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Working in direction of sustainability in Madagascar’s reef octopus fishery: a journey of enchancment

Blue Ventures is a marine conservation organisation working with communities to rebuild tropical small scale fisheries. Learn how an MSC International Fisheries Sustainability Fund grant is supporting their work with semi-nomadic seafaring communities in a southwest Madagascar octopus fishery.

Fishing performs a vital position within the cultures, livelihoods and meals safety of many creating international locations.  And with declining fish shares and hovering demand worldwide, the necessity for sustainable fisheries in these areas − which embrace among the world’s poorest fishing communities − is extra urgent than ever.

Greater than half of world fish exports originate in creating international locations, with fisheries being a massively necessary supply of revenue for a lot of coastal states. As shopper consciousness has risen in recent times, fish destined for Western international locations have change into topic to market stress for sustainability. This stress drives using eco-certification schemes, just like the Marine Stewardship Council’s ecolabel.

Map of Madagascar showing octopus fishery extending from Morombe to Androka

Southwest Madagascar’s Octopus fishery extends from Morombe to Androka, the area shaded

But regardless of important traction in international seafood markets, few fisheries in creating international locations have achieved MSC certification, on account of an array of challenges. Consequently, many environmental organisations are working with fisheries to enhance their administration in a course of often called a Fishery Enchancment Undertaking, or FIP.

In rural southwest Madagascar, Blue Ventures is at present supporting a FIP within the octopus fishery with the last word goal of attaining MSC certification. We’re collaborating with authorities businesses, the nationwide marine institute and different environmental organisations, in addition to business seafood exporters and neighborhood companions.

Southwest Madagascar’s octopus fishery

The octopus fishery spans virtually 500 kilometres of Madagascar’s southwest coast, from the city of Morombe within the north to the village of Androka within the south. Coastal communities are extraordinarily remoted and lack primary infrastructure, rendering the transport and distribution of octopus extraordinarily difficult.

The marine atmosphere right here is characterised by considered one of Africa’s largest coral reef ecosystems, which supplies habitat for the goal species, Octopus cyanea. The arid land prevents agriculture in a lot of the area, resulting in a really excessive reliance on fishing for subsistence and revenue.

This area is dwelling to the semi-nomadic seafaring Vezo folks. Vezo means ‘to paddle, which speaks to the folks’s lifestyle and shut connection to the ocean and Vezo tradition is deeply entwined with fishing. Conventional fishers use picket fishing spears (often called a voloso within the native dialect) to seize the octopus utilizing two totally different fishing strategies: gleaning and free diving. Gleaners are predominantly girls, who fish by strolling on the reef flats at low tide and use their voloso to coerce octopus from small crevices within the reef flat. Free diving is practiced by males, utilizing the voloso and a facemask to dive and entry deeper habitats, as much as 5m.

Catches are bought to native collectors stationed on seashores who’re then answerable for transporting catches to Toliara, the regional capital and export processing hub. Switch of octopus from touchdown stations to Toliara entails lengthy, arduous truck journeys alongside the unpaved tracks that wind alongside the coast.

Female Madasgacar octopus fisher in water with spear at low tide

Feminine octopus fisher in water with spear at low tide © Garth Cripps / Blue Ventures

Two Toliara-based seafood corporations combination, course of and export round 80% of the whole catch in southwest Madagascar, which in 2014 was round 600 tonnes. A lot of the product is destined for wholesalers and retailers in France, Italy, Spain and Mauritius. The comparatively giant market means the fishery is a wonderful candidate for efforts to encourage, incentivise and reward sustainability via the seafood provide chain.

Graph showing annual production of O. cyanea in southwest Madagascar and the proportion exported internationally, domestically and consumed locally

Annual manufacturing of O. cyanea in southwest Madagascar and the proportion exported internationally, domestically and consumed domestically (Ref: Ministère des Ressources Halieutiques et de la Pêche 2015).

Growing the FIP

As a primary step in direction of MSC certification, the fishery underwent a pre-assessment in 2010. The listing of suggestions that resulted highlighted among the main fisheries administration challenges frequent to creating international locations. The regional fisheries division in southwest Madagascar grapples with knowledge deficiency and lack of funding. Beneath-staffing and the absence of a transparent authorized framework to help efficient fisheries co-management may hinder progress. Ongoing challenges embrace conducting strong inventory assessments and understanding the impression of the fishery on the broader ecosystem.

Environmental organisations working to help community-based marine useful resource administration within the area have taken steps to handle a few of these challenges. Blue Ventures labored with fishing communities to facilitate Madagascar’s first momentary octopus fishery closure. This mannequin that has since been replicated throughout a lot of the fishery, and has been proven to enhance catch productiveness and native incomes.

The community-led method to fisheries administration has in flip catalyzed the event of a regional community of conservation areas often called domestically managed marine areas (LMMAs). These assist handle broader conservation targets past the octopus fishery.

Subsequent steps

Blue Ventures is now serving to native fishers to develop revolutionary strategies of information assortment, together with using tablets and smartphones to evaluate octopus shares.

Preliminary cellular monitoring trials passed off over an 18-month interval and knowledge are at present being reviewed to resolve what the subsequent steps for this methodology ought to be. A separate bespoke smartphone app for octopus knowledge assortment can also be being developed. This may velocity up knowledge and automate suggestions to the neighborhood knowledge collectors’ telephones, permitting them to view knowledge summaries extra shortly. As soon as improvement of the app is full we plan to trial it and make it obtainable freed from cost to associate organisations.

FIPs could be a prolonged course of, notably in fisheries with restricted knowledge and an absence of administration capability.  As Madagascar’s octopus fishery advances via its FIP, the broader advantages of the method have gotten clear: expanded data of the octopus fishery; strengthened relationships between stakeholders; and enhanced outreach that’s rising help from communities to cease using harmful fishing practices. Though difficult, the FIP course of is proving to be important in direction of driving sustainability in a fishery that underpins the livelihoods of this area’s coastal communities.

The MSC International Fisheries Sustainability Fund helps revolutionary fishery science analysis and tasks that assist small scale and creating world fisheries to attain sustainability and certification. Apply Now – Deadline 13 Feb 2017>

Rachel Lengthy

Rachel is a Fishery Enchancment Undertaking Coordinator for Blue Ventures

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