Sustainable fishing off the coast of southwest Madagascar

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > West Indian Ocean > Madagascar

Besambay village. Southern Toliara. Madagascar
© WWF Madagascar


The southwestern coast of Madagascar is known for its exceptional beaches, coral reefs and marine life. Fishing is one of the main means of subsistence for the coastal communities here. However, unsustainable fishing practices have damaged parts of the reefs and marine ecosystem.

WWF is working with traditional fishermen and government authorities to manage the marine and coastal resources in southern Toliara so that it not only contributes to conservation, but also benefits local communities. Plans are also in the work to establish a marine protected area off the coast.


The coastal zone of the Southern region of Toliara has long been recognized for its extraordinary beauty, and its exceptional natural ecosystem. Many areas are still ecologically healthy, but some, such as coral reefs, coastal lagoons and mangroves, have been severely degraded by human activities.

Pressures on the ecosystem are coming from the Vezo people, an ethnic group of traditional fishermen, who consider themselves to be the owners of the sea and, as such, manage marine resources by means of taboos and traditional norms based on empirical knowledge of the dynamics of this ecosystem.

The ecosystem has also been subject to pressure from destructive fishing practices by farmers and/or cattle raisers who seasonally revert to fishing because of insufficient harvests and lack of other livelihood opportunities. These 2 groups of fish resource users (fishermen and non-fishermen) are both economically vulnerable. The fishing population has no other means of subsistence than fishing. This situation is worsened by the incapacity of fishermen to invest in more sustainable and profitable methods of fishing and by the accentuated occurrence of sedimentation threatening the coral reef.


Establish sustainable use and participatory management of living marine and coastal resources in Southern Toliara, in collaboration with local fishermen, the Malagasy Fisheries Administration, collectors, retailers and the local populations and authorities, by the end of year 2009.


Through management support to the whole traditional fisheries sector, from fishermen to collectors, intermediaries and sellers, more benefits will go to fishermen and they will be able to invest in better techniques and diversify their economic activities, contributing to the development and the sustainability of the local economy in the long term. This will lead to lessened pressure on the marine resources.

In this region, WWF Madagascar is now collaborating closely with the National Authority for the Management of Protected Areas (ANGAP) in order to establish a marine protected area (MPA). WWF has also led socio-economic and marine biological diagnostics in the area. It means that the WWF team knows very well the related field and established a climate of trust between its staff and the local communities.

The overall goal of this project is that local communities benefit from and contribute to the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity in the Southern Toliara region in Madagascar.

The project goal is in conformity with WWF's global marine target on sustainable fisheries, which is to improve fish stocks which are currently categorised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as overexploited or depleted, by 2020, and to maintain the status of all sustainably exploited fish stocks. Finally the project goal is in conformity with the national and regional strategy for the development of small-scale and traditional fisheries.

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