The MIHARI network participated for the first time in the WIOMSA Symposium (Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association), which took place in South Africa from 26 to 30 October 2015. Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, the coordinator of the network, made a poster presentation which focused on an overview of the network, its achievements, challenges and next steps.
While WIOMSA has been traditionally focused on pure marine science, there is a growing recognition of the need for rigourous approaches to look at fisheries and marine protected area governance. Considerable interest in the concept of Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) was noticed amongst participants, in particularly students. Some participants from neighboring countries such as Mauritius, Comoros and Kenya were surprised and impressed to learn that an LMMA network was already functioning in Madagascar.
The WIOMSA symposium was an opportunity to exchange with other networks of protected areas and LMMAs. But participating in the event was primarily an opportunity to promote the existence of the network in the countries of the western Indian Ocean and even internationally.
Apart from the poster presentation, MIHARI also participated in the special session on the proposed establishment of a “Locally Managed Fisheries” network (LMF) in the Western Indian Ocean region. Consultations on the feasibility of this project have been conducted in three countries: Madagascar, Tanzania and Kenya.
Summarising the consultation with representatives from national and regional authorities, Madagascar NGOs and LMMAs, the MIHARI coordinator said in her presentation: “The members of MIHARI are really interested in sharing experience and best practice with LMMA managers in the WIO region. However, there are challenges such as the language barrier between countries, poor communication between LMMAs in Madagascar, MIHARI’s development priorities and resulting constraints on the time and resources of members.”
An LMMA community representative also had the opportunity to participate in the WIOMSA Symposium. Alson Eric Jocelyn, who is the LMMA president in Antanamitarana, a community located in the northwest of Madagascar, said “Participation in WIOMSA was one of the greatest opportunities of my life. This was also my first trip outside Madagascar. It was an opportunity to meet with activists for marine conservation and exchange with representatives from neighboring islands. But the best moment for me was meeting Hugh Govan, the representative of the LMMA Pacific network, who had come to share his experiences with us in Mananara at the National Forum. Unfortunately, time was too short. I would have liked to have met the traditional fishermen of South Africa. […] The establishment of a regional LMF network in the west of the Indian Ocean will facilitate the exchange of good practice between countries, the sharing of common solutions to the challenges faced by managers of LMMAs and a stronger voice for LMMA communities internationally.”