Blue Ventures celebrated its 15 year anniversary this year. In 2003 we were a team of four based in the tiny coastal village of Andavadoaka, and although in many ways Blue Ventures today is unrecognisable to 15 years ago, the lessons we learnt, and continue to learn, from that community still influence everything we do. Whether in Madagascar, Indonesia, Belize or Tanzania, we’re reminded continually that local relationships and contextual understanding are paramount to impactful conservation work.
In 2018 we’ve witnessed more than ever the potential of partnerships, networks and learning exchanges for building relationships and inspiring locally led marine protection, so we’ve pulled together some highlights.
The accomplishments of this remarkable year were only possible thanks to the support of our friends, partners and thousands of individuals like you, many of whom have joined us on our field projects worldwide, and who share our vision.
“My journey with BV has taken me from consultations with coastal communities in remote villages in Madagascar to networking with international climate change policy makers in Paris, and I intend to stay until the miakatra ny soratra – the ‘end of the movies’.”
Our inspirational partner Mwambao works with coastal communities across Tanzania to build resilience and improve livelihoods by enhancing their capacity for sustainable fisheries management. Temporary octopus fishery closures can increase community interest in longer term marine management, so we have been working with Mwambao to support the reintroduction of community-led closures around Unguja island in Zanzibar.
The Velondriake locally managed marine area (LMMA) in southwest Madagascar was featured in a film from The Economist, which debuted at the World Ocean Summit. The film looks at how different forms of marine protection can be used to help safeguard marine resources, and Velondriake is featured as an example of locally-led marine protection that has achieved success in a remote area where large-scale tourism isn’t a viable option.
In response to the interconnected challenges faced by coastal communities, Blue Ventures adopts a holistic approach integrating community health services with marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives. Representatives from our two new partners in Kenya – Safari Doctors and the Northern Rangeland Trust – gathered on Lamu island for a training workshop in this way of working – known as PHE, as it reflects the connections between People, their Health and the Environment.
Blue Ventures and our Comorian partner Dahari organised a learning exchange to Zanzibar for fisherwomen from the Island of Anjouan in Comoros. The aim of this visit, organised with support from our partner Mwambao, was to meet Zanzibari fishing communities, exchange skills and experiences with them, and learn more about their success with temporary fishery closures. The learning from this exchange led to the creation of a fisherwomen’s association on Anjouan, and the first temporary octopus fishery closure in the Comoros.
Between 2003 and 2016, Madagascar’s protected area coverage quadrupled. Such unprecedented growth brought great hope, some notable successes and a host of new challenges for the island’s conservation community. Co-authored by Blue Ventures’ Executive Director Alasdair Harris, the new research reviews this exciting period in Madagascar’s conservation history, including the success of the LMMA approach, and identifies the principle challenges for the management and governance of this expanded protected area system.
Since 2016, Blue Ventures has partnered with Forkani – an Indonesian community-based organisation working in the Wakatobi archipelago to secure community management rights of local marine resources. During this period, Forkani has supported community-based fisheries monitoring and management efforts in Darawa island in Wakatobi. On 5 July this year the Darawa community took the unprecedented step of closing a 50-hectare octopus fishing site for three months.
World Mangrove Day brought about a flurry of activity in Blue Ventures’ sites across Madagascar: Ten communities in Ambanja signed management rights contracts, empowering them with the legal responsibility for their natural resources. Our team in Maintirano held an awareness raising event for young people in partnership with WWF Madagascar. Blue Ventures’ field team in our newest site – the Bay of Mahajamba – carried out scoping missions to assess potential for community-led mangrove conservation, and over 15,000 mangrove propagules were planted in the Velondriake LMMA.
Blue Ventures is working with the Government of Madagascar to help coastal communities create an LMMA around the Barren Isles archipelago, one of the few remaining strongholds of thriving marine biodiversity in the Western Indian Ocean. This ambitious conservation initiative is Madagascar’s largest marine protected area, and the Indian Ocean’s largest LMMA, and has been designed by communities to safeguard the marine biodiversity underpinning the archipelago’s traditional fisheries. The LMMA is working to achieve this by reducing overfishing and conflicts between resource users, and promoting responsible fisheries management.
For over a decade, Blue Ventures has been supporting communities across Madagascar to organise temporary octopus fishery closures as a pathway to longer term management. By supporting partner organisations across the Western Indian Ocean, we are able to share our learning from Madagascar, and are beginning to see international replication of this management measure in new areas and contexts. September saw the reopening of the first community-led temporary octopus closures in the Comoros, Indonesia, and the Barren Isles archipelago in Madagascar.
Building on the knowledge sharing model developed by Blue Ventures in the Western Indian Ocean, a new best practice guide was launched on World Fisheries Day on 21 November. A collaboration between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Blue Ventures and the research initiative FLExCELL, this freely available guide aims to empower fishers to learn from each other about the best way to conserve and manage their local fish stocks.
Over the past 15 years, Blue Ventures has grown from a tiny idea to a flourishing team, from a handful of scientists working with one coastal community in Madagascar, to a flourishing team working across nine countries and impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of small-scale fishers. In this discover story we pull together the memorable moments from our conservation journey, reflecting that effective conservation takes decades, not years, and that our commitment to delivering meaningful value to communities must be unwavering as our voyage continues.
These are challenging times for our tropical seas, but we believe wholeheartedly that our powerful message − that marine conservation can only be sustained when it’s in the hands of those who depend on the sea for their survival − is resonating with more and more coastal communities worldwide.
Join us on our journey.