by Jon Schleyer, Blue Ventures Film Maker, Madagascar
Three years ago, on my first trip to Madagascar, I settled in for an exceptional adventure as I embarked on a pirogue (dugout outrigger canoe with a large square sail rig) to cruise up the west coast of the island from Andavadoaka to Morondava. My aim was to visit the fishing villages up the barrier reef that caught shark. I had seen a large shark being butchered amongst the huts of the community where I had been staying and was intrigued as to how they caught such a huge beast in their precarious looking vessels. More than that, I wanted to see the infrastructure of Blue Ventures’ shark monitoring program – that had only recently been initiated. Here, as in so many places around the globe, sharks are badly overfished as their fins are the most lucrative catch that a Vezo fisherman can make.
On that trip I saw how locally employed monitors were keeping track of the sharks pulled in on nets set a great distance offshore. Keeping track of what was out there and what was pulled in was a first step to figuring out the shark population and how it was being affected by this intense fishing pressure.
Now I’m returning and I can again delve into the practice and see how the studies of this part of the fishing industry are progressing. Whether shark have a future in these waters and whether it depends on the Vezo again taking the initiative as a community to sustain their resources in developing a strategy to keep the sharks in their sea healthy.
Born and raised in Durban, South Africa, and son of an esteemed Marine Biologist, I got the ocean bug early. This passion has remained with me through a number of career diversions and finally surfaced into a career of its own when I left my last mainstream job in 2008. Since then I have been travelling the world filming beneath the waves trying to capture its beauty and magnificence as well as the issues and efforts that are under way to keep it this way.
This is my third trip to the west coast of Madagascar to see the great progress being made by the communities towards sustaining their marine resources. It is two and a half years since I was last in the area so I am excited to see what developments have occurred after my previous visit. I also look forward to being on this voyage to the Barren Islands of Maintirano at the edge of Vezo influence to see how the fringes of the community live and how they face the challenges that these remote, Barren Isles present them. It will be interesting, exciting and no doubt a beautiful and memorable journey and I am excited to be part of the team capturing and documenting this for the future.