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MADAGASCAR MARINE

Project Goal 

To help protect marine and coastal habitats through an integrated approach to improved management, 
working closely with local communities to develop sustainable fisheries plans and to ensure their long term 
access to natural resources.

Project location 

Ambalahonko, Nosy Be Island, northwest Madagascar

Activities

Surveys of the biodiversity of Nosy Be’s marine ecosystems (focussing on coral reefs and mangrove

   forests), including assessments of population trends and the impacts of human activities;
Comparative studies of coral reef systems at various distances from onshore and offshore protected areas,
   assessing the effects of protection on marine biodiversity;
Mapping of all marine habitats, both underwater and intertidal zones;
Socio-economic surveys, assessing current fishing practices and their impacts on marine ecosystems;
Environmental education in local villages, working towards establishing more sustainable local fisheries.

Background 

Madagascar is an island nation situated in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mozambique in southeast 
Africa. With a total land area of 581,540 km2, it is the fourth largest island in the world and home to a 
population of over 21 million people. Madagascar was part of the French Colonial Empire from 1890 until it became a republic in 1960, and French remains one of the country’s official languages.

As a result of Madagascar’s long isolation from continental Africa, the country is home to many plant and 
animal species that are not found anywhere else in the world. In fact, around 75% of the country’s fauna 
is endemic. However, its terrestrial and marine ecosystems are among the most threatened on earth, 
largely as a result of overexploitation by local communities and international businesses. The country’s
ecotourism industry has seen growth, largely as a result of increasing interest in its unique flora and fauna,
but this has been somewhat disrupted in recent years by political unrest.                                                                 
Madagascar’s marine habitats include coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds. Mean annual open 
water temperatures range from 22OC in the south to 28OC in the north. Unusually high sea temperatures 
were recorded in 1998 and 2001-2003 and were associated with major coral bleaching events. Other threats
to the country’s marine ecosystems include over-fishing and sedimentation as a result of onshore 
deforestation. Ecotourim can also have negative impacts if not well managed, especially on coral reefs.

Madagascar’s coastal communities are heavily reliant on marine resources for subsistence and income. 
Better management of marine ecosystems is thus essential for both the protection of biodiversity and the livelihoods of local people. 

SEE has been conducting marine research and conservation projects in Madagascar since 2000. From 2000
to 2005 our work was focussed in the south, around the coastal village of Anakao. Here we conducted
broad biodiversity surveys of the local marine environments, in-depth studies into particular taxa, and 
socio-economic surveys of local fishing communities. In 2005 our project moved to the Bay of Antsiranana 
in the far north of Madagascar.  Here we worked in collaboration with SAGE (Service d’Appui à la Gestion 
de l’Environnement) to identify regions of the bay with healthy reef systems and to survey local resource use, 
fishing practices and attitudes to the marine environment. Our work highlighted a local decline in the size 
and abundance of some fish species over recent years and as a result various initiatives were established 
with the aim of improving the sustainability of local fishing practices. In late 2010 our Madagascar Marine 
project moved to the island of Nosy Be, off the northwest coast of the mainland. Nosy Be has extensive 
coral reef systems, many of which are yet to be mapped and surveyed. The island has a well established 
tourism industry and thus its marine life is important for local communities both in terms of the natural 
resources it provides and the income it generates from tourists. Heavy use of marine ecosystems by local communities and tourists has the potential to cause long standing impacts and we are therefore working
to establish protocols for monitoring the health of various marine habitats, especially coral reefs. We are 
working closely with Nosy Be’s communities to improve local capacity to monitor and manage marine 
resources and to improve the sustainability of fishing practices. We are also planning to assist the 
Madagascar National Parks authority (MNP) with the implementation of a protected marine zone, with
the aim of protecting fish stocks and other marine biodiversity.


Project partners & staff 

SEE’s partners in Madagascar include:

The University of Antsiranana
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (Government of Madagascar)
The South West Regional Environment Authority (SAGE)




SEE’s Madagascar Marine field team is comprised of a Country Coordinator, a Principal Investigator,
a Dive Officer, several Research Officers and a team of voluntary Research Assistants.