Smartfish-eries and marine protected areas

by Sophie Benbow, Southwest Regional Coordinator, Madagascar

I recently travelled to Mauritius to attend a workshop funded by the FAO and the EU funded Smartfish programme. A very exciting opportunity which generated some very jealous comments from my UK based friends, although I tried to play it down as the equivalent of someone from London popping over to the Costa del Sol for a beach holiday. A mere 1½ hours plane ride from Tana, the volcanic island of Mauritius is an impressive site to behold when you fly over it, lush green sugar cane fields and tall black volcanic peaks fill the centre, and the coastal areas are encased with patchy reefs.

The amazing view from my hotel window

The workshop itself was held in a luxury resort (as these things usually are) in air conditioned splendour so all the participants were warmly dressed despite the never ending sunshine outside. I found myself in a lovely, brand new hotel in the centre of Flic-en-Flac and caused much concern from the concierge when I said that I was planning on walking to the workshop venue. It seems Mauritius; despite its small size, is not a place to stroll around. On my 20 minute commute to the workshop I saw just 2 or 3 fellow walkers, but was passed by more than 20 cars zooming along the coastal road faster than the speed limit would suggest is allowed. But despite the odd looks I received and near misses with speeding vehicles, I enjoyed the exercise!

The workshop itself was really interesting. It is always great to hear inspiring stories of community conservation and fisheries management from other countries, and it was also really brilliant to hear from government representatives who are pushing to increase the number of protected areas in their waters. I presented the octopus story from southwest Madagascar, the history of the Velondriake LMMA being formed as a result of small scale temporary octopus fishery closures. An impressive story on its own, but even more inspiring when presented to fishery ministers from Kenya where there is currently no octopus fishery management and Tanzania which is trying to implement management at the moment. Several other countries, including Comoros, Reunion and Mayotte reported that the octopus fishery is small and management has yet to be introduced, compared to the example of Rodrigues where the first nationwide octopus fishery closure, modelled on the management initiated in Velondriake is due to close in August.

Octopus species are an excellent management target, well suited to short term management techniques and I hope that over the coming months we can continue to build on the links made at this workshop to replicate the successful temporary closures model to other octopus fisheries throughout the region.

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Sophie Benbow

Sustainable Fisheries Programme Manager
Sophie currently manages all aspects of the first regional stock assessment for Octopus cyanea in southwest Madagascar including logistics and financial reporting, staff and data management and final report production. She also works with the Field Scientist team on site to ensure data collection and analysis for the coral reef monitoring programme is of a high standard and to facilitate report production. "The octopus research projects have progressed from strength to strength and represent a truly innovative approach to conservation with impressive and measurable outputs which directly improve the lives of local communities" Sophie was awarded an honours degree in Zoology from Durham University, UK and then went on to complete her Masters in Conservation at University College London. She joined Blue Ventures as a Science Intern in the London Office in 2006 before her first vist to Madagascar as a Field Scientist in February 2007. She re joined the Madagascar team as Marine Science Coordinator in Andavadoaka in May 2009 after a brief stint working as a coral reef biologist in the Philippines. Sophie has held her current position as Manager of the first regional stock assessment for octopus since August 2010
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About Sophie Benbow

Sophie currently manages all aspects of the first regional stock assessment for Octopus cyanea in southwest Madagascar including logistics and financial reporting, staff and data management and final report production. She also works with the Field Scientist team on site to ensure data collection and analysis for the coral reef monitoring programme is of a high standard and to facilitate report production. "The octopus research projects have progressed from strength to strength and represent a truly innovative approach to conservation with impressive and measurable outputs which directly improve the lives of local communities" Sophie was awarded an honours degree in Zoology from Durham University, UK and then went on to complete her Masters in Conservation at University College London. She joined Blue Ventures as a Science Intern in the London Office in 2006 before her first vist to Madagascar as a Field Scientist in February 2007. She re joined the Madagascar team as Marine Science Coordinator in Andavadoaka in May 2009 after a brief stint working as a coral reef biologist in the Philippines. Sophie has held her current position as Manager of the first regional stock assessment for octopus since August 2010