Velvetine, a local fisher from a village on the coast of Madagascar, reports: “Before we started doing octopus closures, we were only catching two or three octopus in a day, and some days we wouldn’t catch any at all… With the closures we make a small sacrifice, but we can still glean on other reefs, and after waiting we catch more octopus; the catch is good in the days after openings. I have more money for food and for my family.”
As Velvetine knows, marine management pays. An eight-year study by marine scientists from Skoll Awardee Blue Ventures puts facts behind Velvetine’s experience. During that time, coastal villagers used Blue Ventures’ approach of setting aside designated areas of their fishing grounds as temporary “closures” to octopus fishing. When closed sites were reopened to fishing after the 2-3 months of the closure, rapid growth rates of reef octopus resulted in a surge of catches.
The study, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that these temporary closures generate significant and recurring economic benefits for the communities. When comparing the 30 days before and after a temporary closure, the researchers found:
85% increase in catch per fisher per day. 81% return on investment. (On average, $1 worth of octopus left in the closure sites had grown to $1.81 by the end of the closure period.) 136% increase in village income.
Fisheries scientist and study co-author Daniel Raberinary explained the impact of these findings. “By demonstrating that effective fisheries management can reap dividends, this model is playing a powerful role in building local support for marine conservation.”
A beautiful interactive webpage and infographic summarize the study’s key findings. The full paper, FAQs about the findings, and more can be found here.