How can marine parks fulfil their mission of protecting endangered marine species and habitats and safeguarding fisheries for the future when they are chronically under-funded and lack technical and human resources with which to do their job?
This is the ultimate issue we need to deal with when we want to conserve a country’s prime marine biodiversity. The other issue is that even with financial and technical support, actions will only be sustained by full engagement in the design and implementation of conservation activities by the local community.
In the Nosy Hara archipelago, C3 Madagascar & Indian Ocean islands programme is working closely with Madagascar National Parks (MNP) and local communities to implement an innovative Environmental Stewardship Project (ESP). In essence, the community is organised in delivering a number of conservation activities, (e.g. eradication of gillnet usage in important dugong and sea turtle feeding areas, zero harvesting of mangrove forests, no fishing in a specific zone) through a Project Steering Committee and Conservation Ambassadors elected by the community.
Every quarter their performance is assessed, and if all conservation targets are met, the community receives benefits in terms of improved sanitation, education, enterprise development and/or health services. The services identified as priorities have been determined through extensive community consultations and socio-economic surveys carried out over the preceding three years. These priorities have thus truly been identified by the community themselves, with no external influence from us or anyone else.
The result is that the community then draw a direct link between their safeguarding of environmental resources with an improvement in their quality of life and they are truly incentivized to participate and drive marine conservation efforts. This results in positive impacts for species and ecosystems, safeguarding of harvestable marine resources for the future and an easier job for the Park staff in fulfilling their remit… everyone’s a winner!