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Conservation Spotlight: Blue Ventures

In this series of articles, we’ll look at conservation organizations linked to ocean protection. Today we’re talking with Blue Ventures.

We’ve profiled several conservation organizations so far, examining what they do and how readers can get involved to help protect our oceans. Today we’re talking with Richard Nimmo, managing director at Blue Ventures

What does Blue Ventures do?

Blue Ventures is a marine conservation organization that works with remote coastal communities. In tandem, we develop locally-led solutions to rebuild over-exploited fisheries and protect marine biodiversity. Our communities-first approach ensures that fishing communities engage in conservation. They benefit from protecting and managing their natural resources, so that conservation makes economic sense for them.

How did Blue Ventures start?

Our story started in 2003, with a small team of staff and volunteers surveying coral reefs in southwest Madagascar. The communities were concerned about the decline of their fisheries, so we helped one village close off a small section of their octopus gleaning area for a few months. We wanted to see whether this might boost productivity.

When they reopened the area, communities experienced a huge increase in octopus’ landings and fishermen’s incomes. As news of this remarkable fishery boom spread, neighboring communities started copying this approach. Crucially, this sparked interest in more ambitious coastal management efforts. This lead to the country’s first Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA), governed by a small network of fishing villages.

Since then, this temporary fishery-closure model has gone viral along thousands of miles of Madagascar’s coastline. It has spawned a grassroots marine-conservation revolution with 64 more LMMAs established to date.

Today, 11 percent of the island’s seabed is managed by communities, for communities. These experiences have guided our journey in searching for new approaches to demonstrate that marine conservation can be in everyone’s interest. Taking less from our ocean can give us much, much more.

What are the main actions and/or areas of focus?

Time and again, marine conservation efforts break down because they don’t resonate with the needs of coastal communities. Blue Ventures is developing conservation models that work for people, showing that effective marine conservation is in everyone’s interest.

We work from the grassroots, placing responsibility for fisheries management in the hands of local communities. This is particularly necessary in low-income countries, where there is often limited central capacity and infrastructure for marine management.

We’ve created the largest Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in the Indian Ocean, proven new models for community-led fisheries management, built sustainable aquaculture businesses, and developed effective approaches for integrating community-health services with marine conservation. Our award-winning ecotourism social enterprise provides year-round sustainability and match funding to enhance the impact and stability of our field programs.

Thanks to the donations from our supporters we also help run education and health programs for these local communities.

How many people are involved in Blue Ventures?

We employ 140 people worldwide, with U.K. headquarters. Staff works in five countries — Madagascar, Belize, Timor-Leste, Mozambique and the Union of the Comoros.

Our staff have varied roles from finance, to program management, to operations and field staff who are working at the grassroots level. We are growing rapidly and building partnerships and programs constantly.

In 2017 we will begin work in Kenya and Tanzania and have partnerships in other countries in development.

How can people help?

We recruit marine-conservation volunteers to join us on expeditions to support our work in Madagascar, Belize and Timor-Leste. Volunteers learn the diving and scientific techniques to collect data that is vital to the management of some of the world’s most remote marine-biodiversity hotspots.  You can read about some of our volunteers’ experiences on our blog.

You can also contribute to our conservation, development and education programs in Madagascar, Belize and Timor-Leste or sponsor the scholarship of several kids in the areas where we work.