Marine Conservation Agreements
A Practitioner's Toolkit


Status: In-depth

An in-depth law and policy analysis that assessed the potential application of Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in Madagascar was undertaken in 2010 as part of a comparative analysis of countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean. The complete report with all references can be downloaded from the resource box on the right.

Quick Peek — MCA Implementation: Recent advances in the Malagasy legal and policy framework offer scope for implementing MCAs in the country. This analysis found two extant MCA projects. Read more below >>


With its high levels of endemism and species richness, Madagascar is consistently cited as a global conservation priority. Its 5,000km of coastline and 270 islets host the most biologically diverse marine life in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). At present, these assets are ineffectively safeguarded.1 Marine Protected Areas in Madagascar, detailed in the table below, cover just 0.1% of the country's territorial waters.2

Marine Protected Areas in Madagascar
Site IUCN Category Size (km2) Date established Governance type
Nosy Atafana II 10 1989 Collaborative
Mananara-Nord -- 10 1990 Government
Masoala II 100 1997 NGO
Nosy Tanikely -- 0.1 1995 --
Sahamalaza-Nosy Radama -- 322 2001 Government
Toliara -- 360 2003 Government
Massif des Roses -- 0.02 2007 Collaborative
Velondriake -- 700 2009 Collaborative

Healthy and damaged reef, Madagascar. Photo © ReefDoctor

Legal and Policy Framework

Malagasy environmental policy is based on a Charter adopted in 1990. Between 1991 and 2009, this policy was enacted through the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), a three-phase multi-donor program. However, there is no separate or clearly defined policy on conservation of the marine environment. Although management of both terrestrial and marine protected areas is governed by the Code des Aires Protégées (COAP), there is a clear bias towards terrestrial ecosystems. Accordingly, early MPAs like Nosy Atafana and Masoala were initially established through a top-down procedure rooted in terrestrial conservation and largely without community involvement.3

In 1996, this changed with the introduction of a legal framework to enable community-based management of natural resources, known as Gestion Locale Sécurisée (GELOSE). Then in 2003 at the fifth World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, the Malagasy president recognized the need to protect the country's unique natural assets and committed to the Durban Vision, a national conservation plan to triple the amount of protected area coverage. This was codified into law shortly afterwards as a new decree (Décret d'Application No 848-05) for the existing COAP. The decree set up a System of Protected Areas of Madagascar, or SAPM, which simplified and redefined the legal process used in protected area creation. Under this more flexible model, organizations other than Madagascar National Parks (formerly ANGAP), the state protected areas agency, are allowed to manage protected areas and that these could include NGOs, community organizations, and the private sector.4

Owners and Managers

The table below outlines major activities relating to use and management of coastal resources, together with the agencies working to implement programs in these areas.5

Overview of key coastal resource activities in Madagascar and implementing agencies
Topic/activity Agency/committee
National Environmental Action Plan Coordinated by ONE, the National Office for the Environment
Development of environmental policies and strategies The Inter-Ministerial Environment Committee (IMEC), The National Environment Council, The Executive Committee, The National AG (“Groupe de Travail et de Réflexion”)
Management of fisheries Directorate of Fishing and Fish Resources of The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAEP)
Biodiversity and Protected Areas Directorate of Waters and Forestry (DEF), Madagascar National Parks (MNP), Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, CARE International, WCS, Blue Ventures, ReefDoctor, WWF
Tourism and ecotourism Ministry of Tourism, MNP

MCA Implementation and Examples

Whiting catch using mosquito nets. Photo © ReefDoctor

The recent advances in the Malagasy legal and policy framework noted above mean that there is scope for implementing MCAs in the country. Indeed this analysis found two extant MCA projects, which are detailed below.

Massif des Roses

Massif des Roses is a small patch reef within the Bay of Ranobe in south-west Madagascar.6 The NGO ReefDoctor worked with local communities, regional and local government, hotels, tour operators and other conservation organizations there to establish FIMIHARA, an association of local stakeholders responsible for managing the this site and developing sustainable conservation initiatives. The structure of FIMIHARA was based on the FIMIMANO community association at nearby Nosy Ve Island, which was formed in 1998 to resolve conflict over the island's natural resources.6,7

The site has been legally recognized as a community managed marine reserve under temporary protection since 25 May 2007 by the Direction Régionale du Développement Rural, which entails that fishing, dropping anchor and theft of materials are forbidden. Tourists visiting the site pay an entry fee of 2000 ariary (about 1 USD) with proceeds used to fund community projects.


British NGO Blue Ventures, together with the University of Toliara's Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines (IHSM) and WCS-Madagascar, are presently working with local communities to develop a network of community-run marine, coastal and terrestrial protected areas in the Andavadoaka region of south-west Madagascar.8,9 The network, the Velondriake Community Managed Protected Area (VCMPA), spans over 700km2 of coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons, beaches and sea grass beds, which, when fully implemented, will make it the largest marine protected area in Madagascar.9,10 The initiative is driven and managed entirely by local communities, with resource use and access rights within the area governed by local community laws.9 The VCMPA is 80% funded through revenue generated from Blue Ventures' marine tourism expeditions, with the remainder coming from grants and private donations.11

The Future

These two examples conclusively demonstrate that MCAs are feasible in Madagascar. ReefDoctor, Blue Ventures and the WCS would therefore be suitable conservation partners in any future initiatives. There are further potential sources of funding too. The Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity is a conservation trust established by the Government of Madagascar, Conservation International and WWF to help finance the protection, maintenance and expansion of Madagascar's protected areas network. Thanks in part to a debt-for-nature swap agreement between the French and Malagasy governments in 2008, the fund has met its endowment target of $50 million.

There is, however, one caveat. The examples noted above derive legitimacy from the codification of local community laws known as dinas, rather than from the GELOSE which was designed to strengthen them. This is largely because the GELOSE framework is not well suited to marine systems.12 Because of this, Velondriake and Massif des Roses lack formalized, explicit contracts between all entities involved in the management and can only charge voluntary entrance fees. The application decree of GELOSE to the marine environment is pending, but for now, this limitation may hamper wider-scale adoption of the MCA strategy.

Return to Top


1 Multiple sources:

  • Cinner, J. & Fuentes, M. (2008) Human Dimensions of Madagascar's Marine Protected Areas. CORDIO Status Report.
  • Rogers, H.M., Glew, L., Honzák, M. & Hudson, M.D. (2010) Prioritizing key biodiversity areas in Madagascar by including data on human pressure and ecosystem services. Landscape and Urban Planning, 96, 48-56.
  • Harris, A. (2009) “To live with the Sea” Development of the Velondriake Community-Managed Protected Area Network, Southwest Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 2.
  • Koopman, M. (2008) Velondriake Ecotourism Plan. Blue Ventures, London.
  • Rabearivony, J., Thorstrom, R., de Roland, L.A., Rakotondratsima, M., Razafimanjato, G., Rakotondravony, D., Raselimanana, A.P. & Rakotoson, M. (2010) Protected area surface extension in Madagascar: Do endemism and threatened species remain useful criteria for site selection? Madagascar Conservation & Development, 5.

2 Sources for Table: Marine Protected Areas in Madagascar:

  • Salm, R. & Tessema, Y. (1998) Partnership for Conservation: Report of the Regional Workshop on Marine Protected Areas, Tourism and Communities. Diani Beach, Kenya. IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Office, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • UNEP-WCMC. (2010) World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) Annual Release 2010. UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge.
  • IUCN. (2004) Managing Marine Protected Areas: A Toolkit for the Western Indian Ocean.
  • Harris 2009
  • Cinner & Fuentes 2008
  • Belle, E.M., Stewart, G.W., De Ridder, B., Komeno, R.J., Ramahatratra, F., Remy-Zephir, B. & Stein-Rostaing, R.D. (2009) Establishment of a community managed marine reserve in the Bay of Ranobe, southwest Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 4.

3 Multiple sources:

  • Billé, R. & Mermet, L. (2002) Integrated coastal management at the regional level: lessons from Toliary, Madagascar. Ocean & Coastal Management, 45, 41-58.
  • UNEP/Nairobi Convention Secretariat and WIOMSA. (2009) Regional synthesis report on the review of the policy, legal and institutional frameworks in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region.
  • Madagascar National Parks. (2010) Madagascar National Parks: Conservation (website)
  • Cinner, J.E., Wamukota, A., Randriamahazo, H. & Rabearisoa, A. (2009) Toward institutions for community-based management of inshore marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean. Marine Policy, 33, 489-496.
  • Durbin, J. (2007) Madagascar’s new system of protected areas – Implementing the ‘Durban Vision’.

4 Multiple sources:

  • Cinner, J., McClanahan, T. & Wamukota, A. (2010) Differences in livelihoods, socioeconomic characteristics, and knowledge about the sea between fishers and non-fishers living near and far from marine parks on the Kenyan coast. Marine Policy, 34, 22-28.
  • Rakotoson, L.R. & Tanner, K. (2006) Community-based governance of coastal zone and marine resources in Madagascar. Ocean & Coastal Management, 49, 855-872.
  • Durbin 2007
  • Rabearivony et al. 2010
  • IRIN. (2006) Madagascar establishes new park system to protect lemurs, benefit people. IRIN.

5 Sources for Table: Overview of key coastal resource activities and implementing agencies in Madagascar:

  • Aricò, S. & Rakotoary, J.C. (1997) Beginning integrated coastal management efforts in Madagascar. Ocean & Coastal Management, 37, 359-384.
  • UN FAO. (2008) Fishery country profile: The Republic of Madagascar.
  • UNEP/Nairobi Convention Secretariat and WIOMSA 2009
  • Rakotoson & Tanner 2006
  • Billé & Mermet 2002
  • Cinner et al. 2009
  • Brinkerhoff, D.W. (1996) Coordination issues in policy implementation networks: An illustration from Madagascar's Environmental Action Plan. World Development, 24, 1497-1510.
  • Durbin 2007
  • IRIN 2006
  • Viltz, E. (2008) Monumental Debt-for-Nature Swap Provides $20 Million to Protect Biodiversity in Madagascar, WWF Announces. (website)
  • Harris 2009
  • Belle et al. 2009

6 Belle et al. 2009

7 Rakotoson & Tanner 2006

8 Harris 2009

9 Gildas, A. & Harris, A. (2008) Socioeconomic Monitoring Initiative for Velondriake Community Managed Protected Area, Madagascar. CORDIO Status Report.

10 Cripps, G. & Harris, A. (2009) Community creation and management of the Velondriake marine protected area. Blue Ventures, London.

11 Edwards, A. & Hooper, T. (Eds.). (2009) Proceedings of the Workshop on a Regional Perspective on MPAs in the Western Indian Ocean, Rodrigues Island, Mauritius. Newcastle University and Marine Education Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne and Cullompton, UK.

12 Cinner et al. 2009 


Site Map

Translate This Page

Marine Conservation Agreements     Copyright © 2007-2014 The Nature Conservancy