Nosy Be Seascape, Madagascar

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Nosy Be Island and its rich seascape sit at the northeast edge of the Mozambique Channel, which divides Madagascar from mainland Africa. A number of whale species (including humpbacks, blue whales, sperm whales, and beaked whales) rely on these waters, WCS research has shown. So do the most abundant and healthy coastal dolphin populations in the area. There are also vital mangroves there, seagrasses, and the second-most diverse coral population on the planet. And, as it sits upstream from a variety of other reefs, Nosy Be is crucial in resupplying larvae after a disturbance.

Fast Facts

  • Twenty-three species of sharks have been identified in these waters to date and more than 14 species of whales and dolphins.
  • Nosy Be is one of the few remaining refuges in the Western Indian Ocean for dugongs and critically endangered sawfish.
  • Considered by UNESCO to be of outstanding universal value (a prerequisite for inclusion), Nosy Be’s seascape has been identified as a potential marine World Heritage Site.


Humans pose a number of threats to the Nosy Be Seascape. Many industrial and small-scale fishing practices in the area are unsustainable and, while trying to catch fish, fishermen incidentally catch dolphins, as well. Dugongs are actively hunted in some areas. Offshore oil exploration is and soon drilling will be conducted without a true understanding of the potential impact. Sea turtles are poached. And mangroves are chopped down to make charcoal. All of these pose a challenge to local people, many of whom rely on these rich waters for their livelihoods.

WCS Responds

The government of Madagascar has committed to expanding the country’s network of protected marine areas and to sustaining near-shore fisheries. Toward this effort, it enlisted WCS as a leading technical partner. Together with the government and local communities, WCS has so far established eight marine protected areas, three of which are located in Nosy Be Seascape. There, WCS works to empower locals to take greater responsibility in managing natural resources.

WCS Projects

The Bronx Zoo: Madagascar!

At Madagascar!, zoogoers see the island nation through the eyes of a conservationist. The Bronx Zoo strives to inspire a connection to Madagascar’s imperiled wild creatures while there is still time to save them.

From the Newsroom

Surveys Find that Despite Economic Challenges Malagasy Fishers Support Fishing RegulationsFebruary 19, 2014

Whale Mass Stranding Attributed to Sonar Mapping For First Time September 25, 2013

Madagascar Gets Tough with PoachersDecember 5, 2012

Madagascar Gets 'Roadmap' To Conserving Marine LifeFebruary 27, 2012

A study by WCS and partners presents a novel approach for establishing new large-scale protected areas in Madagascar’s waters.

Same Ocean, Different SongsFebruary 2, 2012

Researchers from WCS, Columbia University, and other institutions find an unusual divide in song themes sung by humpback whales in Madagascar and Western Australia.


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