Our story started over a decade ago, surveying coral reefs in the Mozambique channel. Vezo communities in southern Madagascar were concerned about the decline of their fisheries, so we supported one village to experiment with closing off a small section of their octopus gleaning area for a few months, to see whether this might boost productivity.
When the closure was re-opened, communities experienced a huge increase in octopus landings and fisher incomes. As news of this remarkable fishery boom spread, neighbouring communities started copying this approach. Crucially, this sparked interest in more ambitious coastal management efforts, leading to the creation of the country’s first locally managed marine area governed by a small network of fishing villages.
Since then, this periodic fishery closure model has gone viral along hundreds of kilometres of Madagascar’s coastline, spawning a grassroots marine conservation revolution with 62 more locally managed marine areas established to date. Today, over 10% of the island’s seabed is managed by communities, for communities.
Blue Ventures’ work is about much more than octopus. These experiences have guided our journey searching for new approaches to demonstrate that marine conservation can be in everyone’s interests, and that taking less from our ocean can give us much much more.
We’re committed to protecting marine biodiversity in ways that benefit coastal people. We work in places where the ocean is vital to local cultures and economies.
All too often, forgoing fishing in protected areas represents a severe economic sacrifice for coastal communities, and the promised ‘spill-over’ benefits of marine protection can be slow to accrue. As a result, conservation goals are often at loggerheads with local needs, disenfranchising traditional resource users.
Reconciling the interests of the conservation and fishing sectors requires new approaches that overcome the opportunity costs of surrendering fishing in a managed area, in a timeframe that works for communities.
Our models work by demonstrating that conservation can yield meaningful benefits for communities in realistic timescales. Only by making this connection can marine conservation be sustained and scaled beyond its current limited scope.
We think we’re onto something. We have catalysed a sea change in small-scale fisheries management, supported the creation of the largest locally managed marine areas in the Indian Ocean, established sustainable aquaculture and ecotourism businesses, and demonstrated a holistic approach for addressing the unmet family planning needs of our partner communities.
Over the last decade our models have guided national policy and been replicated by communities, businesses, donors and government agencies along thousands of kilometres of coastline. Our vision is to support our global partners to reach at least three million people in tropical coastal regions by 2020.
Blue Ventures does magnificent work, helping local communities and offering extraordinary volunteering opportunities that you'll remember for the rest of your life.
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