By Kame Westerman, Velondriake MPA Project Coordinator, Andavadoaka, Madagascar. On Saturday, Feb 5th, four temporary octopus reserves in northern Velondriake opened after a two month closure. The reserves were officially opened with a blessing from the ancestors and well over 100 locals in each village took to the reef flats bearing spears and buckets.
Blue Ventures staff were on hand to record data (weight and sex) for each octopus caught. Several more reserves in southern Velondriake will open in the next month, bringing the total number of successful octopus reserve closures close to 60.
Enabling community members to observe first-hand that reserves are beneficial is essential in building support for community conservation activities. In Velondriake, Blue Ventures has implemented a simple community-based monitoring program to do just that. In each village with a reserve (octopus, fish, or mangrove) several community members are selected to participate in surveying the health of their reserve using techniques such as transects, timed swims, and quadrats. Blue Ventures recently hired and trained two new staff members who will be in charge of facilitating this participative process across Velondriake. With their guidance, villages will be able to understand how important and useful reserves are, and even advocate for more in the future.