Staff Blog by Fran Humber (Marine and Fisheries Scientist)

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    Pirogues are the best way of travelling short distances out here and it was time to make the 40km trip north to Morombe. Our purpose: to collect all the shark and turtle fisheries monitoring data in each of the villages scattered along the coast and islands on the stretch of sea between Andavadoaka and Morombe.

    A strong wind at 6am made the start of our trip fast, although the waves hit the pirogue at the wrong angle causing water to spray in large sheets over us. Vola took the brunt at the front of the boat but within ten minutes we were all soaked. After two hours we arrived at our first stop, the small, sparsely populated island of Andranombala. We met the first data collector, a young woman who owned the only store/bedroom on the island that was piled high with rice, salt and onions. The wind allowed us to cut back eastwards to the village of Bevato. Here we breakfasted on sweet potato and even sweeter coffee whilst visiting two data collectors, although I noticed that our pirogue sailors enjoyed a spot of lobster for their mid-morning snack. Next stop was the island of Nosy Be, surrounded by salty waters from the nearby mangrove forests, but with a prolific shark fishery. Our final stop was the island of Nosy Lava, which is home to a small village and a deserted lighthouse. By the time the last visit was over the sun was setting and we finally reached Morombe in the moonlight. A shower and dinner were eagerly anticipated and the Malagasy music videos accompanying our meal were just another added bonus to the day.

    The following day was spent meeting our two data collectors in Morombe, and by doing a little fruit and vegetable shopping at the market (we had a large number of requests from volunteers and staff for precious pineapples and coconuts). The first meeting was with Rene, a man who buys turtles to sell the meat in Morombe, and the second with Vololo, an officious lady who buys sharks fins to sell to Asian traders. After two days of data collection in the burning heat we allowed ourselves a moment to let the world go by. Sitting on a wall, sipping on a cold beer and eating a fresh mango with Vola, Ben, Thomas and our two pirogue sailors we let the sun set and watched Morombe go about its business. Tomorrow we would spend the day in the pirogue again, journeying back to our home from home, Andavadoaka.