The morning of November 11th saw the opening of two pioneering community-managed mangrove reserves in western Madagascar. Over 200 fishers attended the opening of the two fishing sites, covering an area of approximately 200 hectares, in order to reap the benefits of a temporary closure that has prohibited all forms of fishing and mangrove cutting for the past 19 weeks.
These experimental reserves, a response to growing concern expressed by local fishers over falling numbers of fish and crabs, were a community-managed initiative, led by the local association “Be Andriaky”, with technical support provided by British conservation organisation Blue Ventures and Madagascar’s national parks service. Increasing production of the economically important mud crab, Scylla serrata, was the primary objective of these ‘no-take’ reserves, and their closure was designed to coincide with the animal’s peak breeding season in the region.
The reserves were closed on 1st July, during a traditional ceremony. A similar ceremony marked the reserves’ reopening, before the visiting fishermen started fishing once again, using mesh nets, hooks, woven crab scoops, and simply by trapping crabs by hand. Catches were weighed and measured by local community members as part of Blue Ventures’ on-going monitoring of traditional fish and crab captures, in order to assess the impact of reserve closures and evaluate their ecological, economic and social impacts.
“I’m really surprised. It’s as if in just a few months the fish have come back. It reminds me of how it used to be”, said Jean François, an elder from the village of Antanimanimbo. “I saw fish in the mangrove today that I haven’t seen there in a long time.”
In meetings held following the opening, villagers expressed their desire to close the same area again in the coming weeks, this time for a longer period of six months.
In order to facilitate the peer-to-peer learning process and replication of this community-based fisheries management model, Blue Ventures, Madagascar National Parks and WWF-Madagascar brought 22 fishers from other villages throughout the region to witness the opening. Representatives from the villages of Andika-sur-Mer, Andranolava and Belagnora, approximately 35 km north of Belo-sur-Mer, expressed their desire to establish similar reserves, and discussions of appropriate areas and closure times had already begun.
This landmark fisheries management initiative is part of a broader effort by Blue Ventures to demonstrate the economic benefits of community-based marine conservation. Similar efforts by Blue Ventures catalysing local management of coral reef fisheries in southern Madagascar have already been replicated over 130 times along over 400 km of coastline over the past seven years, bringing about unprecedented support for community-based marine and coastal conservation efforts. This month’s mangrove reserve openings mark a significant evolution and geographic expansion of these community-based fisheries management efforts, being the first of their kind to be established in mangrove forests, and the first fisheries reserves of any kind in western Madagascar’s vast Menabe region, where the traditional fish and crab fisheries are critical for local livelihoods.
Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation, dedicated to working with local communities to conserve threatened marine environments. Our highly acclaimed conservation programmes work with coastal communities to develop conservation and alternative income initiatives to protect biodiversity and coastal livelihoods.
For more information about Blue Ventures’ community-based marine conservation work in mangrove forests, please visit our Blue Forests page.
Explore these in depth photo stories: ‘Making a living from the forests between land and sea’ and ‘Reserve opening day’