by Sophie Andriamalala, Southwest Regional Coordinator, Madagascar

For the last two weeks the octopus team in Toliara have spent 10 hours a day staring at our computer screens and cleaning, checking and organising over 900 notebooks filled to the brim with 8 years of octopus fishery data. One might say a thankless task, but I was able to feel a sense of pride when these individual spread sheets were successfully compiled into our master database, and at the click of a button summary results were being churned out.

The joys of octopus checking

The wonders of modern technology and the generosity of people who know how to use it is fantastic. An internet plea for some database help put me in touch with Paul Hamill, a database programming expert from Leeds in the UK. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty to understand my no doubt poorly explained requirements and work through the snags and pitfalls of Microsoft Access to hugely facilitate monthly data reporting from the project – in not one language but three! We plan to use these new and improved monthly outputs to help guide the newly formed regional octopus fishery management committee here in Madagascar, allowing us to react quickly if the fishery shows any signs of serious decline.

Sample of monthly reporting output

After a data-filled 2 weeks, I now find myself in Madagascar’s capital, Tana, helping Ryan Vickers, a fantastic independent film maker, edit 9 hours of footage from both the most recent temporary octopus fishing closures in the southwest AND the first ever national octopus fishing closure in Rodrigues (a small island territory of Mauritius). The editing process has been really fascinating; after having done several rounds of comments on a written storyboard it is so very cool to see the looks on people’s faces on film. The movie is slowly starting to take shape on the computer and I am already excited about the first screening.

Ryan editing footage in his home studio

I have also been tasked to narrate the movie, as apparently British women make for the most clear and easily understood voice overs. Not something I have any previous experience with, but with a lot of time spent acting and singing in my youth (I think I can say that now as I just turned 30 last week!) I am seemingly a natural :-). The recording process was fun and challenging: imagining I was presenting to a large audience rather than a filing cabinet with data, and trying to give every phrase the right emphasis to impress upon viewers the immense amount of work over the last decade in Madagascar that has gone into making these closures such a huge success.

Sophie recording the narration for the film

I hope these movies, commissioned by SmartFish and the EU, in three different lengths for different target audiences, will be a shining testament to the work of the whole BV octopus team who has contributed to octopus closure management. I hope the guys in Andavadoaka and Toliara will be as proud of this movie as I am, and I am so looking forward to seeing their reactions when they watch it for the first time in the New Year.

Posted by Sophie Benbow

Sophie managed our sustainable fisheries programme from 2010 until 2013, supporting communities along Madagascar's southwest coast to establish periodic octopus reserves.

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