I was sat at my desk in Blue Ventures’ Bristol office last year, listening to a colleague excitedly sharing the news that three temporary octopus fishery closures, instigated in countries thousands of kilometres from one another, were coming to an end. Hearing that the openings of these three fisheries would take place within weeks each other, an idea began to form in my mind…
It’s been 15 years since Blue Ventures supported the community of Andavadoaka in southwest Madagascar to trial their first temporary octopus fishery closure. Thanks to the rapid growth rate of reef octopus, this closure led to compelling economic benefits for the Andavadoaka community, and inspired neighbouring communities to trial their own closures. Soon this approach was going viral along the whole west coast, and communities were forming locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) in order to trial more ambitious conservation measures.
Blue Ventures is now supporting the replication of octopus fishery closures in ten countries across the tropics by working with community-based partner organisations, but rarely have closures occurred in more than one country at the same time. We’ve been documenting opening days for many years, mainly through blogs and photostories, but we’d not yet made a film capturing the moment a community’s hard work and patience pays off. These occasions are usually celebrated with vigour, as families, fishers, community leaders, government officials and conservationists come together to dance, sing, pray and feast before heading out to fish.
The three virtually concurrent openings in Comoros, Indonesia and Madagascar provided the opportunity to tell the story of temporary octopus fishery closures in film from three different perspectives. On Anjouan island in Comoros, and on Darawa island in southeast Sulawesi, communities were coming together to trial closures for the first time, whereas the Andavadoaka community, now part of the Velondriake LMMA, are closure veterans.
Blue Ventures works with the community-based partner organisations Dahari, in Comoros, and FORKANI, in Indonesia, and has a close organisational connection to Andavadoaka with many community members on our staff. I worked with staff from Dahari and FORKANI to design a framework for carrying out interviews and provided some technical guidance for shooting, but our desire was for creative control to be handed to them and the communities so that the story could be told from their perspective. This allowed the narrative to unfold naturally, and I was committed to work with whatever content I got back from the field, and whatever the community responses were to the openings.
It took longer than I anticipated to work through the several hundred gigabytes of footage I got back, and of course there were the usual technical hurdles to overcome: logging and translating footage, working with varying qualities of video and figuring out how to tell a complete story from the interviews I received. The resulting film, ‘OPENING’, is a quirky, often visually inconsistent yet honest portrayal of how each community responded to the opening of their fishery closures in the hours, days and weeks afterwards.
The communities on Anjouan and Darawa show the raw, jubilant reactions of people realising that they have the power to manage their resources themselves. The story from Andavadoaka is more nuanced, analysing how closures have been used over an extended period of time, and what the impact has been.
The film has already been shown to the FORKANI team, who were thrilled to see their management efforts immortalised in film, and how their closure was part of a larger, global movement to empower communities to manage their own marine resources. Further screenings are planned for Anjouan, Darawa and the Velondriake LMMA, and I hope you enjoy the film too.
Read about how participatory video can empower communities to tell their stories.