Posted on 17 April 2018
" There are rules everyone must follow of there won’t be anything left."
Samson lives in Beheloke, southern Madagascar, where he used to be a fisherman. By seeing the positive effects of sustainable fishing and octopus reserves with his own eyes, he realized his community had to change things. Nowadays he spends his time as the president of the LMMA (the Locally Managed Marine Area) and advocates for the good management of natural resources in his village. Today, he shares his story.
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
Before, life was easy in our village because there was not that much fishermen here. You go fishing for two hours, your pirogue is full. It was easy living. We use to go to Toliara and buy nice clothes and things like Hi-Fi and music. To please the ladies so they will look at us you know (laughs). I still go there today but not for the same reasons.
What changes have you/ are you witnessing in the ocean?
It is not from the ocean itself but more related to its use. From what I saw, there is less rain inland. So we saw more and more farmers from the lands who converted themselves to fishermen and moved down to the seashore. Because they heard for years and years that our reefs are rich and our waters full of fish. We used to hold the record of octopus catch per person on the opening of our marine reserve. It’s not the case anymore because there are too many people fishing in our area. Some are even fishing day and night.
How do these changes affect you?
Everyone knows in the village that we have lesser and lesser fishes, even though we have to go fishing everyday. For instance, after just two windy days, there is no food available in the village because no one can fish. But someone has to explain how the reef works so they won’t fight each other to know who took all the fishes first and who fished at night so it will be his fault. It’s affecting me that they do understand something is not right but they don’t know why. And that with a better management and some improvements, we can sustain our sea.
And what do you do to contribute to shifting this change in a positive way?
I am spending a lot of time advocating to others the importance of adopting some techniques to improve our management. At first even I didn’t understand why those people from WWF were telling us to stop fishing juveniles or little fishes. Or why disseminating stone pots in the reefs for example. But then we saw our nets caught bigger fishes. We saw octopus using those pots to reproduce etc. Then I realized that was how we had to do things.
In 2030, what does the ocean look like according to you?
I won’t hide that our biggest challenge is how to frame this migration. And to improve our management so our reef and our reserves won’t be empty by then. Because you can’t stop people from coming. They are searching for better that’s why they are coming from lands that don’t produce crops like before. But there are rules everyone must follow of there won’t be anything left. And it is not only the committee’s duty but everyone of us must play by the rules so we can all benefit from the ocean.
Thanks for sharing your story, you’re an Ocean Witness now. What do you want to say to other Ocean Witnesses?
To tell you the truth, leading a community based organization is hard. They were the ones who voted for me to be president, yes, but I didn’t decline the responsibility as well. There will be highs and lows and I’m confessing I almost quitted. But If you don’t take in charge the future of your sea who else will? So take your responsibilities with courage and never think you are alone. With our people, we are in this together.
Samson is 32 years old and lives in Beheloke, southern Madagascar, with his wife and his 2 children (a boy and a girl). He came from a large family of fishermen and has 8 siblings. He now works as a fisherman and as a president of the LMMA (the Locally Managed Marine Area) of Beheloke. The LMMA is an international network of natural resource management practitioners, who have joined together to share best practices and to louden their community voices. Together with their communities, they maintain healthy, well-managed and sustainable marine resources and ecosystems.