by Jérémie Bossert, Belo sur Mer Conservation Coordinator, Madagascar
It’s the 23rd of September 2012, and dawn is breaking on the fifth reserve opening in the Belo sur Mer region, today in the village of Antanimanimbo. After six months without any fishing activity in the wide mangrove creek of Bezaha, the opening was set to be a major event for the village, and it thankfully didn’t disappoint!
Two days before the opening, a special evening event was organised by the Blue Ventures team, alongside the chief of Antanimanimbo and the community association’s president, to explain the rules around the reserve opening in the neighbouring village.
The most efficient way to bring the community together is to play popular Malagasy video clips, after which our community liaison, Thomas, explains about the temporary reserves and presiding officials make speeches. Luckily the talking doesn’t weaken the children’s attention, as they know that their favourite moment is still to come – the cinema! A documentary on the marine world is projected on a big white sail and the public reacts to the presenter’s comments with loud “Oohs” and “Aaahs”!
The evening was also a good occasion to present myself as the latest Blue Ventures addition to the village; the new project coordinator for the Belo sur Mer site. The reserve opening was also preceded by short speeches and lots of music and dancing in Antanimanimbo village. Shortly before what was to become a big rush into the mangrove, the village elders greeted the ancestors at the mangrove’s entrance, asking for their blessing on the opening, and to make it a grand success.
The request seemed to have been accepted, because just as the pirogues started to take their positions and the nets were set, the fish quickly filled them and were even seen jumping in the air and sometimes directly into the pirogues! There was a similar accumulation of crabs, which very much pleased those fishermen who were targeting them. A young green turtle (Chelonia mydas) unfortunately also got entangled in a net, but after measuring it and weighing it for BV’s research data, it was released by some very happy children, whose actions reminded them of the turtle festival organised by BV last year.
Everybody complied energetically with the fish monitoring stop coordinated by BV on the way out of the mangrove, despite the queue. It was an occasion for whole families to compare their catches. As it is still the school holiday period, everyone (including BV staff!) could be part of what was a great fishing day.
Total catches for the reserve’s opening day totalled 1,409 kilograms, including over 900 kilograms of fish and 400 kilograms of crab, as well as shrimp and sea cucumbers. Needless to say, the community is eager to implement another reserve in the future.