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Thursday, 19th November 2020

World Fisheries Day

By Jessica Savage

November 21st marks World Fisheries Day – a day to highlight the importance of sustainable fisheries both for healthy oceans and to the lives of fishers and fishing communities around the world. Fish, including shellfish, are an important source of food for billions of people and accounted for 7% of all proteins consumed in 2017. Globally one in ten people depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods1. Small-scale fisheries, which typically rely on traditional fishing methods, involve more than 90% of the worlds fishers2 who catch an estimated 23% of total global catch3. The vast majority of small-scale fishers live in developing countries4 and small-scale fisheries play a critical role in food security, income provision and poverty alleviation for millions2. For many small-scale fishing communities, fishing is not just a source of household income but also a way of life. Small-scale lobster fishing communities in southeast Madagascar are no expectation to this. This regional fishery comprises of 40 coastal communities with an estimated 15,000 people involved in this fishery5.

Lobster fishing is a vitally important livelihood for up to 83% of households in the communities of Elodrato, Itapera and Sainte Luce. Poverty is widespread in these communities and a lack of alternative livelihoods drives fishers to continue to fish for lobsters. Even though fishers put more and more effort into fishing, they are catching less because of the declining lobster stock.

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

Community Leader, Elodrato

Project Oratsimba, SEED's community-based fisheries management project, is supporting these three communities to adopt more sustainable fishing practices and establish locally managed marine areas (LMMAs). LMMAs are areas of ocean managed by local coastal communities. World Fisheries Day is the perfect time to reflect on the progress that these communities have made during Phase III of Project Oratsimba, funded by the Darwin Initiative.

Measuring a juvenile shark at the Sainte Luce fishery

The fisheries catch monitoring programme has expanded to collect data on sharks and rays to monitor species caught in the wider fishery using mobile data collection. During the six-month pilot, community data collectors recorded 343 individual sharks and rays, including the critically endangered Scalloped Hammerhead Shark.

The Sainte Luce Fisheries Management Committee, established in 2013, underwent its first re-election in September 2019. The community elected their first female member which is a major step forward in increasing gender equity in fisheries management. The Elodrato committee was established in July 2019 and have since been working with their community to design local fisheries regulations. The two committees have begun working together and recognise that cooperation between neighbouring communities and the two committees is required for sustainable fisheries management.

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

Community Leader, Sainte Luce

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

Fisheries Management Committee Member, Sainte Luce
Women Marine Ambassadors with Vatasoa from the MIHARI network in Antananarivo

Further progress towards gender equity in fisheries management has also been made through training two women in each community to become Marine Ambassadors. The ambassadors have been delivering women only education sessions to empower women to become more actively involved in fisheries management. In these communities, the activities that women conduct both before and after men go fishing for lobsters are crucial to the success of this livelihood. However, as these activities do not directly generate household income, they are undervalued and perceived as part of a women’s household duties. This combined with traditional gender roles has excluded women from lobster fisheries management. By instilling women with fisheries management knowledge and confidence, steps have been made to empower women to have a stronger voice in fisheries management. Two Marine Ambassadors also attended the launch of the national Fisherwoman Leadership Programme organised by MIHARI, Madagascar's LMMA network, in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo.

Women should be invited to participate; women should be able to stand and talk in front of everyone – women have different ideas than men

Marine Ambassador, Elodrato

lobster in a bagAnd finally, the community of Elodrato has drafted a set of local fisheries regulation, this is a major step in establishing an LMMA. These local regulations include a periodic No Take Zone (NTZ) for lobsters, an area of the fishing ground where lobster fishing is temporarily prohibited, and the community plans to close this in 2021. The regulations are currently in the process of becoming formally recognised by the community.

Small-scale lobster fishing is vital to the communities of Elodrato, Itapera and Sainte Luce. These communities are progressing towards sustainable fisheries management to safeguard lobster fishing as a livelihood for generations to come. World Fisheries Day is not just a time for reflection but also a time for action. Here are some simple actions you can take to support sustainable fisheries;

  1. Purchase seafood certified as sustainably sourced. Various ecolabels exist including the Marine Stewardship Council's blue fish label.
  2. Make environmentally responsible choices based on sustainable sea food lists if sustainably certified seafood is unavailable. The Marine Conservation Society's Good Fish Guide and app identifies which species are the most sustainable and which to avoid.
  3. Support Team Lobster in SEEDs Big Five Christmas Appeal. The Scalloped Spiny Lobster is one lobster species found in the regional lobster fishery which Elodrato, Itapera and Sainte Luce depend on. By supporting Team Lobster you can help boost the growth of our conservation and sustainable livelihoods work for 2021 and beyond.


1.     FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 - Meeting the sustainable development goals. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome.

2.     Béné C, Macfadyen G and Allison EH, 2007. Increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome.

3.     Pauly D, Zeller D, 2016. Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining. Nature Communications,7:10244.

4.     World Bank, FAO and WorldFish, 2012. Hidden Harvest: The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries. World Bank, New York.

5.     MAEP, 2004. Project TCP-MAG-O170 (A): Conception d’un système d’exploitation durable de la pêche lan- goustière. Antananarivo, Madagascar: Ministère de l’Agriculture, l’Elevage et de la Pêche (MAEP).