Skip Content

Coronavirus/COVID-19: Currently we are continuing our programmes in Madagascar, but we need your support. Coronavirus Appeal

Wednesday, 4th November 2020

Building Connections Between Fishing Communities

By Jessica Savage

Lobster fishing is not the only thing that unites the communities of Elodrato, Itapera and Sainte Luce where up to 83% of households are involved in this livelihood. These communities also share a real desire to sustainably manage their small-scale lobster fisheries in the hopes of safeguarding lobster fishing for future generations.

In all communities the lobsters are the source of our livelihoods and we need to cooperate for fisheries management

Female from fishing household, Itapera

However, overfishing and illegal practices, including the removal of undersized lobsters and egg bearing females, threaten the future of this livelihood. In these communities 100% of households are below the locally defined poverty level and few viable alternative livelihoods exist. There is also widespread recognition by fishers in these communities that lobster catches are declining over time.

In the eighties, we would put four lobster pots in the sea and get lots of lobster. Now we put 25 pot in the sea and we just get half a kilo.

Community Leader, Elodrato
Pirogue canoe landing on a beach in Sainte Luce Madagascar

In response, Project Oratsimba has been supporting Elodrato, Itapera and Sainte Luce to establish Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), areas of ocean managed by coastal communities. However, lobsters do not respect the spatial boundaries of each community’s adjacent fishing ground and LMMA and instead form part of the larger regional lobster stock fished by approximately 40 coastal communities throughout southeast Madagascar. Fishers involved in Project Oratsimba report moving between each of the three fishing grounds. Therefore, to progress towards sustainable fisheries management, cooperation between the three communities is required and communities cannot act in isolation.

We depend on each other, we share a fishing ground border

Community Leader, Sainte Luce

To improve intercommunity cooperation Project Oratsimba facilitated a series of cross-visits which involved representatives from one community visiting their counterparts in another community for the day and attending a series of workshops. Each community hosted one cross visit and the 63 participants involved included fishers, community leaders, intermediaries (who buy lobsters from fishers and sell them to exporters) and Fisheries Management Committee members. Participants were given the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other. Following the cross-visits, participants felt that cooperation between communities for lobster fisheries management had increased.

Working together is essential to avoid the extinction of the lobsters

Fisher, Itapera
A signboard illustrating key points of the local dina regulations at the Sainte Luce lobster fishery

The cross-visits were also the first time the newly established Elodrato Fisheries Management Committee and the re-elected Sainte Luce Fisheries Management Committee were able to get together and talk through the challenges that each had on developing sustainable fisheries management in their communities.  The cross-visits provided an opportunity to build these connections and develop a working relationship between the two committees. It was widely perceived that the committees had made progress in working together for sustainable fisheries management following the cross-visits including supporting one another with monitoring compliance with local (dina) and national fisheries regulations and communicating when regulations are broken.

We monitor together people who do not respect the dina and national regulations

Fisheries Management Committee Member, Sainte Luce

We communicate with each other if someone does something wrong in our fishing ground

Fisheries Management Committee Member, Sainte Luce

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted the three lobster fishing communities, further cross-visits have been postponed. These cross-visits were made possible thanks to funding from the Darwin Initiative.