Traditional fishing in Madagascar is practiced at national level by around 59,000 fishermen mainly along the coast and within coral reefs, especially in the south-western province of Tulear. The radius of action of fishing canoes is below 10 km.
The coastal zone is currently overfished and yields are very low. Species such as octopus and lobsters are in danger of overexploitation and other species, like sea cucumbers, (holothuria), have practically disappeared. However, traditional fishing is the only source of income for coastal communities especially in the province of Tulear, where successive droughts have driven the population from the hinterland.
Tulear fishing communities support project aims at promoting sustainable development of traditional maritime fishing through strengthening beneficiary organizations and state services. Also, it seeks to offer more adequate facilities to fishermen. Funded by the African Development Fund to the tune of 9.4 million USD, the project started in 2006.
To date, the project set up 30 marine reserves under participatory management in the Tulear region, increasing octopus yields up to five times-fold. By end of 2011, octopus yields increased from 400 to 600 metric tons per year, due to marine reserves.
In order to diversify economic activities, the project supports the adoption of a new technique to farm a local species of sea cucumber (holothuria), developed by Tulear Institute of Fisheries and Marine Science.
The project also supports the development of the culture of seaweed (Eucheuma). Following the mapping of areas suited to this activity, private operators were brought in to invest in Tulear region.
The project also initiated the construction of 14 landing sites. Out of these, two will be equipped with an ice factory, to reduce post-catch losses and increase the added value of the octopus fishery.
Local communities are closely involved throughout the process of identification and management of the marine reserves, which should lead to sustainable use of the main fishery resource of the region. Annual exports of fishery products, consisting mainly of octopus, (around 90 %), were estimated at 16 million USD in the Tulear region, when the project was appraised.
New jobs were created for local people. The building of landing sites will also bring about new incomes. To-date, 265 small producers, mainly women, are benefitting from this new activity.
Jean Louis Kromer