Madagascar announced its first octopus fishery improvement project (FIP) this month, with representatives of fishing communities, processors, and export companies all signing up to take part.
The FIP will be directed at securing Madagascar’s southwest octopus fishery, the most economically important export fishery to fishing communities of the area, according to Blue Ventures Conservation. The coastal communities in southwest Madagascar are highly dependent on marine fisheries for subsistence and income, as well as being extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and of competition with foreign fishing vessels, the NGO added.
The primary aims of the FIP will be to encourage responsible use of the local octopus population, establishing long-term economic benefits for communities and businesses, and facilitating access to global market spaces interested in responsibly-sourced octopus.
"We're committed to the responsible management of the octopus fishery here in the SW of Madagascar and are proud to be part of this fishery improvement project, it is the right thing for the fishers, the environment, and the supply chain and will ensure we can deliver a sustainable and high-quality octopus product globally now and for generations to come," said Jaco Chan Kit Waye, the managing director of octopus firm Copefrito.
“Octopus is an important species in the Marine Stewardship Council’s global strategy and we recognize the important contribution that this FIP can make to the fisheries of southwest Madagascar and globally. We commend the Ministry of Fisheries, the Regional Direction of Fisheries, octopus processors, fishers and NGOs in undertaking this initiative," added Andrew Gordon, fisheries outreach manager for the Marine Stewardship Council for Southern Africa.
As fish stocks decline and demand soars worldwide, the need for sustainable fisheries in the world’s poorest coastal communities is more pressing than ever, said Blue Ventures Conservation. More than half of global fish exports originate in low-income countries, with fisheries existing as a crucial source of protein and income for many coastal states, the conservation group noted in a press release.
Consumer awareness surrounding sustainability has risen in recent years, compelling markets in the global North to increasingly seek products that adhere to sustainable specifications and bear ecolabels like the one available through the MSC. However, even though traction toward sustainability has increased worldwide, few fisheries in low-income countries have achieved MSC certification due to an array of complex challenges, according to Blue Ventures Conservation.
“Consequently, many environmental organizations are working with fisheries to improve their management in a process known as a fishery improvement project. The new Madagascar FIP represents the first formal FIP for a small-scale octopus fishery in a low-income country,” Blue Ventures Conservation said.
“A comprehensive assessment of the octopus fishery in southwest Madagascar looked at the health of the octopus stock, the fisheries impact on the environment, and the management and governance practices in place. From this assessment, an action plan was developed to align the fishery with the MSC’s standard for sustainable fisheries. The FIP will be a highly collaborative process, requiring all stakeholders to work together to deliver it. A dynamic and active multistakeholder fishery management platform known as the “Comité de Gestion de la Pêche aux Poulpes" (CGP) will oversee efforts to address gaps identified in the pre-assessment, working with partners to deliver these objectives over the next three years,” the group explained.