For many years, the Vezo – traditional fishers in southwest Madagascar – saw marine conservation as a threat, a way of preventing them from accessing their fishing grounds. This is perhaps unsurprising in these semi-nomadic communities, where seafood is the sole source of protein in 99% of meals and income is much less than US $2 per day. The prospect of waiting years for the uncertain benefit of fish spillover from a protected area represented too high a risk − and too severe an economic sacrifice − to be a workable solution.
A decade ago, we (Blue Ventures) set about trying to overcome this issue, working with these communities to understand their concerns and develop a low-risk approach to marine protection that would return meaningful economic benefits in timeframes that worked for them. And to help achieve this, we turned to an unlikely eight-legged ally.