Fishing Communities

Fishing Communities Photo
WCS introduces conservation methods to manage fisheries in the Mozambique Channel in Madagascar.
Julie Larsen Maher © WCS
Andavadoaka, Madagascar Slideshow
In the Andavadoaka region of Madagascar’s southwest coast, the Vezo people have subsisted on the bounty of the Toliar Barrier Reef for centuries. But the lobsters, finfish, octopus, and coastal dolphins they depend on are growing scarce. WCS conservationists are working to establish marine fishery reserves to ensure this fragile seascape and the traditional livelihoods it supports remain intact.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Pirogue fishing boat Photo
In the waters just south of the Mozambique Channel that borders much of Madagascar’s west coast, traditional Vezo fishermen ply their trade from simple hand-carved wooden canoes, called "pirogues."
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Fishing in Mozambique Channel Photo
A fisherman swims a nets around a school of fish. Small-mesh fishing nets like this one can result in high levels of bycatch. WCS is working to promote more sustainable fishing gear.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Toliar Barrier Reef Fish and Coral Photo
Most of the fishing activity takes place within the nearest reaches of one of the world’s largest barrier reef systems, the Toliar Barrier Reef, since the pirogues cannot travel far. These reefs are among the most biodiverse in the Western Indian Ocean.
©Caleb McClennen/WCS
Vezo fishing boy with catch Photo
A boy watches over the village catch as it dries in the sun. Overfishing in the region has devastated fish populations, with serious consequences for the reef systems and for the Vezo tribe.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Starfish in Toliar Barrier Reef Photo
In addition to overfishing and destructive fishing practices, land pollution and the harmful effects of climate change can also have serious consequences for fragile coral reef ecosystems.
©Caleb McClennen/WCS
Ben Mahafalay Madagascar Marine Photo
WCS conservationist Bemahafaly Randriamanantsoa (center) monitors fishing activity to ensure catches meet size requirements. WCS has been helping the reef’s depleted fish stocks recover by establishing marine reserves that are subject to temporary closures.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Shark finning Photo
In addition to fishing, the Vezo people also hunt coastal dolphins and sharks in local waters. A growing global market for shark fins is depleting shark populations around the world.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Madagascar Photo
Though the Vezo people have had very limited economic opportunities, tourists are beginning to visit new resorts in the area. WCS is working to ensure the tourism industry grows sustainably and with respect for this spectacular seascape.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS

Coastal waters, rivers, coral reefs, lagoons, and inlets maintain ecosystems and provide habitat for fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, corals, and plants. They also feed and create revenue for many local communities. Despite the existence of longstanding traditions to sustain local fisheries, there are many sites in which modern fishing practices, overfishing, environmental degradation, and development are imposing unprecedented pressure on the ecosystems. These pressures threaten the biological functions these aquatic systems perform, the wildlife they support, and the communities they nourish.

In fishing villages from the Pacific to the Caribbean, WCS field staff are working to engage local communities in conservation initiatives, management plans, and ecotourism planning. They train local people to collect data, survey land and sea sites, patrol beaches, and enforce the laws and traditions that help sustain marine resources. Our conservationists pinpoint environmental threats, establish marine protected areas, raise awareness, support education programs through local universities, and advise on national and local policies, such as the rezoning of Indonesia's Karimunjawa National Park.

From the Newsroom

Charting New Waters at Glover’s ReefApril 23, 2012

With support from the Summit Foundation, WCS conservationists and their local and international partners have introduced a new system of managed access to the Glover's Reef Marine Reserve’s conch fishery.

In Fiji, a Fishing Fundraiser Takes a TollMarch 23, 2012

When local fishers in Kia Island opened a protected coral reef to fishing for a short-term community fundraising effort, the effects of the harvest bore long-term consequences for the reef's health.

Marine Mammals on the MenuJanuary 24, 2012

A newly released study finds that people are increasingly consuming marine mammals—including some very rare species, like the Fraser’s dolphin—in more than 100 countries around the world.

WCS Wins Grand Prize for Fisheries ProjectJanuary 10, 2012

A WCS marine project to reduce bycatch in Kenya and Curacao through a low-cost, low-tech fish trap design takes the top honor in a contest sponsored by Rare, in partnership with National Geographic.

Protecting a Lagoon’s Food Chain, Top to BottomDecember 22, 2011

Researchers find that fishery closures in Belize’s Glover’s Reef help barracudas, groupers, and other predatory fish recover while the parrotfish and other herbivores essential for reef recovery still need more protection.

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