Ocean Witness Hermany was born and raised in a small coastal village in southwest Madagascar and the ocean has always been a large part of his life. He’s now the president of MIHARI (Madagascar’s network of Locally Managed Marine Areas) and not without success : already 17% of Madagascar’s seas are now under local management. Today we share his story.

You grew up in a small coastal village, so you must have many early memories of the ocean. What can you share with us about your earliest memories?

I recall the first time my father brought me with him when he went fishing, I was eight at that time, and we saw a tremendous marine gastropod! It was a huge and bright red snail, and I was absolutely fascinated by it. I will never forget that moment.

What does the ocean mean to you today?

The ocean means a lot to me. When I was a fisherman, it was my office, and I used to go to work there every day. I also love it for the blessings it gives us, and for the fascinating ecosystems it contains. My journey with marine conservation began over ten years ago. I joined the management association for FIMIMANO, the LMMA (Locally Marine Managed Area) that includes Anakao, Madagascar, because I wanted to become more involved in protecting our marine resources.

So you’ve seen the ocean from different perspectives: as a child, as a fisherman and now as a marine conservationist. What changes have you witnessed in the ocean?

Besides destructive fishing and overexploitation, one of the biggest changes I have seen in my life is an increase in the destruction of coral, and I know that this is partially due to climate change. I am worried about the decline of these crucial ecosystems because that will affect our catches, and our livelihoods and families depend on these catches.

“I strongly believe in the benefits of working together to protect our marine resources. By working together, Madagascar’s small-scale fisheries can become sustainable.” Hermany

And what do you do to personally (or as a community) contribute to changing this in a positive way?

I strongly believe in the benefits of working together to protect our marine resources, and MIHARI helps us learn from each other and make decisions together. I wanted to help increase the effectiveness of LMMAs beyond FIMIMANO, so I ran successfully for president in 2007. As the president of the MIHARI Network, I can communicate with regional and national authorities on behalf of Madagascar’s LMMAs. It will hopefully be far easier now for me to help ideas turn into actions, to advocate for change at a national level, and I will strive to develop the MIHARI Network and address the issues affecting fishing communities around the country.

Read full post on Ocean Witness’s website