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Interdisciplinary Network for Sustainable Management of Marine Biodiversity: Environmental and Social Diagnosis of Marine Turtles in the South-West Indian Ocean

Annual Call for Projects 2005


Marine turtles, a common heritage of humankind, are seriously threatened throughout the world. Some global solutions have been developed, implicating international actors in common strategies covering the worlds' oceans. The islands of the south-western Indian Ocean and particularly Madagascar are areas of high concentration and migration for five endangered species. Several research and conservation programmes for marine turtles exist in this sector, but none are devoted to them in the area of Maintirano (which is covered by the current project), despite it being an essential site in the dynamics of the species.

The project approved by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN) in 2005 aims to fill this gap by establishing a biogeographic diagnosis on marine turtles and their ecosystem as well as a sociological study of the populations which interact with these animals. Subsequently, it will propose a sustainable strategy of ecological and social conservation which will result in concrete action in the field and can be used as a model for other marine conservation projects.

In detail, the principal objectives are as follows:

Scientific objectives: to fill the gap in scientific knowledge on the various species of marine turtles and their ecosystem in the area of Maintirano and analyse their interaction with other regions. The goal is to constitute a database using pre-existing methodologies adapted to meet the project's needs. By using genetic identification, it will focus on understanding the origins of green turtle populations that nest and are hunted in great numbers in the Barren islands. A parallel objective is to undertake an innovative sociological study concerning the interaction between local populations of traditional fishermen and the management of their oceanic resources, particularly marine turtles. In addition, the ambition of the project team is to promote greater understanding of coastal and insular issues, and of the populations of the poorly-known western coast area of Madagascar.

Ecological objectives: to study and contribute to the establishment of a global marine turtle conservation strategy and to the elaboration of local management strategies. Thanks to interdisciplinary collaboration with international partners and cooperation with similar conservation programmes already in progress, a contribution will be made to the study and establishment of international conservation policy. Local actors will be sensitised and involved under conditions adapted to their needs, so that populations of marine turtles will be able to survive in the long term and even increase in the Barren Islands. The goal is to decrease the negative impact of local exploitation of marine turtles throughout their vast habitat.

Socio-economic objectives: by the end of 2007, a certain number of methods will have been analysed with the goal of obtaining an evolution in the behaviour of traditional fishermen vis-à-vis the exploitation of marine turtles, such as their level of acceptance of suggested alternatives to turtle-fishing. Whereas the research team will test the applicability of certain alternatives inspired by pre-existing projects, it will also innovate and try other alternatives, the results of which will be shared with other researchers and decision-makers.

The impact of this project will be beneficial for Madagascar for several reasons. On one hand, the scientific synergies developed by the project will make it possible to widen the range of foreign research institutes and international organisations interested in environmental and development questions concerning the country, as well as creating collaborations with Malagasy universities. In addition, the results obtained will make it possible to contribute directly to furthering knowledge on the selected topics. Moreover, by contributing to government-developed "Communal and Regional Development Planning" and by contributing to the visibility of the Maintirano region, largely ignored by national and international economic circuits, this project will be advantageous for the area concerned. The selected methodology thus combines an interdisciplinary scientific approach -- natural sciences and social sciences -- and a participative component involving the local populations.

Four types of results are sought and will be controlled regularly using measurable quality indicators. Initially, the original scientific contributions will relate simultaneously to the study of marine turtles in their ecosystem and to the local populations and their interactions with these turtles. Subsequently, the participative conservation actions will be worked out and applied locally. They will be integrated into the overall policies of marine turtle management. Accordingly, a feasibility study for the creation of a marine protected area around Maintirano will be carried out. This study opens prospects for widening the project and gives it additional importance by registering it in an institutional system present on a national and international scale. The results will be developed in the form of publications, an Internet site and the creation of institutional bonds with projects of the same type thanks to the importance of the network of project partners.

In a context of biodiversity depletion and acute developmental problems, such synergies constitute an essential contribution for the success of a collective and global effort for conservation.

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 250,231

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Project Team

Dr. Rakotonirina Berthin , Principal Member, University of Toliara, Madagascar.

Mr Stéphane Ciccione , Principal Member, Centre of Study and Discovery of Marine Turtles (Reunion Island) (CEDTM).

Mr Olivier Ralison Harifidy , Principal Member, World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF) .

Mr Géraud Leroux , Principal Member, Natural History Museum of the City of Geneva .

Dr. Rabenevanana Man Wai , Principal Member, University of Toliara, Madagascar.

Dr. Frank Muttenzer , Principal Member, Graduate Institute of Development Studies (GIDS) .

Mr Jean-Paul Paddack , Principal Member, West Indian Ocean Programme Office, World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF) .

Mr Rémi Ratsimbazafy , Principal Member, World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF) .

Mr Ramahaleo Tiana , Principal Member, World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF) .

Dr. Jean Christophe Vié , Principal Member, Species Programme (SP) , World Conservation Union (IUCN) .

Related Links

> Marine Turtles

> WWF Marine Turtle Update 3, February 2007

Related News

Research Output

Marine Turtles, A Common Heritage of Humankind
(available in French only)
> more
Environmental and Social Diagnostic of Marine Turtles in the Indian Ocean: Sociological Study
(available in French only)
> more