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We rebuild tropical fisheries with coastal communities

Blue Ventures develops transformative approaches for catalysing and sustaining locally led marine conservation. We work in places where the ocean is vital to local cultures and economies, and are committed to protecting marine biodiversity in ways that benefit coastal people.

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 (LMMA) governed by a small network of fishing villages.

Since then, this temporary fishery closure model has gone viral along thousands of kilometres of Madagascar’s coastline, spawning a grassroots marine conservation revolution with 64 more LMMAs established to date. Today, over 17% of the island’s seabed is managed by communities, for communities.

Our 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 interest, and that taking less from our ocean can give us much much more.

The conservation commitment conundrum

Marine conservation efforts often fail when short-term costs are perceived to outweigh future benefits, which may be uncertain. 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 protected area, in timeframes that work for communities. Our models work by demonstrating that sustainable fisheries management can yield meaningful economic benefits for communities and seafood buyers, in realistic timescales. Only by making this connection can marine conservation be sustained and scaled beyond its current limited scope.

Making marine conservation make sense

Time and again marine conservation efforts break down because they fail to resonate with the needs of coastal communities. Such failure is avoidable, since coastal populations have the greatest long-term interest in conservation success. Blue Ventures is committed to tackling this conundrum by developing conservation models that work for people, showing that effective marine conservation is in everyone’s interest.

We work from the grassroots, placing responsibility for fisheries management in the hands of local communities. This is particularly necessary in low-income countries, where there is often limited central capacity and infrastructure for marine management.

Our models play a critical role in rebuilding coastal fisheries, providing effective and replicable approaches for reversing marine biodiversity loss, improving food security and building socio-ecological resilience to climate change.

Where we work

Scaling our impact

We’ve created the largest Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in the Indian Ocean, proven new models for community-led fisheries management, built sustainable aquaculture businesses, and developed effective approaches for integrating community health services with marine conservation. Our award-winning ecotourism social enterprise provides year-round sustainability and match funding to enhance the impact and stability of our field programmes.

Over the past decade our models have guided national fisheries policy and been replicated by fishing communities, NGOs, businesses, donors and government agencies along thousands of miles of coastline.

By demonstrating that effective marine conservation is in everyone’s interest, we are striving for impact at scale. We aim to reach at least three million people across the world’s tropical coastal regions by 2020.

Through our award-winning expeditions, volunteers from around the world join our teams in the field, working closely with local communities and field scientists on marine research.

Blue Ventures does magnificent work, helping local communities and offering extraordinary volunteering opportunities that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Simon Reeve

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