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Involving Locals In Conservation Decisions is  Important!

Here in Madagascar a large proportion of local people who live by the coast rely on the marine environment to survive. The ocean provides a vital source of food and the means by which people can make a living. For example, in some coastal areas, the small scale fisheries sector employs up to 87% of the adult population and provides 99% of household protein in all meals. Without the ocean, many people would simply go hungry.

Involving local communities in conservation decisions is of the upmost importance, especially in economically poor countries such as Madagascar. If a conservation group enters an area and tries to implement a protected area where fishing is banned (known as a No Take Zone or NTZ), if people are reliant on this area for food, compliance will be low. However, if the local community are involved and engaged with conservation management plans, it is far more likely that people will comply, and the resource will therefore be sustained for future generations.

In recent years, fishing effort in Madagascar has increased which is putting more and more pressure on fisheries and therefore on food and income security for local people. However, knowledge of the scale of fishing effort in Madagascar as a whole remains poor which makes it difficult to assess how much of a problem overfishing is currently. For example, small scale fishing, which is substantial in Madagascar, is often unreported to national fisheries agencies. This means that official fishing statistics are most likely underestimated.

Around Nosy Be itself, the island on which our Marine Project is based, very little is known about the extent of fishing effort, from both commercial fishing boats and from local artisanal fishers.  There is not a full picture of where people are fishing, what species are being caught, what gear is being used and how many fish are being caught, or how much fish is being sold for locally. During my time here as a Marine ARO it is my plan to start to research this and to at least begin to understand the fishing practices of this area. This information can then be used to better manage the vital resources that the ocean provides.

However, this will only work if the local community are engaged and involved with any changes that could be implemented. Here on camp, we are lucky enough to live right next door to the village of Ambalahonko and I hope to engage them with my research. The ultimate goal would be to have a locally managed, community based management system in place to make sure the marine resources can continue to support people's livelihoods but in a more sustainable way!

By Ella Garrud – Madagascar Assistant Research Officer

Find out more about Frontier Madagascar Projects.

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