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The conservation finance conundrum

Marine conservation efforts often fail when short-term costs are perceived to outweigh future benefits, which may be uncertain. We overcome this challenge by anchoring our efforts in market-based approaches that demonstrate the economic benefits of marine conservation to fishers and seafood buyers, showing that sustainable fisheries management can reap dividends in the short-and long-term.

A critical coastal resource

Traditional small-scale fisheries are critical to the livelihoods and food security of some the planet's poorest coastal communities.

More than 1 billion people throughout the world rely on fish as a source of protein, and small-scale fisheries support the livelihoods of at least 500 million people worldwide. However, marine ecosystems and the fisheries they support are facing unprecedented pressures from overfishing and climate change.

Experience from around the world has shown that marine conservation works best when local communities are engaged in fisheries management. 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 rights-based fisheries management plans designed to sustain local fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity.

Temporary fishery reserves

Octopus underwater Effective fishery management measures don’t always have to be large-scale or long-term. Periodic, short-term fishery closures targeted at key species during periods of rapid growth in their life cycles can boost productivity, resulting in bigger catches and greater income for fishers.

Octopus fisheries are a vitally important source of income for coastal communities throughout much of the western Indian Ocean, with the majority of catches sold and exported to overseas markets, predominantly in Europe.

In response to growing signs of overexploitation of stocks throughout this region, the past decade has seen growing efforts to improve the sustainability of octopus fisheries. First piloted in southern Madagascar in 2004, the short-term octopus fishery reserve model involves regular closures of around a quarter of a community’s octopus gleaning grounds for 2-4 months. This approach has been shown to increase octopus landings and fisher incomes when temporary closures are opened.

Temporary reserves for octopus have since been replicated more than 150 times along the country’s southern, western and northern coastlines. The approach benefits from broad support from the entire seafood supply chain, with fishers and buyers at pilot sites in Madagascar now contributing to the costs of establishing and managing fishery closures.

The success of this model has also influenced national fisheries policy, leading to new national laws in Madagascar and the Mauritian island of Rodrigues introducing minimum octopus catch sizes and annual closure periods to protect spawning stock.


From reefs to mangroves

CrabsAdoption of this locally-led approach to fisheries management continues to grow each year in Madagascar and the broader western Indian Ocean region. The model has been adapted to other small-scale invertebrate fisheries, including mangrove crab in western Madagascar and spiny lobster on the southeast coast.

Following the success of fisheries management experiences from Madagascar and Mauritius over the past decade, there is now growing interest to replicate this model further among communities, NGOs and fisheries partners throughout the region including Tanzania, Seychelles, Kenya, Mozambique, and Mayotte.

Catalysing conservation

Temporary fishery closures are a powerful management tool that can quickly demonstrate the economic benefits of sustainable fisheries management both to coastal communities and seafood buyers, building support for broader and more ambitious marine conservation efforts.

In a number of cases, these fishery closures have provided the catalyst for the creation of permanent marine reserves. In southwest Madagascar these have been established by communities at many sites in parallel with temporary fisheries closures to form ambitious locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), illustrating the role that effective fisheries management is playing in inspiring local leadership for marine conservation.

Empowering women

Woman with octopusOctopus fishing is particularly important for women in southwest Madagascar, who are able to glean on reef flats by foot using simple spears, yet they rarely have the opportunity to participate in fisheries management meetings and formal decision-making processes.

We are working with local women’s associations to address skills and training needs that will allow them to become more active in fisheries management. Representatives from these forums are being incorporated into village-level fisheries management associations to ensure that gender-specific challenges are taken into account. For example, arranging opening days to coincide with the lowest spring tides so that women can fully participate and benefit from harvests, and conducting management meetings at times convenient for women to attend.

These women’s groups also provide an ideal setting for discussing community health and reproductive rights issues as part of our integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach.

Towards eco-certification

Growing consumer awareness of the importance of buying responsibly harvested seafood provides an opportunity for communities to earn a price premium 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 implementing a fisheries improvement plan to reach the standards that required to apply for full certification as a sustainable fishery.



Fisheries thumb Lessons learnt
Economic value of small-scale fisheries
Rebuilding fisheries factsheet Lessons learnt from experimental
temporary octopus fishery closures
in southwest Madagascar:
benefits of concurrent closures 
The total economic value of small-scale fisheries with a characterisation of post-landing trends: an application in Madagascar with global relevance

Unreported fishing Reconstruction
 The reproductive cycle of Octopus cyanea in southwest Madagascar and implications for fisheries management
Unreported fishing, hungry people and political turmoil: the recipe for a food security crisis in Madagascar?  Reconstruction of total marine fisheries catches for Madagascar (1950-2008) 

 Managing Madagascar's octopus fisheries: proceedings of the workshop on