Coral Transplantation Project Update

Our coral reef restoration programme in the Bay of Ranobe, SW Madagascar aims to enhance coral cover and diversity, assisting the natural recovery process of degraded reefs, through a combination of coral gardening, direct coral transplantation, and artificial reefs.

Earlier in the year we reported on the success of our trial coral transplantation project at the Rose Garden marine reserve. In August 2015, on a patch of reef devoid of live coral cover, we installed a network of artificial reef structures and populated them with corals of opportunity (loose fragments salvaged from the seabed that would otherwise die).  Despite extremely promising results after the first 6 months of the project (high coral survival, growth, self-attachment and natural coral recruitment), mass coral bleaching earlier this year sadly resulted in the loss of approximately 50% of these transplanted corals. However, transplantation of new fragments to these structures is continuing in order to get the restoration process back on track.

In February 2016 we started developing the coral transplantation project further and the team looked for another suitable site to expand the scope of our restoration efforts. We had three main objectives for this next stage of the project. Firstly, similar to the first site, transplantation would be carried out to increase coral cover and diversity, and to restore that section of the reef. Secondly, we wanted to see if corals react differently to transplantation depending on the species.  Finally, we wanted to find out if the high levels of sedimentation at Rose Garden (due to its relatively low profile) affect transplanted corals salvaged from other areas of the bay that have relatively lower levels of sedimentation.

The team selected a sloped site on the eastern side of Rose Garden, measuring approximately 7 m wide x 3.5 m deep from the top of the main section of the reef down to the sandy bottom surrounding the reef.  The same artificial reef structures (rebar frames) that were used at the first transplantation site were installed, upon which new corals of opportunity could be attached.  We also repurposed an old metal solar oven. The solar oven was stripped of paint and given ‘legs’ and a ‘head’ turning it into a turtle shaped structure. The idea being to act as a point of interest for tourists visiting the reef to promote awareness of this form of conservation.  In March, a total of 35 framed structures and the turtle were installed over the course of four dives. Two loads of limestone were also sunk at the site to stabilize the structures and to provide nooks and crannies for fish and invertebrates to hide in and swim through.

In order to monitor the survival and growth of the fragments it was necessary to implement a monitoring system that could guarantee repeatability and be easy enough for divers of all levels to operate, so that future volunteers and interns can continue the monitoring process. The team decided that a photographic method of recording growth was the best solution. They are currently working on refining this method and a camera rig to find the ideal set up.

We then waited until temperatures cooled down in June and July to populate the structures with corals of opportunity. To date, 25 fragments (Acropora, Seriatopora, Pocillipora and Porites spp.) have been transplanted from Coral Garden, a dive site south west of Rose Garden and close to the lagoon pass. A further 26 (Acropora and Pociliopora spp.) fragments have been transplanted from Ambatafia, a site also south west of Rose Garden but closer to the pass. Despite conducting coral transplantation in the cool season, unfortunately, at present, all fragments show signs of stress or bleaching, although Porities spp. are faring better. This stress may have been caused by the actual transplantation process and we are hopeful that the fragments will recover in time.

The project is still very much in the early stages and the team is currently assessing their transportation methods in an effort to reduce stress on the corals. Transplantation, cleaning and monitoring dives are undertaken weekly and we hope to be able to bring you some good news about the corals’ recovery from bleaching and their growth in our next update. Stay tuned!

Report by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino

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Delivery of Fishing Permits: an Integral Step Towards Sustainable Management

On Friday the 9th of September the Malagasy Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources launched a licensing management system for the subsistence fishery of the southwest Region. ReefDoctor was honoured to be chosen as implementing partners for the Bay of Ranobe, and together, ReefDoctor and the Ministry of Fisheries registered fishermen and their boats from the village of Ifaty. Surrounding villages from the Bay of Ranobe will receive their licenses in the coming weeks. This licensing system will provide the first reliable baseline data for the number of fishermen reliant on the marine resources of the region, which is vital to guide future management of the fishery, and provide a platform from which marginalised communities can address the health and productivity of the sea.

The event was attended by the National and Regional ministries of Marine Resources and Fisheries, the Chef de Region RABE Jules, the mayor of the commune JULE Badeake, and representatives from each of the 13 communities in the Belalanda commune. The president and members of the local fishermen association FI.MI.HA.RA and turtle protection association FI.MPA.MI.FA provided support and materials to assist ReefDoctor in hosting this event.

Also in attendance were L’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Fonds Régional de Développement Agricole (FRDA), mangrove conservation NGO Honko, and L’Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines (IH.SM, University of Toliara).  Mangily Dive School, Atimo Dive Centre and Hotel de la Plage, key actors in the management of the local marine reserves, also supported the event.  With the Ifaty women’s group entertaining the crowds with song and dance, the licensing system was launched with much fanfare, and it was a pleasure for ReefDoctor to contribute to the success of the day.  These permits will form an integral part in the growing movement towards more sustainable fisheries in the region.

The Regional Fisheries Director for Atsimo Andrefana, RAHERINASOLO Emilson, with representatives from the National Ministry for Fisheries also took the opportunity to announce a transfer of management of the two fishery landing buildings within the Bay of Ranobe.  The landings in Ifaty and Andrevo, formerly under the management of the Ministry of Fisheries will now be managed by ReefDoctor and integrated into the Darwin Initiative funded community aquaculture project.  These landings will provide aquaculture farmers an opportunity to process, store and sell their products in a clean and weatherproof environment, free of contaminants which may reduce the price of seaweed and sea cucumbers.  These buildings will become focal points for aquaculture activities within each community, provide a place for training, meetings, and lighting for nightly sea cucumber activities. ReefDoctor is thankful to the Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries for their continued support of the growing aquaculture industry in the Bay of Ranobe.

Report by Head of Aquaculture Cale Golding, photos by RD volunteer Sébastien Boudry

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Ifaty’s First Public Library: Project Update

As you may remember, we held a MPA relay race fundraiser for Ifaty’s first public library back in April. Since then we have been hard at work on the project, surveying the property to build on, developing sketches and blueprints for the structure, and sourcing books and additional donors to match our funding.

You may wonder, as I did, why we need more funding for the project. After all, the £1000+ raised is a considerable amount of money, and you would expect it to go very far in one of the poorest countries in the world. And in that sense, it does. According to our estimations, we will be able to build the entire structure of the library using these funds – and there are few places you can make this big of an impact with this sum. The money will provide for cement, used to make the foundation and the building’s walls; sheets of tin, for the roof; building tools such as nails, hammers, and re-bar; and the cost of labour itself. This means that we are already at full budget with just the structure itself; the money does not cover bookshelves, chairs, tables, books, or anything else that we will need to fill the library itself. However, limited funding can also give rise to innovative solutions.

Enter one of ReefDoctor’s recent interns: Mislav Žugaj, who has taken on a strong role in this project. With his background in graphic design, Mislav has provided invaluable help in regards to structural design and location mapping. His university friends and connections have also stepped up to support us, with architect Ana Lisonek creating the blueprints you see below.  Ana has experience in creating dynamic solutions that are tailored to fit local situations, and had some ingenious ideas for reducing building costs. One example of using our location and the materials available to our advantage comes in the form of the ocean-facing doors. These doors will be made of termite and pest-resistant wood, which is much cheaper than concrete and will thus reduce structural expenses, saving money to be appropriated for other aspects of the library.  Furthermore, these doors take care of the lighting problem; when opened, they will allow the ever-present Madagascan sunlight to illuminate the inside of the building for the entire day, ideally eliminating the need for electrical light. Utilizing the local landscape and climate to create solutions in response to limited funding and materials is just one example of what we can achieve when we put our minds to it!

Both adults and children will utilize the library, and we plan on incorporating it into our education programme so that kids will see the library as both a learning space and a fun place. This is where ReefDoctor’s old museum comes into play; formerly a marine museum, the structure fell into disrepair after cyclone damage and due to lack of funds hasn’t been utilized since.

We plan to restore the museum and create a reading space that will also look out onto the ocean, with activity areas where kids can draw, read, write, and make art. After all, the importance of making learning fun and interactive for the children cannot be understated; here in Madagascar, most ‘learning’ in the public primary school (which provides education for 800+ children in only three classrooms) is simply copying what is written on the blackboard.  This library will occupy a vital niche in Ifaty, providing the village with more opportunities for all community members to enhance their literacy and ultimately, their contribution to society.

The 8th of September 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day, for which the slogan is: “Reading the Past, Writing the Future” (UNESCO 2016). This slogan is particularly relevant to Madagascar, as it calls upon the government to devote resources to education and literacy improvement as a way to write a more sustainable future. It also envisions a productive and sustainable society that can be created by the next generation of educated and literate Malagasy citizens. As author Daniel Akparobore succinctly states, “The ability of the individual to contribute to the development of country lies in his ability to read and write. There cannot be meaningful development in modern society where [the] majority of the populace is illiterate.” Sustainable development and literacy go hand in hand, and ReefDoctor is excited to debut a new forum in which innovative ideas concerning the future of the Bay of Ranobe can flourish as access to information is improved.

Article by RD Community Project Coordinator Katie Riley

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August Aquaculture Update

August was a promising month for sea cucumber farmers in our Darwin Initiative-funded Alternative Livelihoods programme.  Farmers in the village of Ambolomailaky boasted a record harvest for 2016, with over 1000 sea cucumbers harvested in a single night, generating over 5 million ariary ($1,571 USD) or the equivalent of $2.5 USD per day in August for each of the 20 families involved.  For the smaller sea cucumber farm in the neighbouring village of Andrevo, 233 sea cucumbers were sold, generating an average of $1.9 USD per day in August for the five participating families.  The income generated through this sustainable livelihood is enough to lift these families above the poverty line, and transform their lives.

At the beginning of August we told you about the new mirador that was constructed in Andrevo with thanks to partial funding from FRDA. We are delighted to tell you that the mirador is now in full use. It provides shelter for the night guardians who protect the pens from theft and allows them to survey the area more efficiently. We would like to thank FRDA for their generous contribution to the improvement of the sea cucumber farms in Andrevo. We would also like to thank Indian Ocean Trepang who provided technical advice on the construction of the mirador.

In seaweed news, the farmers of Amboaboke sold 309 kg of dried seaweed, while Ambolomailaky farmers sold a little more at 419 kg. Ifaty farmers harvested 1,649 kg and the farmers of Betsibaroke sold 1,891 kg.  Altogether, seaweed sales generated a total income of 2,134,000 MGA.  Due to their excellent results over the last few months, and the large volume of seaweed being produced, we are very happy to report that seaweed farmers in the Bay of Ranobe have received a 20% price increase for their product!  This news reflects the hard work and dedication of families involved in seaweed farming, and will make life a little bit easier for the hundreds of people who now consider seaweed farming their primary occupation.

The most exciting news for the month of August, however, is that another village has been added to the Alternative Livelihoods programme. The village of Madirano in the north of the Bay of Ranobe received their first shipment of seaweed to begin farming in the village in early August. There are currently 17 households involved in the programme, and it is expected that others will soon follow.  It takes a lot of seaweed propagules to start farming in new village, and our seaweed partners Copefrito generously provided over 100 kg (wet weight) of seaweed to help get the farmers in Madirano.  The rest of the seaweed was grown at the ReefDoctor nursery by the aquaculture team, interns and volunteers.

Our aquaculture team has been growing at a rapid rate, with so much work to do across the bay. Last year the team had help from the first ever aquaculture intern, Oriana Wouters. Oriana proved to be an invaluable member of the team and stayed with us when her internship ended. She was recently promoted as Aquaculture Coordinator, and oversees all aquaculture activities as well as the team of volunteers and interns.  Oriana set the bar very high and the two interns that have followed her have maintained her high standards. Among many other duties, the interns help to look after the ReefDoctor nursery where the seaweed is grown to provide to the seaweed farmers. Dive and science interns and volunteers also help the team out and the seaweed nursery is maintained every day. This involves cleaning the lines, weighing the seaweed, harvesting and reseeding lines. Interns and volunteers learn about farming, growth and how to identify diseased seaweed to ensure the nursery farm is in the best health.  Their contribution is essential to the success and smooth running of the programme and we would like to thank every intern and volunteer who has worked in the seaweed nursery for their help. And all of those who will help in the future!

Report by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino and Head of Aquaculture Cale Golding

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World Honeybee Day

Honeybees have been a prominent topic in conservation news in recent years and with good cause. Bee populations globally are under threat and without them to pollinate flowers and crops we may not be able to eat the food we love in the future. For instance, crops like blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on pollination by bees. If honeybees were to disappear completely we could lose the equivalent of one in every three bites of food ( There is no single cause for the disappearance of honeybees but general scientific opinion is that there are a number of causes for the decline including insecticides and a loss of countryside and green spaces to urban development (www.fastcoexist/honeybees).

For this reason today, the 20th August, is World Honeybee Day, established to raise awareness of the importance of bees. Here in Madagascar bees are also important to sustainable development and even play their part in recycling. Wild honey hunters have, for centuries throughout Madagascar, hunted wild beehives and collected wild honey. There are many ways that this is done. Possibly the most macabre method is that used by tribes in the high plateau. Traditionally these people put the coffins of their dead in trees. Over time bees use the coffins as hives and produce honey in them. The people of the high plateau cannot eat the honey as it is fady (taboo) to do so. Instead they collect the honey and trade it with other groups for essentials (

Usually honey is collected by wild honey hunters by finding a wild hive in a hole in a tree, smoking out the bees and placing the queen in a bamboo cage. The hunter can then take the honeycomb and honey. Unfortunately, the bees are not always left alive and therefore the practice is not sustainable. But there are currently a number of NGOs in Madagascar who have looked to the traditional place of honey in Malagasy life and gotten involved in beekeeping projects that are sustainable and are helping to alleviate poverty for beekeeping families. Our sister NGO Honko Mangrove Conservation and Education is one of the NGOs that is teaching and practicing apiculture or beekeeping. In the village of Ambondrolava, where Honko is based, there are currently two households involved in apiculture. Each hive produces approximately 10 litres of honey a year. Honey is sold for 10,000 Ariary per litre and therefore the potential income to the household is 100,000 Ariary per year (approximately £23). This is not a vast amount of money by anyone’s standards but it is a helpful supplement to the income of these households.


Honko also have their own hive on site. They are currently populating the hive and it should be producing honey within a year. Hives are populated by using honeycomb created elsewhere and placing it in the new hive. The hive currently in use at Honko is of quite a complicated design and Honko has plans to begin using Kenyan beehives that are of a much simpler design and easier to extract honey from. The honey is extracted using a machine called an extractor in which the combs are spun, allowing the honey to be collected in a drum.

Honey and beekeeping also helps to deal with the thousands of plastic bottles used in Madagascar every day. Used bottles are refilled with honey and sold in markets and villages throughout the country. Of course, it’s not ideal to reuse plastic bottles containing PEP but it is an awful lot better than the alternative, which is burning all the plastic bottles that have only been used once or throwing them on the ground or in the sea. There is no refuse collection and no recycling points in most of Madagascar and so reusing something is the best way to prevent it becoming waste and very often pollution. Furthermore most people who sell honey probably cannot afford to buy the bottles they need. You often see children asking tourists for their empty bottles and most people touring the country or visiting national parks keep their empty bottles until they come across a group of children who want to recycle them. Please remember to do so if you visit or save them during your trip and drop them off at an NGO before you leave.

Closer to home there are a number of things you can do to help honeybee populations including planting bee-friendly wildflower seeds and allowing dandelions and clover to grow in your garden. Your garden, you and your family will also benefit if you stop using commercial pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are loaded with harmful chemicals that are very damaging to bees. Support local honeybee keepers by buying your honey locally. This not only supports your local economy but supports local beekeepers who tend to be more concerned with the health of their bees than large companies are. And please remember to recycle the container your honey comes in.


Article by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino

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