Pioneering viable alternatives to fishing

Our community-based aquaculture initiative is providing coastal people with new sources of income, allowing improved access to food and education, while alleviating pressure on fisheries and marine biodiversity.

Traditional small-scale fisheries are fundamental to the livelihoods and food security of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. Yet marine ecosystems and the fisheries they support are facing unprecedented pressures. With 90% of global fish stocks already overfished or fully fished, and soaring demand for seafood, there is a critical need to diversify coastal livelihoods to reduce pressure on marine resources.

In southwest Madagascar, geographic isolation and an arid climate means there are few economic opportunities beyond fishing, and coastal people are highly reliant on the sea for their survival. We are working with these coastal communities and private sector aquaculture businesses to develop viable livelihood activities appropriate to the local environment and culture.

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people trained to farm sea cucumbers and seaweed

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of farm leaders and farmers are women

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earned by the best seaweed farmer last year

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sea cucumbers harvested to date

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Aquaculture

Farming the sea

Working with the University of Toliara’s Marine Science Institute (IHSM), local seafood exporter Copefrito and aquaculture company Indian Ocean Trepang (IOT), Blue Ventures is connecting isolated coastal communities with lucrative international markets for seaweed and sea cucumbers, enabling families to develop their own aquaculture businesses.

Our aquaculture specialists have trained over 700 people to become farmers of sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and red “cottonii” seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii).

Sea cucumbers (known as trepang after processing) are in high demand in Asian markets where they are considered a delicacy, health food and aphrodisiac, while red seaweed is widely used in food and cosmetics industries as a texturing agent.

Why seaweed and sea cucumbers?

  • Well suited to Madagascar’s extensive shallow coastal lagoons
  • High demand from lucrative international markets
  • Farms operate with low running costs
  • Production methods are simple, requiring minimal initial training, and producing negligible adverse environmental impacts
  • An established network of business and research partners provides assured access to markets, hatchery technology and supply, and technical expertise to maximise the benefits to communities

Meet the farmers: aquaculture in profile

This series of blogs, written by Angelina Skowronski, explores the opportunities for livelihood diversification and capacity building through the eyes and words of Vezo fishers themselves.

Aquaculture partners

Catalysing local entrepreneurship

We are committed to developing models for community-based aquaculture in which farms are fully owned and operated by communities themselves. Our aquaculture team provides materials and technical guidance, and assists with start-up costs.

In partnership with CITE, a Malagasy NGO supporting local socio-economic and entrepreneurial development, we also help to nurture small business development with training programmes that build the technical, financial, managerial and organisational skills needed by fishermen and women to manage their own aquaculture businesses. This support is fundamental to improving revenues and working towards the long-term sustainability of aquaculture businesses in these isolated communities.

Every year new farmers and villages join our aquaculture programme, increasing the number of people benefiting from alternative livelihoods. Over half of the farmers supported by Blue Ventures are women, who often use this new income to help pay for children’s school fees and supplement their family’s diet.

Scaling success

Introducing new innovations in coastal aquaculture is not a simple task, and requires strong technical partnerships and practical experience. The commercial nature of many aquaculture businesses means that results and developments are generally not publicised; experiences of overcoming technical, logistical and financial challenges in production are rarely shared.

Blue Ventures is committed to promoting and sharing best practice in community-based aquaculture, maximising the number of people able to benefit from these livelihood activities. We are working to improve connections between aquaculture initiatives, developing a new Indian Ocean network for practitioners, and sharing our experiences from Madagascar.

Continuing to innovate

The market for mud crab in Madagascar has grown significantly over the last 5 years, driven primarily by a high demand for live export to Asia. This demand has been accompanied by a six-fold increase in price, particularly for crabs with abundant meat, and, inevitably, increasingly unsustainable pressure on the fishery. Rural fisherman, lacking the equipment and techniques necessary to catch the higher value large crabs, have felt little of the benefit from this increase in value.

We’re piloting mud crab fattening – whereby fishers catch select mature crabs using sustainable techniques and then place them in artificial pens to fatten over time – as a way to increase fisher income and decrease the pressure on the fishery.

A feasibility study led by BV established the technical, legal and economic viability of mud crab fattening in Ambanja Bay, indicating a potential increase in income of up to 33% for farmers, with no increase in fishing efforts. Farming is now being piloted in 4 of our partner villages, with the aim of expanding to other villages over time, as the farmers’ techniques are tested and refined.

Meet our aquaculture team

Aquaculture Programme Coordinator
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Sea Cucumber Aquaculture Supervisor
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Sea Cucumber Aquaculture Supervisor
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Sea Cucumber Aquaculture Technician
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Sea Cucumber Aquaculture Technician
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Aquaculture Operations Assistant
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Aquaculture Supervisor
Belo sur Mer, Madagascar
Aquaculture Technician
Belo sur Mer, Madagascar
Aquaculture Technician
Belo sur Mer, Madagascar

Latest blogs

Latest news

17
Dec

Blog: Celebrating the mission that unites us

Find out what happens when 84 marine conservationists come together to share ideas, celebrate our mission, and dance!
21
Sep

Crossing the Indo-Pacific for marine conservation

Late August saw the arrival in Madagascar of some very special visitors - a group of Mexican fishermen traveled more than 17,500 kilometres to have a conversation with their local counterparts about octopus.
02
Mar

Fish Farmer Magazine: Community farms feed families

Blue Ventures is featured in the March 2015 edition of Fish Farmer Magazine in an article exploring the impact of our community-based aquaculture programme.
16
Dec

Community-based aquaculture in the Western Indian Ocean region: towards a sustainable future for coastal people and marine biodiversity

Stone Town, Zanzibar - A ground-breaking workshop was held in Zanzibar last week to share experiences and improve understanding of community-based aquaculture initiatives in the Western Indian Ocean region.

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