It has been widely recognised that marine resources cannot be managed solely from a biophysical stance, that there needs to be incorporation of anthropogenic factors, including an understanding of traditional resource use and how methods and demands have grown and evolved. There is a close link between how people use coral reefs and their socioeconomic background (Bunce et al. 2000). Recognising this link and the importance of understanding the people who use and depend on coral reefs, the ways in which the resources are exploited and the driving forces associated with reef use is of the highest importance.
Overfishing is a primary threat to coral reef ecosystems around the world, having both direct and indirect effects on marine community structure and reducing a reefs ability to recover from destructive natural phenomenon, such as bleaching events and cyclones (Roberts 1995).
Conservation organisations that focus on fisheries management often make promises of social and economic advancement as a result of conservation efforts, however this is rarely born to fruition as there is little direct compensation or alternative livelihoods offered to fishing communities.
Conservation organisations need to understand the methods and techniques that local communities employ and the environmental impacts that they have before introducing new techniques and management plans.
Madagascar is one of the largest islands in the Southwest Indian Ocean and has a distinct history and culture as well as one of the richest assemblages of marine resources including coral reefs and mangroves. Madagascar coral reefs are probably the richest and most diverse of these ecosystems with an estimated 6000 reef-associated species, including 752 fish species and 340 coral species (McKenna and Allen 2003).
This diverse assemblage of marine species is at risk not only from being exploited by both industrial and artisanal fisheries but is also threatened by global warming and excessive sedimentation (Nadon 2005).
In recent years Madagascar’s smaller artisanal and traditional fisheries have been subject to rapid development increasing their production in response to demand form overseas and through the introduction of improved materials and techniques (Iida 2005). Studies have shown that levels of exploitation of marine resources in the south west are similar to those observed in countries, such as Mauritius that are believed to be over-fished (Laroche and Ramananarivo 1995).
Andavadoaka is a small, remote village, in the Tulear province of south west Madagascar. Its rich marine ecosystem is critical to the livelihood and culture of the local Vezo community, whose principal source of income is the pirogue-based traditional fishery (lakana) (Langley 2006 ).
The pressure exerted on the local reefs as a primary producer of food and money shows little sign of reducing as local populations appear to be growing as much through migration from inland villages as from natural increase (Epps 2008).
Blue Ventures, an international NGO, was established in Andavadoaka in 2003 with the intention of improving the quality of life of the local community who depend on these marine resources, while maintaining the biological diversity, sustainability and productivity of the coral reefs.