, Coordinator of Madagascar’s national LMMA Network Mihari. “However, the challenge remains in ensuring that these pledges translate into real gains on the ground, and that protection also serves the interests and needs of those communities who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.”

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President Hery Rajaonarimampianina with Dr Alasdair Harris, Executive Director of Blue Ventures (left) and Gildas Andriamalala, Coordinator of Madagascar’s Mihari LMMA Network (right)

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Notes to editors:

Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation that is supporting the development of the Barren Isles locally managed marine area with local communities in western Madagascar. Download our Barren Isles factsheet and locally managed marine area factsheet, and browse these blogs from our team in the field.

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