Older residents of Andavadoaka, a coastal village in southwest Madagascar, can recall a time when fishing trips would yield boats filled to the brim with the day’s catch. Back then, the coral reefs hosted a dizzying array of sea creatures. Sharks were so numerous that villagers were forbidden from swimming during their feeding times at dawn and dusk.

Today, this underwater bounty is much diminished, and what little remains faces an increasingly uncertain future. Foreign fishing fleets are...

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