Embracing partnerships and local expertise can help an idea go global.
This is the story of how one successful fishery closure inspired a new approach to community-led marine management, and how working with local partners enabled that approach to reach over 750,000 people across 13 countries.
In 2004, Blue Ventures supported the community of Andavadoaka to implement the first ever periodic fishery closure in Madagascar.
In a periodic fishery closure, a community refrains from fishing in a specified area for several months − or even years − to allow marine life to replenish.
Disclaimer: Map shows only periodic octopus fishery closures for which BV holds data, some led by other NGOs. Not a comprehensive dataset.
The closure resulted in a dramatic increase in octopus catch yields for the month after the fishery reopened.
News of this success spread along Madagascar’s coastline from village to village, and across the wider Indian Ocean via learning exchanges between fishing communities.
As of 2023, this periodic fishery closure model has been replicated over 470 times across the Madagascar alone.
The closures’ success sparked the community’s interest in broader fisheries management and marine conservation.
Taking inspiration from traditional approaches in the Pacific, Blue Ventures supported people from Andavadoaka and the surrounding villages to set up the country’s first locally managed marine area – Velondriake.
In Madagascar and other countries where national capacity for fisheries management may be weak, broader marine management often takes the form of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs).
LMMAs are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine life. They place local communities at the heart of management and are a human rights–based, cost-effective and scalable solution to the complex challenge of managing marine resources.
In 2012 Blue Ventures collaborated with fishing community leaders and partner organisations to found the MIHARI Network, to facilitate learning exchanges and the sharing of best practices between LMMAs in Madagascar.
Now supporting over 70 LMMAs around the island, MIHARI plays a key role in strengthening local leadership in marine conservation, and ensures that the voices of small-scale fishers are heard at a national level.
Building on our experiences in Madagascar, Blue Ventures has forged new partnerships with community-based organisations across the tropics.
As of 2023, we have supported 750,000 people in 13 countries to develop periodic fishery closures and embrace the locally led marine management approach, either directly or by working with partners or learning networks.
Learning exchanges have played a key role in catalysing this expansion.
Fishers, NGO staff and government representatives have journeyed from different regions, countries and even continents to learn about the periodic fishery closure approach directly from the communities who are putting it into practice.
They also witness first hand the vital governance structures and skills the communities have developed which enable successful management.
For example, Blue Ventures formed a partnership with the community-led organisation Dahari in Comoros. Together they supported women from three villages to set up an association and take part in a learning exchange visit to Blue Ventures’ partner Mwambao Coastal Community Network in Zanzibar.
The women’s association set up its first periodic fishery closure back in Comoros in 2018, and this year further exchanges with communities in Kenya will help to strengthen further management across the Western Indian Ocean.
Context matters: We support local partner organisations to listen to coastal communities to adapt this management approach to meet local needs. The closure size, duration, target species and management rules can vary depending on the social and environmental context.
For example, in Zanzibar, only the capture of octopus is prohibited in a fishery closure site, while in Timor-Leste, where the traditional form of management known as ‘Tara Bandu’ is used in some fishing areas, all fishing, gleaning and anchoring is forbidden.
Importantly, by implementing closures, communities begin to form the governance structures and develop the skills that enable them to take control over their local fisheries, paving the way for longer term marine management.
People have varying motivations for engaging in marine management, but most want to ensure their fisheries can support future generations.
The short film ‘Opening’ gives insight into the diversity of environments and cultures in which this management approach is taking place.
Importantly, periodic fishery closures are not the end goal. They act as a catalyst, sparking interest and encouraging communities to engage in broader and more holistic approaches to marine management, such as LMMAs, which incorporate their needs and goals.