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Friday, 20th December 2019

A lot of lobster surveys: Project Oratsimba’s annual survey

By Jessica Savage & Eve Englefield

Lack of direct road access makes journeys to remote Malagasy fishing communities more interesting than your average daily commute. Over the past three weeks, Project Oratsimba staff have waded through swamps, crossed rivers using rickety canoes fashioned from hollowed tree trunks and climbed sand dunes in blistering heat and torrential downpours - all in the name of data collection for the annual survey of Project Oratsimba!

Lobster fishing is a vitally important livelihood in impoverished coastal communities where few alternative livelihoods exist. However, fishers are reporting that they catch fewer lobsters now than in the past, even though they are putting in extra effort. To try and reduce this problem, Project Oratsimba is working to achieve community-based, sustainable lobster fishery management across three villages, through the establishment of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs).

As part of the project, the annual survey provided an opportunity to gain insight into the knowledge and understanding of community members on everything lobster related, to see what impact our project has had so far. With community members participating while simultaneously weaving reeds into mats, vines into lobster pots and sorting the morning catches, we were able to survey an impressive 226 households across our three target communities.

We asked about national lobster fishery regulations, unsustainable livelihood practices, how people made money when fishing is not possible, and people’s personal involvement in fisheries management through Project Oratsimba.

lobster-focus-group-annual-survey.jpgAs an example, lobsters caught across Madagascar should have a minimum landing size (MLS) of 20cm, and any females with eggs should be returned to the sea. We knew that fishers and non-fishers throughout target communities are aware of this law and can repeat the regulation word for word, but we wanted to test whether participants could actually visually identify lobsters that met, or didn’t meet, these criteria. To do this, we showed participants picture cards of various lobsters of different sizes, and one with eggs, and asked if they would bring a lobster like the one shown back to the shore. Generally, people recognised the females with eggs, but judging the true size of a lobster without a ruler is much harder!

All the data collected from this survey will highlight which regulations are understood well and which require more awareness raising, so SEED can focus future training and education activities where it is needed most to help secure the future livelihoods of the lobster fishers.