In a remote corner of southwest Madagascar last month, local communities launched the world’s largest mangrove carbon conservation project, sequestering a huge amount of carbon and securing an ecosystem vital…
Blue Ventures rebuilds tropical fisheries with coastal communities. They work alongside fishing communities throughout the tropics to design and implement practical measures to protect oceans for future generations.
Throughout the tropics, the food security, livelihoods and cultural identity of hundreds of millions of people depend on what the ocean provides. Our tropical oceans are under unprecedented pressure from overfishing and habitat destruction, often to supply distant markets. Climate breakdown is exacerbating these threats, jeopardising the futures of coastal communities. Marine conservation initiatives designed from the top down often alienate local people and are costly to implement. Low cost, locally-led approaches that respond to the needs of coastal people show the greatest promise to expand marine conservation to the scale urgently required.
Over the last decade Blue Ventures models have guided national fisheries policy and been replicated by communities, NGOs, businesses, donors, and government agencies along thousands of miles of coastline.Blue Ventures has created the largest locally-managed marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean, catalyzed a sea change in community-led fisheries management, established sustainable livelihood, aquaculture and ecotourism businesses, and developed new approaches to financing and incentivizing marine conservation.
So far their work has impacted the lives of over 490,000 of the world’s poorest coastal people.
Global fish stocks are collapsing at a time when the world’s people need them most.
Blue Ventures' model for community-managed protected areas provides alternative income while fishery populations recover.
BV's market-based approaches range from community reserves and tourism to markets for carbon and invasive as well as native species.
Innovation labs are developing strategies for fishery management in eight countries.
Empowered coastal communities are managing their local marine ecosystems in ways that enrich livelihoods and sustain healthy oceans for generations to come.
To broaden its reach and accelerate impact, Blue Ventures builds long-term relationships with like-minded partners who are working with coastal communities in other geographies. BV shares its experiences and resources with partners, supporting them to implement effective, community-led approaches to marine management.
A lifelong fascination with the oceans and marine life led Al Harris to pursue a career in marine biology. As a graduate student studying threats to tropical reefs, observing widespread over-exploitation and climate-related damage to marine biodiversity, he realized that he could not spend his life as a researcher, simply documenting the destruction. He also recognized that traditional approaches to marine conservation, such as protected areas, could succeed only if the people who depend on the resources could be enlisted as allies. To build such alliances, conservationists had to understand the fundamental needs of fishing people, and coastal communities had to see meaningful benefits of marine protection in the short term. Al created Blue Ventures as a way of finding and sharing practical conservation solutions that work for communities struggling with poverty and collapsing fisheries. Al launched Blue Ventures (BV) in 2003, initially as a social enterprise offering underwater research expeditions and volunteer opportunities for ocean enthusiasts. These expeditions take paying volunteers into low income coastal communities to participate in underwater marine surveys, collecting data that help advise locally-led conservation plans, and providing funding to support BV’s work. In 2004, building on the foundation provided by its expeditions, the BV team worked with a coastal community in southwest Madagascar to introduce short-term closures of fishing grounds to boost catches. The pilot closure resulted in dramatic gains for local people and caught the attention of neighboring communities, building support for more ambitious conservation efforts led by communities. By returning economic benefits in timeframes that worked for traditional fishers, the model was able to inspire local leadership in embracing conservation as an opportunity, rather than a threat, for communities. The success of these closures resulted in the advent of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) – larger areas of ocean managed by communities to protect threatened ecosystems, and improve the sustainability of fishing practices. Over the subsequent decade, the LMMA model grew through community exchanges, being replicating by hundreds of coastal communities along one of Africa’s longest coastlines, and now covering over 17.5% of Madagascar’s inshore seabed. Inspired by this grassroots marine conservation movement, BV has grown beyond Madagascar. The organization is now active in eight tropical coastal states across the Indian Ocean, driving the development of new models for conservation that continue to put the human rights and economic needs of fishing people to the fore.