Madagascan Shark Sanctuary

You may be aware that Madagascar has recently set in motion the creation of its first marine sanctuary for sharks. The new law will make Antongil Bay, a 1,4462 mile body of water, an area off limits to international fishermen where only local coastal communities may fish. By working with local communities and agencies to establish a management plan it is hoped that the venture will ensure long term success and sustainability. Antongil Bay provides a habitat for 19 species of shark, a third of which are at risk from unregulated fishing. The marine sanctuary will rely on local communities to manage near shore fisheries and ensure that the new law, especially in the no take zones, is enforced.

Overfishing is a chronic problem in Madagascar, the officially reported annual catch may in fact be almost twice as high due in part to widespread unregulated fishing. In addition to this, foreign fishing fleets from Europe and Asia catch around 80,000 tonnes of seafood per annum, equivalent to the amount caught by locals. The question of where the food consumed in European and Asian markets comes from is highly important. The local shrimp fisheries, which used to produce around 12,000 tonnes of seafood annually is now in decline as a result of high harvest rates. The majority of the seafood harvested from these fisheries is bound for export to developed countries, the question is therefore: should people in developed countries offset ecological damage in their own areas by facilitating it elsewhere? The answer to this question probably isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. By boycotting fishing practices that are bad from an ecological standpoint we put some of the poorest people in the world out of work which only exacerbates existing problems of poverty in countries like Madagascar. There is certainly a need to address the markets through which seafood travels from the developing world into the developed world. Currently these markets support unsustainable practices that in the long run are negatively effecting fishermen’s livelihoods and economic prospects, marine sanctuaries (if successful) may be one way in which change can be affected.

Sources

  1. Madagascar creates shark park – Science Daily
  2. Madagascar marine resources plundered by international seafood markets – Science Daily
  3. MADAGASCAR: Too few sharks is a bad thing – IRIN
  4. Shark Fishers in Madagascar Sell Fins for Pennies – National Geographic
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