Antananarivo, Madagascar – The Government of Madagascar has accorded temporary protection to the Barren Isles archipelago, thus creating the largest community-managed marine protected area in the Indian Ocean.
This decision was recently reinforced by the commitment of President Rajaonarimampianina to triple the extent of the nation’s marine protected areas by 2020, announced earlier this month at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
The Barren Isles archipelago, home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean, has been granted legal protection for an initial period of two years, prohibiting industrial fishing in nearly 4,300km2 of coast and ocean, and placing fisheries management in the hands of local communities. This initiative makes this unique group of islands Madagascar’s largest protected area either on land or sea.
Situated off the western coast of Madagascar, the archipelago’s nine coral islands are home to a rich marine ecosystem with exceptional biodiversity. The new protected area harbours five species of endangered sea turtle as well as numerous seabirds, sharks, dolphins and whales, and a staggering abundance and diversity of fish. Its waters support traditional small-scale fisheries that are of immense importance to local fishing communities.
“This protected status will benefit traditional fishers here. Our marine resources are in danger of being exhausted, and we need to create reserves to guarantee their productivity in the future.”- President of the Ampasimandroro fishing village, near Maintirano
The new protected status upholds local fishing rights by prohibiting industrial fishing, and preventing mineral extraction companies from obtaining new permits. A permanent marine reserve around the Nosy Mboro island also protects some of the archipelago’s healthiest coral reefs from all fishing activity.
The delineation of the protected area was agreed during extensive consultations between coastal communities and representatives of shrimp trawling and aquaculture industries. In a landmark agreement, industry representatives agreed to set aside productive fishing grounds within the protected area for the exclusive use of traditional fishers, with no trawling permitted.
“The Association of Aquaculture Farmers and Shrimp Fishers in Madagascar (GAPCM) is committed to working with traditional fishermen in the Melaky region. We worked together for the delimitation of the protected area, and the rebuilding of fish stocks and marine resources requires the participation of everyone.” – Mr. Ralison, Secretary General of the GAPCM
The protected area is unique not only for its size and biodiversity, but also for pioneering a rights-based approach to community management within a globally important conservation initiative. A local law created by fishing communities serves as the legal backbone of this protected area; designed and enforced by community members, the law protects the rights of traditional fishers to the resources upon which their livelihoods depend.
“We have prioritised the conservation of marine resources, as this aligns with the state’s general policy regarding the fisheries sector. The creation of this marine protected area certainly contributes to the regeneration of fish stocks and to improving the income of local fishers.” – Mr. Ahmad, Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries
We look to successful examples of locally managed marine areas, of which Madagascar is proud to be a pioneer in the Western Indian Ocean region. With this model, we have evidence that protected areas benefit not only biodiversity but also local communities, by ensuring their food security, bringing much needed additional revenues to local fishermen as well as by empowering them to be crafters of their own future. This model has fostered the emergence of grassroots leadership. We need these leaders to build our future.” – His Excellence Mr. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President of Madagascar – speech at the World Parks Congress in November 2014
Notes to editors:
Press release issued jointly with the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests and the Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries.
– The Barren Isles Marine Protected Area is part of the System of Protected Areas in Madagascar, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests in line with the Durban Vision commitment made during the World Parks Congress in 2003. This system includes new categories of Protected Areas (specifically categories V et VI) according to the IUCN classification, and equally supports other types of governance such as co-management and community management.
– The Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries is responsible for marine protected areas, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forestry.
– Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation that is supporting the development of the Barren Isles marine protected area with local communities.
– This inititiative is generously supported by the Darwin Initiative and the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
For more information, please contact: Ny Aina Andrianarivelo – [email protected]