The Art of Communication: SEED’s Lobster Fishery Management Handbook
Imagine for a moment that you are a lobster fisher in Madagascar, one of the most impoverished countries in the world. You live in the southeast of the island, the region that accounts for the majority of national lobster catch and export. However, as population growth meets an increased market demand, you have borne witness to the consequences of overfishing and lobster stock decline. As seems devastatingly common now, you paddle out to your pots only to pull them up empty. Returning to the shore, your heart is heavy with worry, knowing you will again struggle to put food on plates and may run out of money to keep your children in school. What would you do?
This problem is faced by many lobster fishers in Madagascar’s Anosy region. However, the community of Sainte Luce, where 83% of households depend on lobster fishing for their income (Savage, 2020), is leading the way with a community response to this decline. Supported by SEED, they created a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA).
LMMAs differ from conventional Marine Protected Areas, as they are largely or wholly managed by the local community, allowing them autonomy over the decision-making and rulemaking of the fisheries: they are managed by the community, for the community. While this local governance structure has already inspired the neighbouring community of Elodrato to follow suit, SEED wants to encourage further LMMA establishment, in the Anosy region and beyond. While LMMAs have local benefits, the interconnected nature of coastal ecosystems means that, in order for the lobster fishery to be truly sustainable, a regional replication of the LMMA model is important. To aid and empower communities in setting up their own LMMAs, the Project Oratsimba team have created an informative Lobster Fishery Management Handbook.
Comprised of a combination of text and illustrations, the handbook covers topics such as what an LMMA is, who is involved, reasons to create an LMMA, and the successful example of Sainte Luce. The main section of the handbook deep dives into how to set up an LMMA; it takes the reader through each stage, from initial community meetings, to electing a management committee and choosing management measures. The importance of collectively creating and ratifying a dina, a local law, is also explained. A fisheries dina outlines management measures a community decided on, such as a No-Take Zone and gear restrictions, as well as fines to be applied if rules are broken. Particular attention was also given to challenges, such as lack of gender equality and incoming users from other areas, and how these should be addressed. The handbook was created to be used as guidance, and recognises that all communities’ needs and circumstances will be unique, so it is stressed that management measures should reflect that. A total of 120 copies have been printed and disseminated to all major coastal communities in Anosy north of Fort Dauphin.
Illustrations are a prominent feature of the handbook and each point is illustrated to the level where minimal text is needed. This form of visual communication is essential in Madagascar. The Anosy region has a literacy rate of 44.3%, the second lowest of all the regions in Madagascar. Therefore, minimising the need for text was central to the success of this handbook. Furthermore, the illustrations enable us to explain a detailed process in an engaging and memorable way, and they support the most common way of learning: visual learning. To make the handbook as relatable as possible, the illustrations were also designed to reflect the local context. Whilst this meant illustrating a smaller ratio of women to men in community meetings and management committees, SEED is working hard to change these traditional gender roles through our female Marine Ambassadors programme.
We hope this handbook will serve as a valuable and effective resource to inspire and support communities in protecting their lobster fisheries, using a community-based management method that has already had much success across Madagascar. We look forward to a future where fishers pull up pots brimming with lobsters, their families’ plates always filled with food, and their children thriving in education.
Want to take a look? A digital Lobster Fishery Management Handbook can be accessed here.
- Savage, J. (2020). A Baseline Socioeconomic Assessment of Lobster Fishing Communities in Southeast Madagascar. A report for Darwin Project 25-016. SEED Madagascar. https://madagascar.co.uk/download_file/view/1548/594