First steps in mapping community based marine management at an ocean scale

To tackle the urgent and growing challenges facing the world’s oceans, we believe conservation efforts need to be nimble, adaptive and tailored to local contexts and priorities. As we grow our reach and impact, we’re trying to do things a little differently

We’re working to build a new movement for marine conservation because we are convinced that rapid change can be unleashed by investing in credible community-based organisations working at the frontlines of marine conservation. 

These agile and capable organisations are often overlooked and unable to access international conservation funding or support, despite being embedded in communities, familiar with the local environmental context and responsive to the conservation challenges that individuals and communities face.

Developing our knowledge

Forging partnerships is a long-term process of conversations, listening, meaningful interactions and relationship building that involves mutual exchange of expertise, knowledge and resources to ensure that support reaches the communities and organisations that need it most. 

To aid this process we have been working to understand the landscape of community-based marine conservation and fisheries projects in key areas across the tropics. Through these investigations we are exploring the presence of potential partners and developing our understanding of the kind of support that could be valuable to community organisations.  

By using detailed literature and internet searches, conducting interviews and drawing on our global networks we have documented almost 600 projects across six priority regions. These projects are being led by diverse groups including locally-based and international NGOs, social enterprises, government initiatives, co-management partnerships and more. 

This desk based approach is not perfect, and there will undoubtedly be worthwhile projects missed, but we do believe this has been a thorough analysis and is useful to share the outcomes more widely. If you have any questions about the data or would like to contribute new projects please do get in touch

We use internet and literature searches, interviews and our global network to document the projects in priority regions…

…before cataloguing our findings…

…and mapping each project to help us understand the landscape

Governance assessment in Kenya and Tanzania

In spring 2019 we began to examine the national landscapes of Beach Management Unit (BMU) activities in Kenya and Tanzania − working with partners COMRED, Mwambao, Marinecultures, Northern Rangeland Trust, Safari Doctors, Sea Sense, the Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and WWF to better understand which local fisheries management institutions and communities might benefit most from our support. 

Beach Management Units − or BMUs − are local fishery co-management institutions established as partnerships between fishing communities and the government. 

Our preliminary scoping indicated that of the 286 BMUs we assessed in the two countries, only 25 were considered to be fully engaged in governance and fisheries management activities, such as monitoring catches, conducting patrols of protected areas, and collecting revenue from BMU memberships and landing fees. The remaining BMUs were struggling in various aspects of governance and management.

Our analyses indicated that governance support − such as dedicated community organisation and leadership training − could add significant value in Kenya’s Kilifi county and Tanzania’s Lindi and Mtwara counties. We increasingly see that building governance capacity in our partners and the communities they serve is a critical component to ensuring an effective foundation for participatory fisheries management and marine conservation.

Analysis indicated that governance support − such as dedicated community organisation and leadership training − could add significant value

This preliminary research gives us a first look at local challenges and opportunities. We then work with our existing partners, who are embedded in communities, to understand if our assessment reflects the experiences of people in each community. This ground truthing is a vital step in ensuring that our preliminary research − generally conducted remotely − represents local realities accurately. 

These insights help our local technicians provide tailored support to our partner organisations and inform the approaches and resources we develop to support communities in East Africa to manage their fisheries and conserve their marine environments. 

Results from Sulawesi

At the same time as we researched BMUs in East Africa we started exploring the landscape of marine conservation projects in Sulawesi island in Indonesia. 

Blue Ventures has worked alongside three organisations in Sulawesi –  Forkani, Lini, and Yapeka – as they have supported temporary octopus fishery closures in Darawa, Popisi and Bulutui villages. 

With this new research we wanted to understand which other organisations were active in Sulawesi and learn about the projects they were leading. We were especially interested in identifying community-based organisations with strong local legitimacy and which share Blue Ventures’ commitment to securing the rights of communities in the development of community-led conservation. 

We identified over 100 marine conservation and fisheries projects that were being led by over 20 different organisations across Sulawesi. This insight is helping to guide us as we identify like-minded organisations and explore opportunities for building relationships and forging new partnerships. 

Results from Somalia, Philippines and Sri Lanka

In Spring 2020 we applied the same process to understand the landscape of marine conservation and fisheries projects in Somalia, Sri Lanka and Mindanao island in the Philippines. 

Our research identified 22 national and international organisations working in Somalia currently leading 80 different marine conservation and fisheries projects across the country. In Sri Lanka and Mindanao we identified 23 and 30 organisations respectively. 

We found that in Somalia many organisations are working to develop the fishing sector to solve local food insecurity and provide coastal communities with livelihood opportunities. This is particularly important in Somalia, where terrestrial food production has been disrupted by increasingly extreme environmental crises, including floods, droughts and locust plagues. In Mindanao, on the other hand, many more organisations are working to protect coral reefs and mangroves in an effort to conserve biodiversity. In Sri Lanka, we found that there were more marine reserves and national parks, but fewer locally-grown marine conservation organisations.  

We are now expanding this research to learn about challenges and opportunities in access to community health services within underserved coastal regions as part of our holistic health-environment approach.

Applying our understanding

These investigations help us to develop a rapid understanding of the landscape of marine conservation and fisheries projects across Blue Ventures’ priority regions. They also help us to understand some of the challenges organisations and communities might be facing as they work to drive impactful change.  

The insights we glean from these investigations feed into our partnership building process, offering insights into the presence of potential partner organisations and opportunities for mutual exchange and support. They also help us understand what kind of support is valuable to community organisations and allows us to advocate to funders and governments for an increase in targeted support.  

We believe that by strengthening these committed, locally-based organisations we are helping to build a foundation of confident, dynamic national organisations that will long outlive our modest support.

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