In August 2015 octopus fishers from Mexico travelled to Madagascar as the first leg of a community exchange. This month Malagasy fishers made the return journey to learn more about the Mexican experience of sustainable fisheries management.
At sunrise one morning earlier this month, Joseph Rabesolo set off from his home to go fishing. Usually his journey to the local reef flat where he gleans for octopus would take just a few minutes, but on this particular occasion it took weeks. For Joseph wasn’t going fishing near his home village in Andavadoaka, southwest Madagascar, but thousands of kilometres away in Baja California, Mexico.
Over the next 10 days, Joseph, together with fellow octopus fishers Felicia Fenomanana and Boniface Mandimbitolo, accompanied by staff from Blue Ventures Conservation, travelled from Madagascar’s remote southwest coast to the village of Bahia de Los Angeles in Mexico; a journey of more than 17,000 kilometres.
The reason for this extraordinary voyage? To share positive experiences of small-scale fisheries management with octopus fishers in Mexico, and to explore new ideas for sustainable approaches.
This was not the first time the two groups of fishers had met. The first leg of the exchange took place in August last year, when a delegation of Mexican fishers, along with representatives of Mexican conservation organisations Pronatura Noreste and Smartfish Mexico, visited Madagascar to learn about the short-term fisheries closures carried out there over the past 11 years as a management tool to build catches and income. As a result of this visit, fishers in Baja California implemented a temporary closure soon after their return, demonstrating the potential benefits of this approach to peer learning.
The initiative, supported by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, is working to overcome the geographic and linguistic barriers that would normally prevent coastal communities from these two opposite sides of the world sharing hands-on experiences of fisheries management and marine conservation.
“This was a very useful visit for us. We learned a lot about octopus fisheries in Mexico, and would like to thank the community of Bahia de los Angeles for welcoming us to their village. There’s some very interesting work going on here with Fishery Improvement Plans and ecotourism, and we’re looking forward to trying out what we’ve learnt when we get back to Madagascar.” Joseph Rabesolo, octopus fisher from Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Exchanges like these can play a powerful role in inspiring local action to improve fisheries management and conservation. Similar community visits organised between communities in the Western Indian Ocean have repeatedly demonstrated their enormous potential as a way of sharing experiences and best practice, as well as in catalysing the uptake of innovations to tackle ocean declines.
Xavier Vincke, sustainable fisheries manager at Blue Ventures said: “This exchange has brought together communities from opposite sides of the world, and from very different socioeconomic contexts, but both facing similar challenges with their fisheries. Sharing our experiences in this way has been inspirational for us all, stimulating new ideas for conservation from this extraordinary partnership.”
A film documenting fishers’ experiences on both legs of this exchange is being produced to share this unique journey with broader communities in Madagascar and Mexico, and the visits are also being profiled as part of a broader collaborative research effort to understand the role that dialogue and exchange between fishers can play in inspiring local action in fisheries management and conservation.
Blue Ventures would like to thank The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust for supporting this initiative.
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