How one woman has given her life to the cause, braving incredible hardships, and even physical danger, to protect the ocean and the people who rely on it
As a child, my fondest memories are of the summer holidays at the coast seeking the treasures of the underwater world in deep rock pools. These excursions into the mysteries of the ocean shaped my career and gave me an unquenchable thirst to conserve this unique environment. In 2004 I was offered a unique opportunity to intern for the British NGO, ReefDoctor, based in southwest Madagascar. That was 13 years ago and I never left.
Madagascar is a beautiful paradise, encompassing some of the most diverse and abundant reef systems of any Indian Ocean country, inspiring some of David Attenborough’s most remarkable documentaries. Yet, Madagascar is also one of the poorest countries on Earth and the depletion of the communal resources of this unique environment is heartbreakingly fast because of the horrific poverty suffered by the rural people. Poor infrastructure, periodic food shortages, an increasing population (doubling every 20 years), and limited ability to enforce environmental protection laws, are but a few of the issues we are currently addressing.
My first love is the ocean, but as I grew and developed as a marine biologist I found myself drawn to the complex interactions of the rural Malagasy fishing community’s relationship with the ocean. I started to design ways to implement projects that empower communities to protect their own resources.
TURNING THE TIDE FOR TURTLES
The first challenge I decided to tackle was the poaching of marine turtles; hundreds of thousands of marine turtles were being slaughtered every year for the meat trade. Hunting turtles for consumption by the coastal communities of southwest Madagascar was first