Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean is a global hotspot for shark and ray biodiversity. However, as is the case globally, sharks and rays are under extreme threat throughout the region. Sharks and rays are fished extensively by small-scale and industrial fishers all along the west coast both through targeted fishing (for meat, oil and fins) and as incidental catch.
Little data is available on stocks or targeted or incidental capture but anecdotal evidence suggests that shark numbers have rapidly declined in the last two decades. Nevertheless, the Government of Madagascar has shown its willingness to advance national policy initiatives in relation to shark conservation. WCS is leading a process to support the Government to develop a national roadmap for shark and ray conservation.
Madagascar, a leader in field-level shark and ray conservation efforts that involve local fishing communities
In Antongil Bay, in the northeast of the country, which is a shark and ray hotspot with 19 species recorded, WCS has supported the creation of 26 LMMAs across more than 1000 square miles. This area was declared by the Government as a shark sanctuary in 2014 and WCS works with these communities and the national Government to enforce a shark-fishing ban across the entire bay. WCS has been testing models for community-led enforcement systems and low-tech ecological and capture monitoring in Antongil Bay and the initial results have been promising. WCS has also been supporting the creation of fisheries replenishment zones and gear restrictions in the LMMAs, which have gained widespread community and Government support
In the northwest of Madagascar WCS has been deploying BRUV (Baited Remote Underwater Video) systems to better understand the dynamics of shark populations in the Ankivonjy and Ankarea MPAs. This information will be used to incorporate specific conservation actions into the MPA management plans.
Underwater sampling of sharks and rays in NW Madagascar
In the southwest of Madagascar BRUV deployment and catch and market surveys will be used to better understand the threats that sharks and rays are facing, and the importance of these species to food security in this region. Extensive community-based monitoring of shark fisheries for local management has also been developed in SW Madagascar, with best practice guidelines due for inclusion in an upcoming toolkit for rapid assessment for data analysis and acquisition for shark conservation and management.