How We Work in Marine Conservation
Community-Based Management of Marine ResourcesCommunities on the coast are often very hard to get to and it is difficult to monitor how they use key marine resources such as fish, octopus, lobsters or sea cucumbers. Therefore, WWF’s approach is to improve competence among fishermen and empower them to manage their resources sustainably. Once the villagers decide to take over responsibility, a local convention, a so called “dina”, is established. In a dina, villagers usually define management rules related to fishing closures, protected species and prohibited fishing gears within their fishing area as well as fines for anyone breaking the rules. After setting up the dina, WWF helps the local communities in the legalization process that is getting it approved by the different technical services (Environment and Fisheries) and, above all, the tribunal. Once the dina has been approved, it becomes a law. Villagers then have the right to defend their territories and by this to chase and to fine illegal fishermen. WWF staff members then reinforce villagers’ capacity to become managers of their own resources.
Creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)This is another process complementary of the first. It is supported by local communities who are already convinced that they need to sustainably manage their environment and resources. With our support, they agree on a protection zone with different governance types (core areas, community managed fishing grounds, tourism zones etc.) within the new marine protected area (MPA). Again, the local dina will be included in the MPA management plan. Depending on the key resources and habitats protected, fishermen can already see the difference after three months (for octopus) to two years (coral reefs) of protection.
Finding Alternative IncomesWWF supports the identification and implementation of alternative income generating activities in coastal zones:
- Improve fish processing techniques: with improved fish processing techniques, fishermen will produce better quality products and could earn more money. Demonstration sessions were realized in the southern villages on fish drying, smoking and salting techniques
- Develop community ecotourism: nowadays there are mostly foreign tour operators investing and getting the benefits from the beautiful sites in Madagascar. WWF is looking into the possibility to implement community tourism that will directly benefit local people. As once local people see that they can financially benefit from intact habitats and biodiversity, they are more likely to conserve it.
- Sea cucumber farming: sea cucumber stocks are heavily over exploited to supply Asian markets. Farming sea cucumbers is very easy and does not need special technical skills. The juveniles have to be placed within enclosures on the suitable substrate (muddy-sandy rich in nutrients such as sea grass beds) where they can feed and grow. Farming areas just need to be watched from thieves. WWF has conducted a feasibility study and will help the villages presenting the suitable conditions to establish sea cucumber farms.
- Duck farming: this initiative came from women who are interested in breeding ducks. WWF is looking for partners for implementing the community farms.
Vola Ramahery, Southwest Marine Coordinator
Usually when WWF staff members start to work in an area, several meetings are organized to discuss about the problems related to marine resources and habitats as well as the causes to these problems. Simple examples that everyone can understand are used to explain about the principle of sustainable use of natural resources. We ask them for instance if they would slaughter a pregnant Zebu. Of course they wouldn’t. We then make the link to key resources (fish, lobsters, octopus etc.) and special species (marine turtles, dolphins, whales etc.) and why we can’t disturb them during their reproduction time. Usually there are two groups in a village. The first group says: “it’s all in God’s hands and we can’t do anything to change things”. The second group has already made some observations and is convinced that they are responsible for dwindling resources stocks..
With CCEE, our partner in environmental education, we have created awareness raising groups in the villages and the members raise awareness among their fellow villagers. It is crucial, that the villagers themselves are convinced that unsustainable practices cause resources scarcity and that they want to take responsibilities to change the situation. They have to do it for themselves and not for us. Therefore, it is highly important not to impose a decision and to make sure that the approach used is a participatory approach that involves the local communities in every step. We have to be honest with them and explain to them why we chose their village. If everything works perfect, they become ambassadors for our cause and even try to convince other villages to do the same. We have to be there for technical advice and guidance but the communities take all decisions and are the main actors for implementing management activities. It is equally important to have a clear exit-strategy and aim for villagers’ independence at the end of the project.
Village TheaterA village theater is an efficient method to spread a message to the local communities. WWF works with CCEE (Centre culturel et d’éducation environmentale) to create village theater groups, choose actors and write plays according to WWF’s messages and rehearse the play with the actors. CCEE also accompanies them on their tour through target villages. It’s a fun way to spread the message and raise awareness - and it works!
A regional approach - WIOMER
WWF works at multi-scales, from local to regional in order to ensure maximum success for communities, biodiversity and resources. Three complementary projects are being conducted at the WIOMER scale with a main goal to have healthy coastal and marine ecosystems for the well-being of all communities. Under the umbrella of the Indian Ocean Commission and with the technical support from regional partners, WWF has completed a marine priority setting exercise to identify important area for marine biodiversity and resources. This prioritization is the base of an ecoregional planning process which leads to the development of a regional strategy for conserving marine ecosystems and fisheries. In addition, WWF is also working on the social and governance aspects of Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks through concrete support to existing MPA in WIOMER countries and those which have been newly created and the establishment of a network of MPA managers. This platform offers the opportunity for WIOMER Marine Protected Area managers to share their knowledge and lessons learnt and thus improve the MPA effectiveness.
Nowhere else can one watch blue and humpback whales off a windswept promontory surrounded by lemurs bounding among the thorny branches of Madagascar’s spiny forest, or swim over Seychellian coral reefs encrusting massive granite boulders that were once the core of continents. Pods of sperm whales lolling in view of the grand volcanoes of the Comoros, boiling seas of tuna, seabirds, and whale sharks, and flights of petrels returning to roost among the lofty pinnacles of the Mascarenes―snapshots of a marine paradise largely gone unnoticed by the rest of the world.