Conservation progressing rapidly in Sahamalaza Marine and Costal UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

August 22, 2016

MG4 Project Update: Jan thru June 2016

In this period, COSAP Sahamalaza worked on the establishment of seven new governance formations across the Sahamalaza Marine and Costal UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (70% of members being fishermen), which would set the conditions for introducing sustainable resource use and management (“dina”) in the area, including dugong and seagrass monitoring. The capacity for dugong and seagrass monitoring of the new and four existing governance structures in Sahamalaza was built through dedicated trainings carried out in February and May.

Information on knowledge gaps on dugong and seagrasses in Sahamalaza was collected from 10 sites using the CMS Dugong MoU bycatch questionnaire.

The results from the questionnaire showed that in 2015, sightings of dugongs occurred in the coastal waters of Berafia, where large seagrass meadows were present.

This information was used to identify seagrass hotspots and further do field researches to map and zone seagrass habitats in Sahamalaza – a field expedition of a team of ten, including representatives of the technical staff of the Park managers (MNP Sahamalaza), members of COSAP and representatives of communities in fishing villages was carried out to collect ground-truth data on seagrass distribution reported by the community.

The seagrass habitat in Sahamalaza were shown to be in good condition, occupying a total area of 6,465 ha.

More about the status of seagrass can be found in the updated Management Plan of Sahamalaza MNP. Mapping of the existing seagrass habitat was done by the GIS specialist of the MNP Sahamalaza. The data and maps were further integrated in the updated management plan of Sahamalaza National Park, which was released in this reporting period. They were also the basis for the development of a community-based monitoring programme, adopting the management regime and restrictions applied to different zones (dina).

Dinas were prepared by COSAP Sahamalaza and the information was brought to the knowledge of people through meetings, trainings and awareness raising campaigns (see further in this section for reference). The dina of each local convention for the protection of coastal habitats and endangered migratory species in the surrounding of the respective fishermen villages was legally recognised by the commune authority.

Three dugong hotspots were identified in Sahamalaza – Ambatolava (East of Berafia island), Ankasetra (West of Valiha island) and Ambatobe (in Sahamalaza bay)

and three communities were identified to monitor their status (in Dauphin, Voromailala and Avotra). To serve this purpose, community-based protocols were developed under MG4 (Seagrass beds are monitored by Madagascar National Parks).

Patrolling in Sahamalaza is carried out in a participatory manner, involving the 20 existing governance structures. During the reporting period, the governance structures patrolled for 960 Person/Day.

During the survey (CMS Dugong MoU questionnaire) of local communities, COSAP Sahamalaza collected information on the existing alternative source of income/ living of the communities. Agriculture and apiculture were found to be the most common alternatives to fishing. The Partner also identified interest in ameliorated rice cultivation, which would be taken into account in the development of strategies to income diversification for avoiding direct hunting of seagrass dependent migratory species in Sahamalaza.

The results from the CMS Dugong MoU questionnaire also revealed that dugongs are valuable to local communities because of the taste of their meat. The information was used by COSAP Sahamalaza to adapt their approach to the awareness raising campaign for dugongs, seagrass and related dina, targeting local communities.

The awareness raising included the development and dissemination of an education book on dugongs and seagrass in Sahamalaza (in Malagasy and French) and trainings of the 10 villages in Sahamalaza, and a weekly radio campaign

(broadcasting) about dugongs, run since March (due to technical problems, the radio station stopped any broadcasting in April-June – the radio campaign will continue after the problem is fixed).