In the Mozambique Channel, expansion of traditional subsistence turtle fisheries to supply commercial markets threatens the future of the five protected marine turtle species found in the region.
It is estimated there are 123 shark and ray species in Madagascar, of which 31 are listed as threatened. Shark populations are exploited primarily to supply the lucrative shark fin market. There is strong evidence that sharks in Madagascar’s waters are overexploited and that populations are declining precipitously.
A large-scale community-based monitoring programme trains community members to use smart phones to record data and photos on species landed in their villages. Through the introduction of smart phone technology Blue Ventures is pioneering new approaches to collecting fisheries data across vast areas of Madagascar’s remote western coastline.
Education and awareness-raising campaigns, based on social marketing techniques, aim to build on Vezo pride in seafaring cultural identity and heritage, encouraging communities to preserve their traditions and natural resources for further generations.
Giving Turtles a Chance: This video chronicles how conservation efforts are bringing hope for the survival of turtles off the west coast of Madagascar
Community-based turtle nest monitoring and protection
Blue Ventures initiated a community-led turtle nest monitoring programme in 2011 in the Barren Isles, western Madagascar. A network of community members from the coastal town of Maintirano have been trained in research and monitoring protocols, and monitor and protect nests during the nesting season from November to May.
In 2008, a nesting beach was protected for the first time by the community in the remote village of Lambaora, southwest Madagascar, after witnessing the first hatching of green turtles in living memory. The village voted protect surrounding beaches, outlawing turtle nest raiding and targeted turtle fishing.
Building partnerships for protection of Madagascar’s sharks
The rapid decline of sharks has devastating implications, including the loss of livelihoods and protein for those people who rely on them; the disturbance of the balance of ecosystems; and the loss of the irreplaceable genetic value of one of the most stable and successful taxonomic groups on earth.
Despite this, there is currently no legislation in place to limit fishing effort for sharks in Madagascar, or to control export of landings. There is an urgent need to actively and aggressively manage Madagascar’s shark fishery. Yet putting in place conservation measures and enforcing regulations remains a formidable challenge. Much of Madagascar’s shark fishery takes place in remote fishing grounds scattered over thousands of kilometres of coastline and EEZ; the fishers are highly mobile and move great distances to seek productive fishing grounds; the government lacks the means to monitor these fisheries and enforce regulations; and the markets are informal and secretive.
Understanding the nature and scale of markets for sharks in Madagascar is fundamental to the development of effective management legislation. Blue Ventures is conducting research to assess existing markets for and shark fisheries in Madagascar to better understand the nature of relationships and linkages among buyers, suppliers, exporters and other market actors. Working with Madagascar’s ministry of fisheries, we’re developing recommendations to put in place the much-needed legislation to prevent the collapse of the country’s shark populations.
Shark Monitoring in Madagascar: the first step towards sustaining shark numbers
The West-Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with populations declining as a result of coastal development, loss of critical resting and feeding grounds, temperature stress and changes in weather patterns, and injury and mortality caused by boat traffic. One of two sub-species of the West-Indian manatee, the largest population of the Antillean manatee (T. m. manatus) is found in the coastal waters of northern Belize.
Data collected by Blue Ventures volunteers in 2010 and 2011 suggest that Bacalar Chico is an important biological corridor for the species, and possibly even a breeding ground. It is along corridors, between mating, feeding, resting, drinking and nursery areas that manatees are most vulnerable to boat strike, the primary cause for manatee death or injury in Belize.
In 2013, Blue Ventures initiated a photo-identification and manatee monitoring programme to determine population status in Bacalar Chico, as well as establish movement patterns within, to and from Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. Blue Ventures also supports the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development with monitoring and data analysis in Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.