Marine ecosystems and traditional coastal livelihoods are facing unprecedented pressures from overfishing and climate change. In countries like Madagascar, where there is limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation, empowering fishing communities to manage their own resources is vitally important.
For the Vezo people of Southwest Madagascar, octopus is one of their most important marine resources. Fished by men and women alike, octopus from some of Madagascar’s remotest villages can end up reaching restaurants and supermarket shelves in southern Europe, providing a valuable source of income for the fishers.
As part of Blue Ventures’ rebuilding fisheries programme, locally led octopus fishery monitoring has been established in villages along the coast of Southwest Madagascar. The aim of this monitoring is to follow the evolution of octopus catch data, and the livelihoods of the Vezo fishing communities over time, with the end goal of informing management decisions made by the communities.
Blue Ventures’ Data Management Assistant, Herizo Rafanomezantsoa, visits these communities regularly to supervise and train the octopus fisheries data collectors. Following the conclusion of his recent October visits, we were able to catch up with Herizo to find out more about his work.
Tell us about your recent visits. What is it that you do?
From the 7th October to the 18th of October, I was following up with fisheries data collectors along the Southwest coast. From Ambatomilo to Ifaty, I visited each village where there were data collectors present, and made sure that they were using functional equipment and collecting data efficiently and accurately.
To ensure the validity of their data, I watch the data collectors work, and help them when I see space for improvement or when I see errors being made. I make sure that they have recorded information on each octopus’ sex, individual weight, where it was caught, and the fishers’ name, age, sex, and their fishing effort.
The data collectors use both notebooks and smartphones to record data, first recording in rough format in the notebooks and later transferring to the phone. My role often involves training them to use these tools in the most effective way.
What problems can occur when collecting data?
The weighing scales can become inaccurate if used intensively for a long time. In every village I make sure that all the scales are giving accurate weights, and do repairs if necessary. Sometimes they just need a little bit of oil to start working properly again.
All the data collecting equipment is checked in this way, including the pens, timekeepers, notebooks, and phones. In my October visit there were two scales that needed to be replaced, some more that needed oil, but everything else was fully functioning.
The data collectors sometimes write their draft notes but then forget to transfer them into their smartphone later, and at other times crucial errors in their written notes are replicated in the forms on the phone. Occasional quiet, calm moments are needed to carefully insert accurate data into smartphones so this usually takes place back home.
How many data collectors are there in each village?
There are nine data collectors in total, seven women and two men, and they are spread out across the villages on the Southwest coast. Vantine, Sendra and Denise (below) are the 3 data collectors in Ambatomilo.
Why do you think it’s important to visit the data collectors regularly?
Fixing the equipment and correcting the mistakes is important, but it is also my job to provide feedback and encourage the data collectors to ensure that they remain motivated. By listening to and understanding their needs we can help them feel valued and ensure the continuing success of the project.
Why do you think coastal community members agree to be data collectors?
I asked Theride, the data collector in Tsifota village, that very question, and her answer was this:
“I became a data collector because protecting our marine resources is important. It will enable us to continue catching fish and octopus in the future, and ensure that the next generation can do the same. My message to other data collectors like me is that we have to continue working hard, because our task helps to contribute to long term success for our fisheries.”
Data collectors are not only trained in how to collect data. We also have dissemination sessions where the data that has been collected is summarised in various ways, graphs and infographics, cartoons and we discuss what the results of the data collection are showing, and what it means for fisheries management. We have some more data collection and dissemination sessions with data collectors planned for the next few months across all of our sites in Madagascar including the data collectors that are working with octopus.