Malagasy family help their father carry his boat out to fish. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
A new study warns that overfishing could exacerbate poverty and political stability in one of the world’s poorest nations: Madagascar. According to the recent study published in Marine Policy, fish catches in the African island-nation from 1950 to 2008 are actually double the official numbers, with foreign wealthy nations currently taking half the haul.
“Both increasing pressure by local fishing communities and demand from the international market could accelerate the downward trends we see in Madagascar’s fisheries,” says lead author Frédéric Le Manach, a graduate student at the University of Plymouth in the UK.
Access to fishing areas around Madagascar for foreign fleets have been set by way official numbers, yet according to the study these numbers have been artificially low for over half a century, which has led to substantial overfishing around the island.
“Signs of decline have already been observed in several stocks, suggesting that current levels of catches are likely to be exceeding sustainable yields. This has profound implications for the economic and ecological sustainability of fisheries, as well as food security in a country where people rely heavily on the ocean for their daily protein needs and livelihoods,” reads the study.
Currently around 70 percent of people in Madagascar suffer from malnutrition while two-thirds of the population live below the international poverty line, making less than $1.25 a day. In addition, the nation has seen massive population growth, with officials estimating that during the 20th Century the population boomed from 2.2 million to nearly 12 million by the 1990s. Over half the population is under 20.
“Securing Madagascar’s fisheries for local consumption is of paramount importance to Madagascar’s sustainable economic development,” Alasdair Harris, a Malagasy marine scientist, said in a press release.
According to the study 80,000 tonnes of seafood from Madagascar’s seas are shipped abroad annually, mostly to Europe and Asia.
“This study is yet another demonstration of how overfishing impacts humans in different parts of the world,” says supervising author Dirk Zeller with The Sea Around Us Project. “In the case of Madagascar, overfishing does not threaten to undermine a nice meal at a restaurant, but one of the mainstays of human survival.”
CITATION: Frédéric Le Manach, Charlotte Gough, Alasdair Harris, Frances Humber, Sarah Harper, Dirk Zeller. Unreported fishing, hungry people and political turmoil: the recipe for a food security crisis in Madagascar? Marine Policy. Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 218-225.
(10/10/2011) This weekend around 500 people showed up for a rally and concert in Nashville, Tennessee. The rally was in support of Gibson Guitars, a US-company currently under investigation for allegedly importing illegally logged wood into the country, an action that breaks a recent bipartisan amendment to the Lacey Act. While the Tea Party-affiliated groups that held the rally were expressing frustration with perceived over-regulation by the federal government, the issue at stake—a global effort to help stem illegal logging—was actually overlooked by the organizers.
(09/29/2011) Following a logging crisis in 2009 where a number of Madagascar’s remaining forests were illegally cut, the African nation has turned to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help regulate 91 species of rosewood and ebony. “Regulating trade in these high-value timber species under CITES will help ensure that the benefits of trade flow to local people and it will also serve the global community by helping conserve these species, which will be to the benefit of entire ecosystems.”
(08/25/2011) ith illegal timber stocks continuing to build due ongoing logging in its rainforest parks and under pressure from powerful timber traders, Madagascar’s political leaders are debating a plan to lift a ban on precious wood exports. Environmentalists fear the move — without proper safeguards — could effectively reward illegal loggers and drive further exploitation the country’s remaining forests.