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Locally Managed Marine Areas Protect Increased Fish Biomass and Secure Livelihoods
With the establishment of LMMAs, local communities have taken control of their fisheries, limiting access to outside fishers, establishing no-take zones, enforcing catch limits and halting destructive practices. From 2013-2015, fish biomass measured through reef surveys increased tenfold and biomass in no-take zones doubled. Octopus fishers experienced increases in catch without spending more time fishing. The size of fish caught also increased, and some valuable food-fish species that had disappeared from catches reappeared. These improvements also led to increased revenues for fisher families.
Over the last decade WCS has led establishment of 26 legally recognized Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) and trained and supported around 250 local Community Marine Rangers who enforce local fishing laws along 200 miles of coastline in Antongil Bay. The LMMA’s fill a gap in government fisheries management, because the agency responsible for fisheries law enforcement, the Madagascar Fisheries Surveillance Center (CSP) does not maintain a permanent presence in the area. Prior to the creation of the LMMAs, local fisheries were in crisis, because of a combination of unsustainable practices, such as the use of beach seines, and the inability of local communities to exclude outsiders from community fisheries. As a result, fish catches and the incomes of fishers were in decline. To address this problem, the government devolved authority to coastal communities to establish and manage LMMAs. In 2011, as part of a participatory assessment, local community members around LMMAs reported an increase in catch per hour fished; an increase in the size of fish caught; and an increase in the abundance of juvenile fish in the sea. In April 2013, underwater reef surveys showed significantly higher fish density and biomass inside LMMA no-take zones, as compared to fishing sites outside LMMAs. Follow-up surveys in 2015 showed a ten-fold increase in fish biomass from 70 kg/ha to 750 kg/ha within the restricted area of the LMMAs. In the no-take zone of the LMMAs, biomass almost doubled from 450 kg/ha to 750 kg/ha.
With the creation of the LMMAs, and the implementation and enforcement of improved practices by Community Marine Rangers, local communities became key partners of the Madagascar Fisheries Surveillance Center, which does not maintain a permanent presence in the area.
Communities have rights to specify and enforce fishing regulations such as no-take zones, temporary closures, and gear restrictions. These management measures are implemented and enforced by around 250 Community Marine Rangers, who conduct regular patrols within the LMMAs to enforce the rules they set.
Increased catch-per-unit-effort in the octopus fishery, combined with increased size of fish caught and the reappearance of valuable food-fish that had disappeared from community catches led to greater food security and increased revenue from the sale of fish.