The Velondriake locally managed marine area (LMMA), which is governed by representatives from 25 villages, is the largest community-managed marine protected area in the Indian Ocean. It seeks to protect biodiversity, improve livelihoods and increase environmental awareness among communities. Velondriake serves as a model to other communities for combinging conservation and economic development, using local governance and management structures.
The LMMA spans 680-square km along the southwest coast of Madagascar and protects coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, baobab forests and other threatened habitats. Over 7,000 people live within the boundaries of the LMMA and more than 10,000 people benefit from its management. The name Velondriake literally means "to live with the sea" in the local Vezo dialect.
Velondriake's history begins with octopus, the most economically important species in the region with over 99% of the catch being sold for export. Beginning in 2004, the villages within Velondriake began experimenting with temporary 3 to 7 month closures of octopus fishing grounds in an attempt to better manage the octopus fishery. Buoyed by success with these octopus closures, which resulted in more productive catches and increased incomes, villages within Velondriake were ready to take on more ambitious management of their marine and coastal environment, and in 2006 the first Velondriake management committee was established.
With representatives from each of the villages, the Velondriake committee, called the Velondriake Association, began to implement and enforce local laws against destructive fishing. The committee also agreed to set aside six permanent marine protected areas and one permanent mangrove protected area.
Since then, the Velondriake Association has received extensive training in conservation planning and resource management from partner organisation Blue Ventures. The Wildlife Conservation Society was also particularly instrumental in the initial training and orientation of the Velondriake Association. Toliara's marine research institute, the IHSM, has also been involved in the project since the beginning, providing academic support and frequently sending students to the area to conduct research projects.