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Octopus season: community-managed fisheries reopen across three countries

Octopus season: community-managed fisheries reopen across three countries

For over a decade, Blue Ventures has been supporting communities across the Western Indian Ocean to organise temporary octopus fishery closures as a pathway to longer term management. The closures serve to give the octopus time to increase in size and reproduce. This management method is successful because the life cycle of octopus is short – they typically only live for 15-18 months – and they grow very quickly during the first 6 months, almost doubling in weight every month during this period. At the end of a temporary fishery closure, the octopus fishers should be rewarded with the financial benefits of catching more and larger octopus.

This approach has since grown along many hundreds of kilometres of Madagascar’s coastline, inspiring a grassroots marine management movement that has seen more than 300 closures completed and the establishment of 70 locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), covering over 17% of the island’s inshore seabed.

Excitingly, by supporting partner organisations we’re beginning to see international replication of this management measure in new areas, and in September 2018 the first community-led temporary octopus closures in Comoros and Indonesia, as well as the first closure in the Barren Isles archipelago in Madagascar, were reopened.

The closure in Comoros took place in the southwest peninsula of Anjouan island. A 100 hectare area of reef flat, adjacent to the villages of Vassy, Dzindri and Salamani, was closed to octopus fishing for four months.

The closure was organised by the fisherwomen’s association – Maecha Bora – which includes members from all three adjacent villages, was inspired by a community exchange visit to our partners Mwambao in Zanzibar, and was facilitated by Blue Ventures’ Comorian partner Dahari. Enforcement of the closure rules was also greatly aided by the strong support of the local authorities.

The closure in Indonesia was led by Darawa village in the Wakatobi archipelago, and facilitated by Blue Ventures’ partner FORKANI – an Indonesian community-based organisation working to secure community management rights of local marine resources across Wakatobi. The community closed a 50 hectare fishing site for three months, with all the fishers taking responsibility for enforcing and monitoring the closure.

Two communities in the Barren Isles archipelago – a recognised wetland of international importance to biodiversity – implemented temporary octopus fishery closures on the islands of Nosy Maroantaly and Nosy Marify with support from Blue Ventures.

The Barren Isles is the largest LMMA in the Indian Ocean, and its community association Vezo Miray Nosy Barren (VMNB) had heard of successful octopus fishery closures from other LMMA associations in the MIHARI Network.

The full impact of the pioneering closures in these three locations is yet to be fully determined, but the initial results paint a positive picture. In Comoros, the average catch weight recorded on opening day was double the average catch weight before the closure, and the largest octopus caught on Nosy Marify broke the island’s record.

In all three countries, the initial results and analysis from the opening day catch monitoring was discussed with communities in feedback sessions, and reinforced the overall feeling of positivity. The Darawa community has already decided to close another octopus fishing area for a three month period starting in December 2018, and the communities in Comoros and the Barren Isles are also discussing further closures, reflecting the experience in Madagascar where closures lead to further management interventions and ultimately, we hope, to locally managed marine areas.

In addition to these first openings, 15 temporary octopus fishery closures were reopened on 27 August 2018 across the three LMMAs of Manjaboake, Teariake and Velondriake in southwest Madagascar.

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