We are a global leader in catalysing and financing marine conservation from the grassroots. We demonstrate the economic benefits of marine conservation to fishers and seafood buyers through temporary fishery closures.
The conservation finance conundrum
Marine conservation often fails when short-term costs are perceived to outweigh future uncertain and intangible benefits. We overcome this obstacle by anchoring our efforts in market-based approaches that provide reliable long-term financing for marine conservation.
Temporary fishery closures
Periodic, short-term fisheries closures targeted at key species during important points in their life cycle such as periods of rapid growth can boost productivity, resulting in bigger catches and greater income for fishers.
Temporary closures are a powerful management tool that quickly demonstrate the economic benefits of sustainable fisheries management both to coastal communities and seafood purchasers, building buy-in for broader and more ambitious marine conservation initiatives.
In remote southwest Madagascar, octopus fishing on the region’s extensive coral reefs provides a vital income for the vast majority of coastal communities, accounting for around 50% of all seafood exports in the region (Source: "Direction Régional de la Pêche et des Ressources Halieutiques").
Over the past decade, Blue Ventures has been working to promote sustainable fisheries management through village-level management associations. Temporary community-led octopus fishery closures restrict the use of approximately one fifth of a village’s available fishing grounds for 2-3 months, increasing catches and enhancing fisher incomes upon opening.
Blue Ventures is rapidly scaling up this successful approach by replicating it across neighbouring villages in order to establish networks of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) that sustain fisheries while safeguarding threatened marine biodiversity.
Starting with a single village in 2004, these temporary octopus fishery closures have now spread along thousands of kilometres of coastline to more than 50 communities, and over 150 closures have been held in Madagascar to date.
Our innovative model has also guided national fisheries policy, leading to two new national laws in Madagascar introducing minimum octopus catch sizes and annual closure periods to protect spawning stock. This approach has since been adopted by the neighbouring Mauritian island of Rodrigues, which enacted new legislation to implement annual octopus fishery closures from 2012.
Octopus fishing is particularly important for Vezo women as they are able to glean on reef flats by foot and using simple spears. We are therefore focusing on empowering female fishers, the primary resource users, to be more involved in closure organisation and decision-making processes.
Women's groups are being established and fully incorporated into the existing village-level management associations in order to ensure that gender-specific challenges are taken into account, for example, arranging opening days to coincide with the lowest spring tide so that women can fully participate and benefit.
These women's groups also provide an ideal forum for discussing community health and reproductive rights issues as part of Blue Ventures' integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach.
From reef octopus to mangrove crabs
This temporary closure model can be adapted to other fisheries in different marine environments. The vast mangrove forests of western Madagascar - among the largest in Africa - support productive crab fisheries, which in turn provide food security and income to coastal communities.
Since 2006, we have supported these communities to hold temporary closures of their mangrove fishing grounds for 3-6 months, with the aim of increasing mud crab production.
Echoing the rapid spread of the octopus fishery closures with community exchange trips, educational events and radio announcements, we have supported a doubling of the number of community-managed mud crab fishery closures over the last three years.
As understanding of the effectiveness of these closures has spread, more communities are now requesting our help in managing their mangrove fishing grounds.
Growing consumer awareness of the importance of buying responsibly harvested seafood provides an opportunity for communities to earn a price premium in return for their sustainable fisheries management efforts.
The southwest Madagascar octopus fishery has undergone a pre-assessment for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification and is currently enacting a fisheries improvement plan to reach the standards that will be required to apply for full eco-certification.We are also targeting MSC standards in the management of western Madagascar’s mangrove crab fisheries, with the goal of certifying them as sustainable in line with the highest international standards.