ReefDoctor’s marine management programme focuses on assessing the use of marine resources by the local community, managing a network of marine reserves and rotational fishery reserves, encouraging non-destructive fishing techniques and encouraging alternative marine-based livelihoods in order to ensure the sustainability of marine resource extraction.
Since 2005, ReefDoctor has been monitoring fishing effort, popular fishing areas, and commonly caught species within the Bay of Ranobe. Fisheries surveys currently take place at ReefDoctor’s Weigh Station on the beach outside the ReefDoctor property. In exchange for rice, fishermen bring their mornings catch to the weighing station where the ReefDoctor team identify and measure all the fish caught. The results of these surveys are recorded in ReefDoctor’s database and analysed to assist local communities in the management of their marine resources. The data collected improves our understanding of the artisanal fishery in the Bay of Ranobe which is essential for its successful management and the protection of fish stocks for future generations. This data also contributes to regional and national studies relating to marine resource utilisation by local populations.
Turtle Fisheries Management: ‘ReefDoctor Fano Project’
A serious decline of marine turtles has been documented across Madagascar. The exploitation of turtles across their foraging grounds has been suggested to be the cause for seriously impacting the sea turtle resources of the wider Western Indian Ocean.
The Vezo tribal leaders of Ifaty have asked ReefDoctor for assistance in the protection of their sea turtle, as a result the ‘ReefDoctor Fano Project’ was created in 2008 to establish a permanent monitoring and education program in the Bay of Ranobe. Fano taps into traditional knowledge and engages local populations, it is therefore central to the implementation of a stakeholder participatory approach to turtle resource management. The organisation has several goals:
• Collect data on the distribution, abundance and threats to marine turtles.
• Improve the scientific understanding and economic implications of the subsistence turtle fishery.
• Assess the local harvesting of turtle eggs.
• Establish community participation programs and education development strategies
Research undertaken has involved monitoring the sea turtles captured by subsistence hunters or as by-catch in the village of Ifaty. A Vezo representative of Fano collects various data at the time of the specimen landing such as carapace measurements, sex, species, area of capture, purchase price and occurrence of eggs. The data collected is essential to the management of the sea turtle resource and will be shared with regional organisations to enable institutional integration. Fano also leads discussions with the community on the implementation of management strategies to protect marine turtles and develops awareness programs through community outreach and education strategies.
In December 2012 the ‘ReefDoctor Fano Project’ helped to create the first grass-roots marine turtle management association in Madagascar; ‘Fikam-banana Paniriky Miaro ny Fano’ (FI.PA.MI.FA). An alliance of turtle fishers, community leaders and elders, FI.PA.MI.FA focuses on strengthening traditional customs and consumptive taboos that underpin the cultural significance of marine turtles. Through the empowerment of Vezo coastal communities, this approach has proven to be a promising tool for the management of the local, marine turtle fishery. In 2013, the first community enforced marine turtle size restriction and closed season will be implemented in the Bay of Ranobe, encompassing a four-month ban on turtle hunting from 1st of December to the 1st of April.
The first marine reserve to be set up in the Bay of Ranobe was the ‘Massif des Roses’ (Rose Garden). It became legally protected in 2007 and is one of the first community-managed marine reserves in Madagascar. This was achieved when ReefDoctor brought together the local fishing communities of the bay to form a marine conservation and management organisation, known as FI.MI.HA.RA. After the first year of operation ticket sales for the Rose Garden generated FI.MI.HA.RA a net profit of ~ £600 which was distributed among the villages in the bay for use in small development projects. After four years of successful management, this marine reserve now generates a profit of around £4,000 for the local fishing community. In December 2008, following the success of the Rose Garden, ReefDoctor coordinated FI.MI.HA.RA to successfully implement another community managed reserve, Ankarajelita. These two reserves are regularly monitored by ReefDoctor’s science team in order to assess the effectiveness of this level of protection on the marine environment and its resources.
Alternative Marine-Based Incomes
At present much of the income for local communities comes from fishing, with alternative marine-based activities playing only a small role in income generation. While there is the potential for tourism income, much of the current income is restricted to local hotels and dive centers that are generally run by overseas nationals or people not from the local area. Although this may provide some jobs in the area, these are often not ‘vezo’ jobs as they do not involve the sea. ReefDoctor’s alternative marine-based livelihoods scheme explores the income opportunities represented by tourism and other new marine industries as a means of relieving fishing pressure off the reefs and supporting community development. At present this programme of work has centered on two new areas of possible income generation from the marine environment: the creation of marine reserves that can be used to help generate income for the village and language and basic science training to improve local pirogue owners’ ability to act as marine guides for tourists in these areas.