Cartier Philanthropy - Rebuilding coastal fisheries sustainably

Rebuilding coastal fisheries sustainably


Most people in Madagascar’s coastal communities depend on fishing for their food security and livelihoods. A permanent fishing ban to protect the stressed marine environment is not a viable option for them. Blue Ventures supports communities to take the lead in managing their marine resources, offering them an innovative solution: smaller temporary fishery closures for a set number of months, acting like crop rotation. This enables fast-grow invertebrate species like octopus, crabs and shrimps to replenish themselves while allowing the community to continue fishing sustainably. The communities themselves decide on the rules that can be enforced, which can include banning destructive fishing practices, protecting endangered species and designating priority marine areas for protection. We are supporting the replication of this model in northwest Madagascar.

Focus area
Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems
Blue Ventures


97% of small-scale fisheries are located in developing countries. These artisanal and traditional fisheries are vital to hundreds of millions of people, providing livelihoods for families and coastal communities. Yet most of these fisheries are stressed by climate change and overfishing, exacerbated by rapid population growth and poverty. Fishers are in a race to catch what they can to meet their immediate, daily needs. Seafood companies compete to maximize their short-term turnover and volume. As a result, coastal fisheries are being mined with little local economic benefit and at the immeasurable loss of future fishing stocks

Simply declaring marine areas off-limits to fishing is too severe an economic sacrifice for these populations. Only effective marine conservation that benefits people and nature alike can sustain local fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity.


Over the past 15 years, Blue Ventures has pioneered the use of temporary fishery closure to catalyse community support for marine management. These periodic or temporary closures allow fast-grow invertebrate species like reef octopus, mangrove crabs and shrimps, to replenish, thus increasing future yields.

Data collected in southern Madagascar over the past seven years has confirmed that these simple and practical management measures can:

  • increase the catch per fisher per day by 87% (from 2.4 kg to 4.4 kg),
  • increase village income from fishing by an average of 136% in the month after a closure (allowing it to grow from $597 to $1,407),
  • result in no significant decline in village income during the closures.

The model of temporary closures has spread virally in Madagascar and led to the establishment of 70 locally-managed marine areas (17% of Madagascar’s inshore seabed), These areas are managed collaboratively by fishing villages that collectively decide the rules of use of the resources and monitor compliance.

Expected results

We provide a three-year grant supporting Blue Ventures’ efforts to:

  • Replicate the model of fishery closures and locally managed marine areas in two regions of north-western Madagascar, facilitating induction and the formulation of management rules and plans, and coordination and monitoring mechanisms.
  • Provide technical support for the national network of 70 locally-managed marine areas, called “Mihari”. This network supports fishing communities that are highly committed to the protection of their marine environment, but often poorly trained. Blue Venture will work to consolidate and grow the network by developing new shared training and educational tools and resources, and establishing a coordinated system for monitoring locally managed marine areas.

Long-term strategy

Madagascar’s grassroots marine conservation movement has developed some of the world’s largest locally-managed marine areas, and the Government of Madagascar recently committed to tripling the extent of the country’s marine protected areas, placing special emphasis on local management.

Working in coordination with communities, the government and other NGO partners, Blue Ventures will capitalise on this momentum to substantially strengthen the marine sector in Madagascar.