Our coastal communities are the guardians of Madagascar's oceans | WWF

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Our coastal communities are the guardians of Madagascar's oceans

In Madagascar, one million people live from fishing, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP) in 2019. Approximately 100,000 women and men work directly in this sector, which will account for 6.6% of exports in 2018 according to a World Bank article. The fisheries sector is important and it is time to develop it sustainably.

Sustainable development of fisheries cannot be achieved without considering the state of health of our main reservoir for fisheries: the oceans.  Indeed, the population of marine species has decreased by 36% between 1970 and 2012 according to the APRM. And as the oceans warm and even if the average global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, 70-90% of tropical coral reefs will be lost by 2100. This will have devastating consequences for marine life, as coral reefs provide habitat for one in four species. The conservation and sustainable management of oceans and coasts is therefore a national and global issue. 

Coastal communities in Madagascar are taking their responsibilities through locally managed marine areas (LMMAs).  In 2017, there were more than 200 LMMAs in Madagascar, members of the MIHARI network. To manage a LMMA, coastal communities use the "dina", a traditional and community regulation.  The state transfers to them the management of a marine or coastal area to conserve and manage it sustainably. 

Thus, for resource management to be sustainable and effective, it is necessary to support community resilience and preserve or even restore habitats. Communities create sustainable income-generating activities outside of fishing (breeding, beekeeping, ecotourism...). Marine conservation organizations accompany communities towards the private sector to develop sustainable value chains. This allows them to access markets to sell and add value to their fishery products. Coastal communities also work with corporate civil organizations to make their voices heard in the advocacy work they do together. This is to address the problems of illegal fishing, for the enforcement of the various laws that support the efforts of small-scale fishers.  In terms of habitat conservation, communities conduct regular participatory ecological patrols and monitoring of reefs and mangroves to measure and monitor the health status of species. In terms of habitat restoration, this year more than 1 million mangrove propagules were planted in western Madagascar. 

The result of community management is very concrete in Madagascar. For example, the establishment of temporary fishing reserves ensures the abundance of fish. Community initiatives should also be scaled up in a larger scale in order to feel the impacts at the regional and national levels. Community-based management also ensures high incomes, especially when it comes to species of high economic value such as sea cucumbers.  In the north-west of Madagascar, in Nosy Hara, communities use non-destructive fishing gear, denounce offences and accept the management system in partnership with Madagascar National Parks.   With the support of WWF, they contribute to the preservation of the biodiversity of this place, which is part of the seven most resilient coral reefs in the world.

The socio-economic well-being of coastal communities is intimately linked to the health of the oceans. This November 21, in recognition of the efforts of fishers, we celebrate the World Day of Artisanal Fishers and Sea Workers. Marine resources are essential to our country and it is time to give Madagascar's coastal communities the place they deserve as guardians of our oceans.