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Wednesday, 15th July 2020

Understanding the Governance of Sainte Luce’s Locally Managed Marine Area

By Danick Trouwloon

Collaborative research by the University College London, the Zoological Society of London and SEED Madagascar published in a leading scientific journal.

Small-scale lobster fishing is an important livelihood strategy and source of food security for communities along Madagascar’s southeast coast. In these communities, there are high levels of poverty, alternative livelihoods are limited, and lobster fishing is a high value commodity. This reality is reflected in Sainte Luce – one of the three lobster fishing communities where Project Oratsimba operates – where 83% of households rely on lobster fishing as their main source of income.

There is a local perception, backed by limited scientific data, that lobster stocks are declining as the result of overfishing. Older fishers in Sainte Luce are able to recount daily catches of 20 kg per fisher 65 years ago, which had fallen to about 10 kg per fisher per day by 1990. Now, when a fisher catches 1 kg of lobster, they are considered to have had a good day.

Lobster fishers bringing in their catch in Sainte Luce

Lobster fishers bringing in their catch in Sainte Luce

In response to the declining lobster stock, the community of Sainte Luce is working with SEED and Project Oratsimba to promote sustainable, community-based management of Sainte Luce’s lobster fishery. So far, this has included the establishment of a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) containing a periodic no-take zone (NTZ), where fishers are not allowed to catch lobsters during closure periods.

The LMMA in Sainte Luce is one of more than 150 LMMAs set up across Madagascar over the last fifteen years. Indeed, Madagascar seems to be experiencing a move towards more community-based marine governance, with local communities taking a leading role in the management of marine resources across the country. As LMMAs continue to be applied to a growing diversity of marine ecosystems and fisheries in Madagascar, there is a need to critically assess the effectiveness and potential for success of this governance strategy.

Can LMMAs offer an effective solution to community-based resource management, or must resilient and effective governance be supported by a sufficient resourced state?

SEED collaborated with researchers at University College London’s (UCL) Department of Geography and the Zoological Society of London to answer this question. To gain a better understanding of the governance of Sainte Luce’s LMMA, the research team applied the Marine Protected Area Governance (MPAG) Framework, a useful tool for analysing marine protected area governance initially developed by Dr. Peter J.S. Jones of UCL.

A central component of the MPAG framework is identifying the incentives used for governing an LMMA. The framework outlines 36 possible incentives in five categories: Economic, Communication, Knowledge, Legal and Participation. To identify the incentives applied in Sainte Luce’s LMMA, the research team consulted academic and other relevant literature in addition to conducting semi-structured interviews with a range of stakeholders such as fishers, community members, and the LMMA Management Committee.

The research prompted reflections on whether LMMAs can support the sustainable management of Madagascar’s marine resources. It found that LMMAs like the one in Sainte Luce may be useful temporary solutions, playing an important “stopgap” role in managing the country’s marine resources. Yet, the effectiveness of LMMAs is constrained by Madagascar’s extreme contextual challenges such as high levels of poverty and rapid population growth.

The research also provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of the specific governance approach used in Sainte Luce’s LMMA. This approach can be best described as “governed primarily by local communities under collective management arrangements”, with the periodic NTZ acting as one of the management measures. Some of the insights obtained through the research are highlighted here:

The effectiveness of Sainte Luce’s LMMA relies on a diversity of actors and incentives they are able to collectively employ in order to build resilience.

The research found that participation incentives, such as building on local customs and establishing collaborative platforms, are key to the governance of Sainte Luce’s LMMA. The effectiveness of these participation incentives can be further increased by linking them to other economic and knowledge incentives.

Fundamentally, it must be economically beneficial for fishers to adopt sustainable behaviours.

The research also found that none of the incentives adopted by Project Oratsimba are capable of fully addressing the main drivers of overfishing, which are i) poverty and a lack of alternative livelihoods, and ii) migration and population growth. Project Oratsimba is now exploring how new incentives can alleviate poverty. To this end, a supplementary livelihoods project will shortly be piloted in a neighbouring lobster fishing community. The project team will monitor the potential of this project to provide supplemental income for lobster fishing households and decrease reliance on the lobster fishery.

As the project continues, SEED could position themselves more actively to act as neutral brokers.

The LMMA Management Committee attending a fisheries management training sessionThe LMMA Management Committee attending a fisheries management training session

Finally, the research provided insights into how SEED can better position itself in relation to Sainte Luce’s LMMA. By acting as a neutral intermediary, SEED may be better able to address incentives that need strengthening, such as increased transparency, accountability and fairness, as well as building trust and increasing the capacity for cooperation. Project Oratsimba has begun addressing these incentives, for example through a transparency workshop with the LMMA Management Committee.

This research on Sainte Luce’s LMMA has been published in Marine Policy, a leading academic journal. The article is currently in press and can be accessed freely. Project Oratsimba staff continue to incorporate insights into project activities. At the time of conducting the research, five of the authors of the article were working for SEED. Involvement in the MPAG research has especially been a great opportunity for Jeremie Ndriamanja (Project Oratsimba’s Coordinator) and Jessica Savage (Project Oratsimba’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist), who are both excited about their first journal publication. 

Project Oratsimba is funded by the Darwin Initiative. Find out more about how SEED is supporting community-based lobster fisheries management in southeast Madagascar through Project Oratsimba here. More information about the authors currently working at SEED can be found on our staff page.

All quotes presented in this blog have been taken directly from the journal article.

Banner image: Grace Thurlow, one of the researchers, conducting interviews with lobster fishers in Sainte Luce.