We recognise that managing fisheries and marine resources works best when it is in the hands of local communities. This is particularly the case in low-income countries, where national capacity for enforcement of marine and fisheries legislation may be weak. We empower coastal communities to manage their own resources, developing locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) designed to sustain local fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity.
In all of the areas where we work, fishers have reported a severe decline in catches over the last few decades. We train and support communities to monitor their marine resources and to implement locally appropriate management systems that enable them to halt and reverse this decline. Through the use of "dina" - customary laws that are formally recognised by the government - our partner communities in Madagascar are creating and enforcing rules that eliminate destructive fishing practices, protect endangered species and designate certain marine areas for protection.
We currently work across three zones along Madagascar's west coast which together include more than 70 communities, 25,000 people and a total marine area of 2,284 square kilometres - equivalent to 315,000 football pitches.
This approach is quickly gaining momentum among communities, government authorities and conservation agencies throughout Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean region. Despite their notable successes, many of these pioneering grassroots conservation initiatives are being developed in isolation. We network communities in order to facilitate peer-to-peer learning between Madagascar's 36 LMMAs and promote broader uptake of this effective model.
Centred in the village of Andavadoaka where Blue Ventures first established field operations in Madagascar in 2003, the Velondriake LMMA ("Velondriake" means "to live with the sea" in Malagasy) grew organically out of a collaboration between coastal communities, Blue Ventures and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Sustainable management efforts began in 2004, with a pilot temporary closure of local octopus fishing grounds, which improved catches and catalysed community interest in broader management initiatives.
The success of these temporary fishery closures inspired the formation of the Velondriake Association, uniting Andavadoaka and 24 surrounding villages to create a management and zoning plan, and outlawing destructive fishing practices throughout 750 square kilometres of ocean. The Velondriake LMMA includes six permanent marine reserves safeguarding coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests, as well as numerous temporary fishery closures and sites for sustainable community-based aquaculture.
ManjaboakaLocated just south of Velondriake and based around the village of Ambatomilo, Manjaboaka is an LMMA that is following in the footsteps of its northern neighbour. Since 2010, villages in the area have been establishing temporary fishery closures and working to reduce destructive fishing practices.
TeariakeTo the north of Velondriake lie several small villages and the large town of Morombe. Fishers from these areas have historically migrated into Velondriake, often using destructive fishing gears and sometimes poaching in the reserves. We have been working with them since 2010 to address these issues, supporting the development of a new LMMA centred in Morombe.
The local management association adopted the name "Teariake", which means "to love the sea" in Malagasy, and is establishing temporary fishery closures and conducting educational outreach to raise awareness of the threats of destructive fishing. Establishing an LMMA in an urban setting such as Morombe as opposed to a remote rural area such as Velondriake presents its own unique challenges, particularly as a result of the erosion of traditional power structures. We are working with the Teariake Association to develop new communications and strategies to overcome these challenges.
Belo sur MerWe are working with the Madagascar National Park service in Belo sur Mer to establish a marine extension to the existing terrestrial Kirindy Mitea national park. This partnership is engaging local communities in the marine protected area establishment process, focusing support on community-based management initiatives.
With extensive mangrove forests, much of the traditional fishing is focused on crab and shrimp. The area's first community management action started in 2011 with the closure of three mangrove reserves around the villages of Belo sur Mer and Antanimanimbo. This process was spearheaded by the local management association caledd "Be Andriaky", which means "to grow up with the sea" in Malagasy, and following the success of these initial closures, reserves have been replicated and established in villages further north of Belo sur Mer towards Morondava.
Barren IslesLocated off Madagascar's west coast near Maintirano, the remote Barren Isles archipelago harbours vast fringing reefs and seagrass beds that have been identified as a national conservation priority and, until recently, have been relatively unexploited. However, over the last few decades, traditional migrant fishers originating from southwest Madagascar have begun targeting the region's abundant populations of sharks, sea cucumbers and pelagic fish. This migration has led to conflicts with local fishers, who have long considered the islands to be sacred places not meant for habitation.
In addition to this growing annual migration of traditional fishers, the area is also now frequented by teams of semi-industrial sea cucumber fishers using scuba equipment to illegally harvest dwindling stocks of these species. Under the weight of these increasing pressures, the once pristine marine environments of the Barren Isles are beginning to show signs of decline. We have been working with the regional government and local fishing communities since 2010 to develop a management and zoning plan, with the aim of establishing a nationally recognised marine protected area by 2015 which, at 4,300 square kilometres, would be the largest LMMA in the Western Indian Ocean.
The largest fishing village in Belize is found on the inside of the tip of the Rocky Point promontory, adjacent to the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The protected area, established in 1998 to protect the endangered Antillean manatee, harbours a rich diversity of marine and coastal ecosystems that are critical to Sarteneja's artisanal fishing economy. Corozol Bay is managed by the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) and the Belize Forest Department. Alongside partner NGO Wildtracks, Blue Ventures provides scientific support to assist in management of the protected area with particular technical assistance in the planning, monitoring and analysis of fisheries, shore birds, manatees and water quality.
Blue Ventures is working with higher education institutions in Belize as part of our commitment to building national capacity in marine and coastal research and conservation.
Since 2011 Blue Ventures has worked closely with applied science college Centro Escolar México Junior College (CEMJC), supporting students with project planning, field survey skills, data management and analysis, and scientific reporting. Students are hosted annually at Blue Ventures' marine research site at Bacalar Chico marine reserve. For many students, this is their first experience of snorkelling and visiting the marine ecosystems they have studied at CEMJC. From 2013 Blue Ventures is also developing internship and work experience opportunities for young graduates.