Blue Ventures’ projects are focused in environmentally and culturally sensitive regions of the world. All project visitors are required to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages. We insist that all team members, acting as ambassadors to Blue Ventures, adapt their behaviour to recognise local cultural sensitivities.
All Blue Ventures personnel are made aware of the effect that their presence and activities have on local habitats. We have a responsibility to minimise negative impacts on local environments and communities where we work, as well as to provide tangible benefits to our host communities.
We have taken steps towards this in the following key areas:
- Working with communities
- Terrestrial impact
- Underwater impact
- Encouraging sustainable development
- Recognition of our commitment
Working with communities
- Regular village and community meetings and workshops are organised to discuss ideas and proposals.
- As part of our commitment to local training and capacity building, we offer 10 fully-funded conservation scholarships and 20 scuba scholarships per year to Malagasy nationals. Recent scuba qualifications have included the first ever PADI professional certification for a Malagasy diver and in 2010 the certification of the first Malagasy PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.
- Community groups work closely with us in developing conservation and management plans. We work to empower local communities to manage their own resources.
- Wherever possible, food and supplies for expedition operations are purchased from local sources.
- Volunteers are encouraged to build relationships with community members through involvement in local schools, purchasing goods from local shops and spending time in villages.
- Blue Ventures works to develop alternative livelihoods in the communities in which we work, to reduce the fishing pressure on fragile marine ecosystems and to try to improve the economic status of poor and isolated communities. Recent examples of these initiatives have included sea cucumber farming and algae farming projects, and eco-tourist guide training programmes.
- In Belize our volunteers are hosted by a local Homestay Association during the time they spend in the village of Sarteneja. The Homestay Association is made up of 12 village families who provide food and accommodation to our volunteers. This model ensures that there is a direct benefit to the local economy and gives our volunteers an authentic Belizean experience. Since March 2010 our volunteers have spent nearly 3,000 nights in homestay accommodation.
- Blue Ventures, with support from our staff and volunteers, has provided school scholarships to over 500 children in the last 5 years. These scholarships allow children whose families cannot afford school fees to attend primary and secondary school. In 2007-8 this scheme paid for over 104 children in 11 villages to attend school as well as help finance students from remote communities to continue their secondary education in colleges in major towns. In 2008/9 Blue Ventures support for local education initiatives also included board and lodging for children from surrounding communities so that they are able to attend school in Andavadoaka and this additional support is now an integral part of our programme so that children from villages with no school facilities can benefit from the scholarship programme and receive schooling.
- In 2009/10 we were successful in increasing the scholarship programme to provide the funding to sponsor to 132 children from Andavadoaka and surrounding villages, in 2010/11 this number declined slightly to 122 but more children received support with board and lodging so allowing them to receive an education away from their home village. Our 2011/12 increased funding pushed the numbers up to 190 students within the sponsorship programme, a huge increase and one that we hope to maintain in 2012/13.
- Expedition camps are located in areas that avoid sensitive habitats and vegetation types.
- Expedition personnel carry out monthly beach cleanups in partnership with local communities.
- Fresh water use is minimised, and water is conserved wherever possible.
- All waste is sorted and disposed of responsibly.
- Expedition personnel are encouraged to use only biodegradable cleaning products.
- Participants in Blue Ventures projects are required to make a donation to ADES to mitigate carbon emissions from their flights.
- At project sites electricity use is minimised to a few hours per day, and renewable energy is promoted wherever possible.
- In 2008 Blue Ventures conducted an internal audit of energy use in Madagascar and our carbon footprint for all of our expedition and conservation activity in Andavadoaka. THe recommendations made in that report have been followed to reduce the impact of our operations. Click here to download the report.
- Blue Ventures’ dive protocol has been developed to ensure that research teams and volunteers are aware of the fragility of the marine environment in which they are diving, and take all necessary precautions to prevent harming the reefs.
- Divers are required to maintain good buoyancy control so as to avoid accidental contact with the reef or stirring up sea floor sediment.
- Research boats are only launched in areas that avoid damage to reefs.
Encouraging Sustainable Development
- Blue Ventures works with host villages to develop long-term sustainable environmental management strategies, focused on protecting biodiversity, reducing poverty, and improving the quality of life of local communities.
- Sustainable resource use is encouraged at project sites through management plans and interventions including seasonal and permanent no-take zones, marine reserves, and aquaculture projects.
- Blue Ventures employs local staff members wherever possible, providing a range of technical, academic and skills development training programmes.
- Responsibly managed reef-based tourism is promoted as a non-extractive industry that can provide employment to local communities.
- Blue Ventures’ carbon offset donations provides energy-efficient stoves to communities throughout southwest and western Madagascar. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, these projects work towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals; promoting sustainable development by reducing fuel costs to the households, reducing health risks associated with indoor cooking, and decreasing the rate of local deforestation. These projects would not occur without the Blue Ventures’ carbon offset finance.
Recognition of our commitment to responsible tourism
- In 2012 Blue Ventures won the 'Best Volunteer Organisation' category at the British Youth Travel Awards.
- In 2010 Blue Ventures won the 'Best Volunteering Organisation' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
- In 2009 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
- In 2008 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best Volunteering Organisation' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
- In 2007 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
- In 2006 Blue Ventures won the Skål Eco-tourism Award and was highly commended in the Responsible Travel Awards in the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ category.
- In 2004 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
The Awards recognise companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to 'responsible' tourism – projects that make a positive contribution to conservation and the economic development of local communities, while minimising the negative impacts that tourism can have.