SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 98

Blue Economy

The spreading tentacles of success in Madagascar’s octopus fisheries

hutting down fishing grounds in order to catch more fish sounds oddly

counterintuitive. But that is exactly what fisherfolk in the village of Vezo in southwest Madagascar did in 2004: they banned all forms of fishing in one part of their octopus hunting grounds.

When they reopened them seven months later, they found that the size of their catch increased dramatically. Witnessing the success of their neighbours, three other villages soon closed down their own fishing grounds even though catching octopus is the only way to earn money for many people in the region. More communities followed suit the next year.

Soon the concept, which involved closing roughly 20 per cent of each village’s fished area for two to seven months, had spread its tentacles far along the coast until there were more than 250 temporary closures along 450km of coastline.

By targeting a fast-growing species of octopus that doubles in weight every month, the short-term closures in Madagascar resulted in improved catches and better incomes.

“This is further backed up by eight years of data on octopus catches which demonstrates that the economic benefits from increased catches outweigh the costs of foregone catches during the closures,” states a newly launched report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

The report, entitled Blue Economy - Sharing Success Stories to Inspire Change showcases various efforts that seek to reverse the overexploitation and degradation of the world’s oceans without harming people who rely on these vast ecosystems for a living.

In Madagascar, the short-term closures of the octopus fishing grounds inspired ven greater conservation efforts. With help from local NGOs, communities established marine protected areas that outlawed destructive and industrial forms of fishing. Roughly 60,000 people are now involved in these locally managed conservation zones. Their success has inspired the government to establish a nationwide closure of the country’s octopus fishery every year.