The tide turns against unsustainable fishing techniques in Madagascar

Pirogue Sales as Moving Billboards
Campaign slogans on local fishing boats

ResearchBlogging.orgA social marketing campaign in southwest Madagascar has encouraged locals to abandon destructive fishing techniques in favour of more sustainable methods. 

Many environmental problems today are global in scale, yet often the solution to these issues begins at a local level. A good example of this in action is the recent change in attitude of a Madagascan community towards the management of their local fisheries.

One of the greatest threats to the marine ecosystem throughout the world is overfishing, particularly through the use of destructive fishing methods. One area that has been badly affected by this is the Velondriake marine area in Madagascar. This region is home to the Vezo people, who are semi-nomadic and rely heavily on the local coastal resources for their livelihood. Local traditional laws called dina were incorporated into the official legal system in 2006 in an attempt to improve the situation. These laws explicitly banned the use of damaging fishing techniques, notably poison fishing, beach seining and the overturning of living coral, within the Velondriake area.

But the dina were poorly enforced, and many people continued to use harmful fishing practices without any consequences. So a campaign was imitated by the conservation NGOs Blue Ventures and Rare with the aim of bringing about positive change in fisheries management. The campaign focused promoting local pride in responsible fishing methods by using the tools of social marketing. Their ultimate goal was to see an increase in juvenile and reef fish in the area.

Logos and slogans were designed which encouraged pride in being skilled fishermen: “the sea is my heritage and that of my descendants”. T-shirts, posters and radio broadcasts were created to promote the campaign and, most importantly, practical training was given to community leaders in dina enforcement.

As a result, locals developed a more positive attitude towards dina, and, by the end of the campaign, the successful enforcement of these laws had increased significantly. A study led by Gildas Andriamalala on the effectiveness of the scheme concluded that social marketing can be a valuable tool in such conservation projects, particularly when used in combination with strong governance and enforcement strategies. However, the authors noted that while the project was ultimately successful, the complexity of targeting multiple audiences made the campaign difficult to manage and generated high costs.

Nonetheless, projects such as this affirm that there are practical and constructive ways of combatting environmental problems. Hopefully, the lessons that were learned from this campaign can be used to implement and improve similar conservation projects in the future.

Reference: Gildas Andriamalala, Shawn Peabody, Charlie J. Gardner, & Kame Westerman (2013). Using social marketing to foster sustainable behaviour in traditional fishing communities of southwest Madagascar Conservation Evidence, 10, 37-41 Other: 5192 

Image: Chris Roney

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