2023Harnessing nature’s superpower

Across the world our colleagues and partners are witnessing weather systems in disarray. From as far afield as Guinea Bissau and Mindanao, the reality of life in uncharted climatic territory is becoming clearer: extremes of drought, rain, wind and heat.

Yet despite the grim outlook, our seas have an incredible superpower: a natural ability to recover, regenerate and meet the challenges of global heating head on. And the networks of small-scale fishers, local communities and Indigenous peoples that we support have the knowledge and tools needed to unlock this superpower.

Across 14 countries and growing, we’re seeing time and again how local action to restore the ocean can regenerate fisheries, protect life and build food security. This is now a global marine conservation movement, led by and for small-scale fishers and coastal communities. It’s the most equitable, scalable and cost-effective way of safeguarding our seas, and maintaining the vital role that they play in supporting all life on earth.

Blue Ventures turned 20 in September and to celebrate, I returned to the community in southern Madagascar where it all began and reflected on all that we’ve achieved since with some of our first team members. Many of these staff are still with us today, and you’ll see their video stories peppered throughout this review.

The movement we’ve built over these two decades has only been possible thanks to our friends, partners, and thousands of supporters like you. We’re enormously grateful to everyone who has supported us to put coastal communities at the heart of efforts to rebuild fisheries and protect our oceans, both this year, and throughout the last twenty.

Together we can help turn the tide.

AH signature-inverted

Dr Alasdair Harris
Founder and Executive Director


February 2023

We contributed to research showing how partially protected waters, such as Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), provide effective and equitable pathways for marine conservation.

The research looks at the Velondriake LMMA, supported by our team in Madagascar since its creation in 2006. Velondriake is a 650 square kilometre conservation area comprising permanent marine reserves, temporary no take areas, seasonal fishing restrictions, bans on destructive fishing gears, and areas zoned for mangrove reforestation and sustainable community-based aquaculture.

March 2023

Cyclone Freddy left a trail of destruction across Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi, affecting millions of people, causing hundreds of deaths and displacing tens of thousands of people. For three weeks, Freddy ricocheted across the Mozambique channel shattering records to become the longest-recorded tropical cyclone. We spoke to traditional Vezo fishers from Morombe in Madagascar about the experience of communities on the frontlines of these weather extremes.

Also this month:

May 2023

Investing in conservation leadership in East Africa

We expanded the African Marine Conservation Leadership Programme to include more organisations and leaders across the continent. We welcomed a new cohort of 16 senior leaders from community-based organisations across Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania.

We also started a new initiative, LeadUp, to support emerging leaders in the community-based conservation sector. We launched LeadUp’s first cohort in February, bringing together 30 emerging conservation leaders from Kenya and Tanzania.

Participants in both programmes joined us in September for the five-day African Community Conservation Forum, convened by our partner Maliasili.

June 2023

As the crisis facing our oceans and fishing communities intensifies, so do calls to ban bottom trawling, the most widespread form of destructive fishing. The Transform Bottom Trawling coalition, hosted by Blue Ventures, now comprises 75 members from 39 countries. We celebrated the launch of a new ocean protection campaign with the coalition’s European partners and launched an interactive map, detailing first hand accounts of the scale and impact of bottom trawling from across the world from as far afield as Sierra Leone, Chile, Indonesia and Scotland. We hosted webinars exploring different dimensions of the movement’s work.

July 2023

In Madagascar we have launched a new independent civil society observatory, Fitsinjo, based in Antananarivo, working to promote transparency in the island nation’s industrial fisheries. Drawing on diverse data sources, including community-led surveillance and investigative intelligence, Fitsinjo is shining a light on a sector that has operated largely out of the public eye and has witnessed huge expansion of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) industrial fishing activity.

We’re also supporting Fitsinjo to develop an extensive participatory monitoring network mobilising communities around Africa’s longest coastline to gather real-time reports of industrial fishing activity.

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