ReefDoctor’s marine management programme aims to encourage sustainable marine resource extraction. It focuses on the assessment of marine resource utilisation by the local community, marine reserve management, encouragement of non-destructive fishing techniques and the promotion of alternative marine-based livelihoods.
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 in four of bay’s fishing villages. The fishermen’s catches are recorded (fish weight and species composition) every month by two Reef Doctor Malagasy staff members, with help from trained ReefDoctor volunteers and interns. The results of these surveys are 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.
The first established marine reserve 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. The proceeds from Rose Garden tourist ticket sales generate a profit to run FI.MI.HA.RA operations and for distribution among the villages in the Bay for use in small development projects. Following the success of the Rose Garden, in December 2008 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 Livelihoods
At present, the livelihoods of the local communities are mainly based on fishing, with alternative marine-based activities playing only a small role in income generation. A transition from over-exploited capture fisheries to more sustainable marine-based livelihoods is desperately required to safeguard the biodiversity of the region and to alleviate poverty within the local communities. 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. ReefDoctor currently focuses on three key areas of alternative income generation from the marine environment: seaweed aquaculture, sea cucumber aquaculture, and the provision of language and basic science training to improve the ability of local pirogue owners to act as marine guides for tourists in the marine reserves.