Antongil bay seascape represents some of the largest expanse of continuous pristine coastal habitat in Madagascar, with high marine productivity and diversity. Surrounded by lush tropical forests, Antongil Bay is the largest and most productive bay in the Western Indian Ocean also serving as a mating and nursery ground for many marine species such as sharks and humpback whales. The bay is globally important for its role as a mating ground for humpback whales, and is one of the largest and best-studied wintering sites in the Indian Ocean. Research in Antongil Bay suggests that the population of humpback whales utilizing the Bay is composed of approximately 7000 individuals and is continuing to recover from depletion by commercial whaling that occurred in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The bay contains many marine habitats: estuaries, mangroves, rocky shores, highly resilient coral reefs, and seagrass beds. Antongil Bay is home to mangroves and coral reef habitats, as well as 13 marine mammal species, 3 marine turtle species, and around 140 fish species.
Overexploitation due to increasing human population, destructive fishing practices, and lack of compliance with fishing gear restrictions are driving degradation of coastal habitat and the bay’s fisheries, including a loss of coral reefs and declines in fish and invertebrate abundance. Antongil Bay faces threats from high fishing pressure and illegal fishing, depletion of mangrove forests, sedimentation from terrestrial runoff, climate change and petroleum industry exploration and production.
WCS first involvement in the area led to the implementation in 1997 of the three marine parks of Masoala National Park, the characterization of fisheries present in the region, the identification of Antongil Bay as an important wintering habitat for humpback whales, the development of regulations on whale watching activities in Madagascar to minimize the negative effects associated with whale watching, the production of a waterproof guide on Marine Mammals of Madagascar and the implementation of an integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) strategy with several successes to date:
capacity building of environmental community based organizations (such as PCDDBA, finalist of 2012 UNDP Equator Prize), the ban of beach seining - a destructive fishing practice, the adoption of a community- focused and spatially-explicit zoning plan for targeting actions in the terrestrial and near shore to promote sustainable and adaptive management of the bay and surrounding areas, the creation and management of 26 locally managed marine areas (LMMA), the adoption of a multi stakeholders platform – the Regional Integrated Coastal Zone Management Committee, and the monitoring of critical habitats and species conditions to inform adaptive management.