Madagascar fishermen find ways to protect their livelihoods
By Ed Harris
ANDAVADOAKA, Madagascar (Reuters Life!) - Wading through the emerald green water with sharp eyes and a spear, Toline, 22, is hunting octopus in the baking midday sun.
"I started when I was young ... on the back of my mother," she told Reuters, dodging the treacherous spines of sea urchins.
For Toline's fishing community on the southwest coast of Madagascar, octopus is of critical economic importance, prompting village leaders to take innovative conservation measures that have won them global awards but also made them a test case for other fishing villages under pressure.
Mushrooming populations and commercial fishing are pressing the fishermen of Andavadoaka, known as the Vezo people, to catch more than a sustainable limit to maintain the area's unique marine environment of coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds.
"Yes, life has become difficult," said one fisherwoman, Dorothe, 49, recalling the days when octopus were easier to find.
The Vezo used to catch just enough to feed their families, bartering for rice and vegetables with the inland farmers.
But since 2003, they have become part of an elaborate supply chain, selling their catch to traders who refrigerate and transport the goods, mostly octopus, for sale to Europe.
Chan Jaco, director general of processing company Copefrito, said Madagascar exports 1,200 tons of octopus a year of which about 800 tons come from the Toliara region in the southwest. Continued...