It’s been an interesting weekend in Andavadoaka on the science front, with visiting teams here from the IHSM (the ‘Institute Halieutique et des Sciences Marines’ – the national marine research institute) and from our project partners the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The IHSM team we here to work with us on a pilot algae farming project, and we spent a happy few hours on Saturday standing in the sea near Ampasilava tying small, carefully weighed bunches of seaweed to long nylon cords. We’ll be going back there in a fortnight at the next low tide to see how much of the installation has survived being beaten by the waves and whether the algae has done any appreciable growing during our absence. WCS meanwhile are here to attend a meeting on the marine protected area we’re working on together – the aim being to bring all the different villages together and to agree on map of different sites and reserves that will be included in the management plan. Before that meeting however we’ll be off with WCS doing some exporatory diving on reef sites that have been suggested as potential no-take-zones. Some of them we know and have dived before, but others are totally unknown to us and are probably places that no one has ever dived before, at least not with a scuba tank.
Expect further updates over the coming weeks on new sites explored. In the meantime here’s a report from one of our field scientists Ashley Sprague on another acquaculture project that we’re planning with the IHSM – this time on sea cucumbers:
During our last interphase in Tulear the Blue Ventures science team met with staff from Copefrito and a leading Belgian researcher to discuss the possibility of bringing sea cucumber aquaculture to Andavadoaka. Research has been underway for some time at the IHSM on sea cucumber reproduction and growth. Recently IHSM conducted a trial experiment using juvenile cucumbers reared in a lab and transferred
them to the sea for 9 months to mature into adults. The results from the trial period look very promising, with the only major problem encountered being that several adult sea cucumbers were stolen from their underwater growth chambers by local fishermen before the 9 month growth period was over. Sea cucumbers have a relatively high
market value, so unfortunately the temptation was too much for some and in the end very few adult cucumbers were harvested. Therefore IHSM – with the help of Blue Ventures – would like to conduct another trial growth study in Andavadoaka. An area of Mangrove Bay, including all of the mangrove forest and a neighboring seagrass bed, has been proposed as a potential site in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) that
is being established as a joint project between fishermen from Andavadoaka and surrounding villages, IHSM, WCS, BV, IRD and others and we’re hoping that this bay will prove to be a suitable environment for sea cucumber aquaculture. The fact that it is to be include in the marine protected area should also mean that it will be
relatively easy to guard, as fishing activity in the area will in any case be regulated and enforced as a result of the MPA plans. In the longer term it is possible that sea cucumber farming could provide a source of alternate income for the people of Andavadoaka, as well as relieve some of the fishing pressure on octopus and reef fishes. If all goes well, we may be starting a trial in-water growth period in
six months from now, when a new batch of juveniles are ready.