Written by: Katie Thompson, CubaMar Program Coordinator
What can fishers from Madagascar and Mexico learn from each other? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot! Last week I was invited to attend a fisheries learning exchange in Baja California, Mexico organized by Blue Ventures, ProNatura, and SmartFish. The exchange brought three fishers from Madagascar to Mexico with the objective of learning how fishers from Bahía de Los Angeles in the Gulf of California manage their octopus fisheries. The fishers from Madagascar also got a chance to share how successful their community octopus fishery closures have been in Southwest Madagascar.
During the exchange we toured a fish market in Ensenada, saw a mussel and oyster farm off the Pacific coast, got a close up look at how fishers from Bahía de Los Angeles fish for octopus, attended a local fishers’ meeting, and saw how the octopus is processed and shipped. The fishers from Madagascar were eager to learn more about the octopus traps used by Mexican fishers (in Madagascar they use spears) and the Mexican fishers were surprised to learn about the important role women play in the Madagascar octopus fisheries (women make up about 70% of the octopus fishers in Southwest Madagascar, where in Bahía de los Angeles its almost 0%). Throughout the entire week it was clear participants were learning a lot from each other, even though most conversations required multiple translations (Malagasy to French to Spanish and sometimes English). It’s amazing how much knowledge can be gained just by getting in-person, hands-on experience.
My main interest in fisheries learning exchanges comes from a research perspective. Exchanges were the topic of my master’s thesis and I’ve been able to continue research and implementation of exchanges through my work at CubaMar. The research is part of an effort started at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center a few years ago, of which CubaMar’s Director Fernando Bretos is also a part. CubaMar has used exchanges in the past, specifically in our sea turtle research and conservation work. Check out our recent paper in Marine Policy on an exchange CubaMar organized on sea turtle conservation!