2011 Semi-Finalist: Blue Ventures
PROJECT PRESS RELEASE: PDF
WEBSITE: Blue Ventures
FEATURE VIDEO: Al Harris + Blue Ventures
Critical Need Being Addressed
Globally, tropical coastal ecosystems are critical to livelihoods, cultures and food security of hundreds of millions of people, but are in unabated decline due to overexploitation and climate change. Throughout the developing world a paucity of marine resource governance exists with only a fraction of marine ecosystems under effective protection.
Description of Initiative
Inspired by a paucity of marine resource governance globally Blue Ventures works alongside partner communities at remote field research sites. Data collected on the status of marine environments, analysed in partnership with community leaders, are widely disseminated so that communities begin to understand the ecological condition of their marine environment as well as the biological and economic case for conservation management as a tool for restocking depleted fisheries and safeguarding ecosystem resilience.
Blue Ventures works to develop community owned marine conservation solutions through a portfolio encompassing marine and fisheries research, sustainable aquaculture, family planning, environmental education, fisheries management and protected area development. Integrating such a broad range of initiatives and delivering them in a specific geographic area (Velondriake – established by Blue Ventures and the largest community-managed marine reserve in the Indian Ocean) represents a unique approach to the development of sustainable and holistic community led marine and coastal conservation in developing world countries.
The approach Blue Ventures has pioneered to tropical coastal management is unique globally:
• Blue Ventures’ work is grounded in uncompromising science. From biodiversity research to bioeconomic modelling of marine reserves, all conservation programmes are guided by rigorous scientific analysis.
• Blue Ventures’ conservation programmes are developed, designed, managed and policed by local coastal communities, creating a management solution that is owned and led by communities.
• Blue Ventures focuses on demonstrating the lasting economic benefits of marine conservation, creating a powerful market based incentive to protect marine biodiversity.
• At its core Blue Ventures is a biodiversity social enterprise, constantly innovating new approaches to financing marine conservation and coastal poverty alleviation, and generating almost all of its own conservation funding independently. Existing social enterprise activities include award-winning ecotourism, carbon finance and conservation incentive programmes, as well as community-based sustainable aquaculture businesses.
BFI Assessment Summary
Blue Ventures (BV), led by Ashoka Fellow Alisdair Harris Ph.D, has developed a high-leverage scalable model that enables impoverished tropical fishing communities in Andavadoaka, Madagascar to quickly and dramatically raise their incomes while protecting the biodiversity of their coastal waters through the creation of community-run Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The approach integrates advanced marine conservation science with capacity-building and sound local economics in order to provide the necessary skills, incentives, and partnerships that can effect lasting change.
The core of the concept involves determining the recovery period for a fishery that is headed toward collapse, and convincing the fishers to stop fishing periodically to allow the fish population to rebound, so that they can benefit from greatly increased fish catches on a sustainable basis. This translates to significantly higher income along the entire supply chain and the preservation of traditional coastal livelihoods as well as marine biodiversity. The recovery method has been scientifically verified and has been met with great local enthusiasm. Within 4 years the strategy has spread to 25 independent fishing villages along 200Kms of Madagascar’s coastline. This has resulted in the largest community-managed MPA in the Indian Ocean.
BV is imbued with an entrepreneurial community-led spirit that distinguishes it from most other conservation NGOs, once established these MPAs stand on their economic merits rather than requiring continuous support from outside NGOs. Most of BV’s scientific research is funded by award-winning eco-tourism expeditions and supported by teams of volunteer researchers. As distinct from conventional ‘top down’ outsider approaches to conservation, community engagement and empowerment is the centerpiece of the BV strategy. This has resulted in local citizens taking control of the decisions that affect them and leading grassroots educational efforts that then help other villages replicate the model.
BV is also supporting a full range of community-based economic development initiatives. These include providing educational scholarships for illiterate children, building a reproductive health and family planning clinic, helping develop alternative sources of income for women (such as sea-cucumber farming) and developing a community-owned eco-tourism enterprise. These efforts extend beyond the typical confines of science-based marine conservation but are critical to ensuring the long-term success of BV’s MPA strategy. BV’s comprehensive systems approach to conservation assumes that the survival of a natural habitat and the people whose lives depend on it are inseparable. It is showing significant potential to improve the lives of millions of people throughout the coastal tropics who rely on threatened marine resources for their daily subsistence.
PEOPLE: Blue Ventures
Through our marine expeditions, volunteers from around the world join us on career breaks, student gap years and internships, working closely with our field research teams, in partnership with local communities.
We have a commitment to responsible travel on all of our expeditions.