Vital Ocean Voices is a series of stories from people living in coastal communities around the Indian Ocean, providing first-hand accounts of the impacts of destructive fishing, pollution and climate breakdown.

Against a backdrop of extreme poverty and a marine environment changing beyond her control, Kokoly lives on a knife edge. This is her story. #FishingForSurvival

Madame Kokoly, while diminutive in physical stature, is a towering presence amongst her community. Her skills as an octopus gleaner are well-respected and her tendency to seemingly work all hours of the day make her a marvel. 

Kokoly takes to the water © Blue Venture / Garth Cripps

Living in a remote coastal village in southwest Madagascar, Kokoly makes her living from fishing. She is a member of the Vezo community, a semi-nomadic seafaring people whose way of life depends on the ocean – ‘vezo’ loosely translates as “to live with the sea”. 

In the region where she lives, overfishing and habitat destruction have taken a heavy toll on the lives of Vezo people. Kokoly’s words underscore the reality of her community’s daily struggle for survival. “Before, there were a lot of fish. Before, everything was plentiful. Now nothing is normal. When I went fishing with my father, we caught a lot of fish, guitar sharks would even swim under our boat. I’m sad because there aren’t sharks anymore, not since they became worth something. What used to be so plentiful, now you can’t find.”

Kokoly in the shallows © Blue Venture / Garth Cripps

The decline in natural marine resources Kokoly observes is mirrored across Madagascar and the wider coastal tropics. On the global stage, the triggers for this loss, such as overfishing and the climate crisis, are being discussed by world leaders that don’t seem to understand what’s at stake. The perspectives of small-scale fishers like Kokoly are often overlooked, despite them being on the frontlines of climate and ecological breakdown. 

In this film, through Madame Kokoly’s words, and those of other women in her community, you will see the heavy toll that overfishing and habitat destruction have taken on the Vezo people and experience the reality of their daily struggle for survival. 

Want to know more? Check out Kokoly’s film website and find out how to help. 

Blue Ventures is a science-led social enterprise that works in partnership with coastal communities in places where the ocean is vital to the culture and economy.

Guest authors work with Greenpeace International to share their personal experiences and perspectives and are responsible for their own content.