Oceans provide livelihoods and protein-rich food to more than 3 billion people, cover nearly three quarters of the earth’s surface, and are home to a diverse community of a million species. They also play a vital role in regulating the earth’s temperature and water cycle. Growing carbon emissions from human activity are leading to rising ocean temperatures, acidification, and sea level rise, threatening marine ecosystems already stressed by overfishing and pollution. Sustainably managing global marine ecosystems is critical to the livelihoods, food security, and climate resilience of coastal communities.
Blue Ventures, a 2015 Skoll Awardee, partners with coastal communities in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean region to practice sustainable marine conservation techniques. It has pioneered the establishment of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), where portions of target fisheries are temporarily closed in order to increase future yields. A recent evaluation found that the model provided substantial economic benefits to surrounding communities – an 87 percent increase in the average weight of fisheries landings and a 136 percent increase in average village-level income from fishing in the month after a temporary fishery closure.
Blue Ventures’ work has catalyzed a growing LMMA movement in Madagascar, now covering over 190 sites across over 14 percent of the country’s inshore seabed and reaching over 250,000 people country-wide. It supports partners to replicate this model at dozens of sites in ten countries across the tropical Indo-Pacific. Blue Ventures takes a holistic approach to reducing coastal community vulnerabilities to climate change by integrating marine resource management with programs offering alternative livelihoods to fishing and provision of reproductive health services.
An increase in extreme weather events and changing rainfall patterns are a reality for these communities. Ocean warming has led to catastrophic coral reef bleaching, which will devastate fisheries. “The communities we support are among the most vulnerable on earth, with very little adaptation capacity,” says Alasdair Harris, Blue Ventures’ Director. “The greatest climate adaptation challenge is the overwhelming dependence—for their very survival—of tens of millions of some of the planet’s poorest people on some of the most threatened ecosystems and species on earth.”
Blue Ventures’ approach to climate resilience includes closely listening to communities, taking a multisector approach to the needs and challenges they express, and fostering greater agency at the community level. “Not only does this approach best support communities to rebuild their fisheries, it turns out that these same principles support communities to become more resilient to climate change,” said Blue Ventures’ Medical Director, Vik Mohan. “Every component of our holistic approach, from rebuilding fisheries to supporting better reproductive health, promotes resilience, and the overall impact is more than the sum of its parts.” Through the establishment of community peer learning networks in Madagascar and international learning exchanges, Blue Ventures shares valuable lessons learned and supports replication of its model in other vulnerable coastal communities.