Protected area is Indian Ocean nation’s first shark sanctuary.
The Madagascar government has established its first shark sanctuary in an area celebrated for marine biodiversity. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the new marine protections apply to Antongil Bay, located in northwestern Madagascar and renowned for its coral reefs and seasonal humpback whale population.
The measures will help protect Antongil Bay's marine ecosystems and 19 shark species while supporting local livelihoods. These include the shark sanctuary; restrictions on international fishing boats in the bay; the establishment of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs); and the granting of exclusive use and management rights to local communities.
According to the WCS, the new measures will improve local governance over marine resources. "The new law legally empowers local communities to manage nearshore fishing grounds through a growing network of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), 25 of which have already been established with the support of WCS," said the group. "The regulations of these areas—including no-take marine reserves and temporary closures—are locally designed and enforced.
By securing management and use rights of LMMAs for local communities for the first time in Madagascar, the law aims to transform marine resources from open access areas that typically result in short-term exploitation at the expense of long-term sustainability to exclusive access for local fishers who can garner the benefits of managing their own marine resources."
The new protections are set to bolster conservation in the region, regarded as one of the most bio-diverse in the country. In addition to existing marine protected areas in the bay, adjacent forests are legally protected in Masoala National Park and Makira Natural Park, although both parks have been hit by illegal logging and poaching in recent years.