2020 has challenged our team as never before. From Belize to Timor-Leste, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through the fragile communities that we serve.
This upheaval has underscored the critical importance of sustainable fisheries as a lifeline for coastal economies, and the primacy of strong local leadership and governance during times of upheaval. And for communities living on the front lines of climate breakdown, navigating turbulent waters is the new normal.
As our teams and partners have redoubled their efforts to support communities, one lesson has become clear: our mission has never mattered more. Community conservation today is about much more than protecting nature: it’s a pathway to sustainable food production, improved livelihoods and social and environmental justice for millions.
We are adapting and sharpening our approach based on what we’ve learned this year. We’re investing more than ever in local leadership, and working alongside hundreds of communities to build a global marine conservation movement that is rooted in the lives of traditional fishers and draws on their unrivalled understanding of our ocean.
We believe in the power of partnerships to achieve change at scale. This is the story of how one community’s pilot fishery closure inspired a new approach to community-led marine conservation, and how − by sharing experiences between communities and with local partners − that approach is reaching almost 500,000 people across 11 countries.
“I’ve found that women often have a long-term vision. That’s why it’s important to involve women in conservation efforts.”
In the fifth edition of our Women in Fisheries series, we meet Ami Raini Putriraya, Site Manager for North Minahasa at our Indonesian partner organisation YAPEKA. Ami supports community-based fisheries management, promoting responsible and sustainable fishing and building relationships with fishers. She is dedicated to raising the profile of women, who are often sidelined from decision-making in fisheries management.
While global efforts to tackle poverty are making progress, conservation isn’t following the same trajectory. All of our futures depend on our ability to devise, test and scale-up conservation models that can turn the tide. Blue Ventures’ mission focuses on scaling up practical, durable solutions to rebuilding fisheries through a grassroots replication strategy centred on supporting local conservation leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic throws existing environmental crises into even sharper relief, highlighting the critical importance of agile, human-centered approaches to conservation that bolster the resilience of vulnerable populations. Our Executive Director Alasdair Harris explains why the impact we make today could be the most important work of our lives.
A landmark study carried out by marine scientists and volunteers from Blue Ventures shows that community-led conservation means more fish in the sea. Data collected over seven years from five community-managed reserves within Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) show that fish populations increased following protection − a critical objective for conservationists working to protect coral reefs.
Mangroves can help buffer the impacts of climate change, while providing critical livelihoods and food for coastal communities. But they are being decimated faster than almost any other forest type on earth. This vital study compared the characteristics of soils from mangroves that were deforested 10 years ago to those of healthy mangroves in Madagascar’s Tsimipaika Bay, showing staggering rates of loss of carbon from deforested sediments. Our findings underscore the critical importance of efforts to conserve mangroves and keep carbon in the ground.
“When we work on ideas that have come from the communities, the message is more powerful and more people want to hear it.” – Symphorien, Outreach Media Technician
One of the most effective ways our teams found to raise awareness of COVID-19 amongst remote fishing communities has been through the power of music and film. Choosing popular music styles, writing lyrics in local dialects and featuring community members has helped to create authentic outreach tools in line with the needs and living context of remote coastal communities.
“I told Kokoly and her family that I had come to show them the final film, and shared the news about it being shown all around the world; that audiences had been encouraged, inspired and amazed by her and her story.
After the first showing was over, Kokoly’s mother turned to me and said, “This is a true story, it’s all true”. I asked if it would be okay for us to show the film around nearby villages Kokoly smiled and nodded, and her mother agreed, “You have to, people should see this and know her story”.
Together with conservation leadership specialists Maliasili, we launched the African Marine Conservation Leadership Programme, making waves for marine conservation in the Western Indian Ocean. The virtual learning programme brings together a new generation of marine conservation leaders from the Comoros, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia, building their capacity to lead an empowered, resilient and locally led conservation movement that delivers benefits to people and nature.
“We are blessed to have the ocean, at least my family will have fish to eat. We are still figuring out how best to cope as we take it a day at a time” – Abubakar, community member involved in the management of the Wasini LMMA, Kenya
For traditional fishing communities, the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have been far-reaching, and while community health is a concern, the economic shocks have pushed many vulnerable people into deeper poverty. Throughout the pandemic, our teams and partners continue to collect observations to understand these impacts, and have found inspirational stories of local leadership and resilience.
“The community needs to take part in marine conservation so that they know what their future will be, and the future of generations to come.” – Jacks, member of the local diving ecological monitoring team in Velondriake
A newly trained Malagasy reef monitoring team, and an increasingly engaged community of fishers, has allowed the Velondriake Association to successfully expand a network of permanent no-take zones in southern Madagascar, surveying coral reefs and adapting traditional marker buoys to mark out these critical conservation areas.
The MIHARI Network has worked tirelessly over the last eight years to establish solid foundations for the legal recognition of LMMAs in Madagascar. After eight years of incubation by Blue Ventures, the network is now taking its final steps towards legal independence as a civil society movement representing the voices of coastal communities and empowering fishers to protect their rights.
2021 will be a decisive year for our oceans. Human-driven climate breakdown and mass extinction are changing our environment in ways our species has never experienced before. Few on Earth will have their lives as profoundly impacted as traditional fishers.
We are mobilising to bring the full force of our networks and experience to the critical global conversations on climate and ecosystem restoration. We will be amplifying the voices of fishers to inspire action to rebuild fisheries and protect ocean life.
Our accomplishments this year were only possible thanks to the support of our friends, partners, and thousands of supporters like you. We are enormously grateful to everyone who is supporting us to drive forward a locally-led global marine conservation movement.