The reef systems of southwest Madagascar are biologically diverse and of great socioeconomic importance to the region’s traditional and artisanal fisheries, which target diverse marine resources including reef fish, octopus, sharks and turtles. However, growing evidence suggests that many of the region’s important fisheries may be experiencing unsustainable levels of exploitation (Iida, 2005;Laroche et al 1997; McVean et al 2005; Woods-Ballard et al, 2003). It is estimated that over 50% of artisanal fishing in Madagascar occurs along the reef systems of the southwest (Cooke et al 2003), and that southern Madagascar’s reef octopus fishery accounts for approx 70% of the value of marine resources purchased by collection and export companies regionally (Copefrito pers. comm.). Fishing for octopus is the dominant source of fishing-derived revenue for the majority of coastal communities in the southwest, however declines in octopus catches have been reported as a result of increased fishing effort (Rajaonarison 2002; Toany 1995). These trends highlight the urgent need for management initiatives to protect the long-term sustainability of the octopus fishery in the region.
Temporary closure of octopus fishing grounds is emerging as a popular management tool in Madagascar. In the southwest of the country over 100 such closures have been implemented since 2004. To date, no study has analysed the closures’ direct effects on octopus landings or fisher
incomes, and managers have not yet had access to accurate scientific information on which to base adaptive management efforts.
Following a national workshop convened to discuss management of Madagascar’s octopus fisheries in the city of Toliara in 2006 (Rafalimanana et al 2006), a second national octopus fishery workshop was held in April 2011. Its aim was to gather stakeholders involved in the fishery at regional and national levels to discuss recent developments in fisheries management, and to present results of ongoing research initiatives aiming to improve understanding of the effectiveness of different approaches to managing this fishery (Rafalimanana et al 2006).