Marine specialists welcome ‘rigorous’ training on ocean management

Ocean professionals are keen to apply new tools and lessons learned from specialised courses run by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Better managing ocean spaces

The online training programme, currently being rolled out, aims to help countries better manage their ocean spaces. Topics range from how to map mangroves using advanced technology; to linking science and policymaking; to engaging stakeholders and raising funds to deliver successful projects.

To date, more than 500 local professionals from across the Commonwealth have signed up for the various courses, which were freely available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Benefits from the course

Taati Eria, a senior fisheries officer at the Ministry of Fisheries in Kiribati, said she benefitted from the course on stakeholder engagement: “We are grateful for the resources shared which are quite useful to our work. Even though we encountered few difficulties with the internet connection, we are thankful to our trainers. We did learn new tools that are quite new to us and are useful in engaging our stakeholders.”

Rhea Kanhai, an environmental officer at Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency took the course on mapping mangroves. She added: “The course was well worth it and I’ll definitely implement what I learnt in my work.”

Webinar participants

Solutions for ocean challenges

The initiative marks an important milestone under the Commonwealth Blue Charter – a historic agreement by the 54 countries of the Commonwealth to work actively together to find solutions for ocean challenges and meet global commitments on ocean health.

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said the places for online courses were filled within days:

“The feedback so far has been extremely positive. These training opportunities are such an important step in translating high-level global commitments on ocean governance and protection – including those related to the Sustainable Development Goals – to practical action that actually makes a difference to the lives of people on the ground.

“Ultimately our aim is to build lasting capacity within countries to better manage ocean resources by upskilling local people who carry out the work in the sector. We are fortunate to have world class partners with whom the Secretariat is collaborating to make this programme possible.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

Some of the courses were based on pressing needs identified by Commonwealth Blue Charter ‘action groups’ – voluntary clusters of member countries that have joined up to collaborate on specific ocean challenges. To date, there are 10 action groups, led by 13 champion countries covering issues such as marine plastic pollution, climate change, and mangrove restoration.

The course offered on mangroves was an initiative from the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group to support the development of management plans and pilot programmes across the Commonwealth.

For more details on courses and to register an interest for 2021 sessions

Individual Transferable Quotas for Cod Fisheries, Iceland (on-going)

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“Iceland is one of the largest fisheries nations in the North Atlantic and is proud of its reputation in sustainable fisheries. I am therefore happy to announce that we will continue to contribute to responsible fisheries, following the advice of scientists to the fullest in our total catch decisions. For the future we need to further strengthen research and make sure we have the best possible information at each point in time to base reliable decisions on.” – Icelandic Minister of Fisheries Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, 2014


The fishing industry is one of the main pillars of the Icelandic economy. Cod makes up the largest proportion of the catch of coastal vessels and is currently the second most important species in terms of weight landed and the most important on average in terms of volume. Following concern about increasingly unsustainable exploitation, a comprehensive statutory system of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) was introduced in 1990, giving fishers permanent quota shares as an incentive to take a long-term view on the harvesting and management of the resources. Species-specific total allowable catches are set by the regulator and a proportion (quota) allocated to individual fishers or fishing companies based on fishing experience (grandfather rights). In 2009, a licensed coastal fishery system was introduced for hand-lining and longlining (mainly cod) in the summer months, to try and ease access for new entrants.

The ITQ system works alongside other management measures such as the closure of spawning grounds as well as restrictions on gear types. The ITQ reform process was driven primarily by scientists, politicians and public servants. On-going stock assessment surveys are conducted in close cooperation with the fishing industry.

The economic performance of the fishing industry has improved since the quota system and other supporting measures were introduced. However, it has led the coastal fisheries sector to consolidate, making it difficult for new fishers to enter because of the cost of purchasing a licence.

Icelandic cod are currently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and included in the Food and Agriculture Organization-based Iceland Responsible Fisheries Management Certification Programme.

The issue

Fishing in Iceland expanded considerably after World War II following a significant increase in the size of the fleet and technological advances.

Increasingly unsustainable exploitation became a serious problem and this continued to be a concern despite the introduction of various restrictions, such as limitations on the number of days at sea and on the type of gear used, as well as setting total allowable catches (TACs). Subsides for scrapping fishing vessels and restrictions on access by foreign fleets were also introduced but, despite these, fisheries continued to suffer from overexploitation. The need for urgent reform was highlighted by Iceland’s Marine Resource Institute in the 1970s and 1980s.

The fishing industry is one of the main pillars of the Icelandic economy. At the present time, cod makes up the largest proportion of the catch of coastal vessels and it is the third most important species in terms of weight landed.

The response

A comprehensive statutory system of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) was introduced in 1990, giving fishers permanent quota shares as an incentive to take a long-term view on the harvesting and management of the resources. The Fisheries Act 1990 describes the objectives as “preservation and efficient use of resources to lay the foundation for long-term employment and settlement in the country”.

Species-specific TACs are set on an annual basis by the regulator and a proportion (quota) is allocated to individual fishers or fishing companies based on fishing experience (grandfather rights). Quota shares can be leased or sold on, for example if vessels opt to leave the industry.

The smallest (coastal) boats were originally exempt, to conserve employment in rural villages, but, after attempts to reduce the effort of these vessels failed, they were also required to enter the ITQ system. In 2009, a licensed coastal fishery system was introduced for hand-lining and longlining (mainly cod), with around 10 per cent of the quota reserved for coastal fisheries to try and safeguard this fishery and ease access for new entrants.

There are four defined coastal fishing zones, and fishers apply to fish in one of these zones in four-monthly blocks (three fishing periods each year). Once allocation has occurred, fishing is open access, with fishers competing to catch as much fish as quickly as possible but under certain conditions. There is a 650 kg/day landing limit, with penalties for overfishing and restrictions on permitted days at sea as well as on hours of fishing each day.

The ITQ system works alongside other management measures such as the closure of spawning grounds and areas to protect juvenile fish, as well as restrictions on gear types for certain time periods and fishing grounds.

Partnerships and support

The ITQ reform process was primarily driven by scientists, politicians and public servants with limited initial stakeholder involvement, as the government was keen to address what was seen as an urgent threat to an economically important industry.

Stock assessment surveys are conducted by the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, which works in close cooperation with the fishing industry and other stakeholders. Formal committees and focus groups have been established to enhance understanding, trust and quality of marine research.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Fishing effort has reduced drastically and fishing pressure on cod in Icelandic fishing grounds has declined; in 2019, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea reported that it was at a historic low. The spawning stock biomass of cod has stabilised and has begun to recover, and recruitment has been relatively stable since 1988 (see figures below).

The economic performance of the fishing industry has improved significantly since the quota system was adopted. Higher productivity and increased focus on value and quality has replaced the early emphasis on quantity and tonnage. This is not entirely attributable to the ITQ system, however: several other important factors, such as technological progress, effective auction markets and an increasingly efficient marketdriven industry, have also played a part. The successful economics of the Icelandic fisheries are such that the industry is self-financing with no government subsidy required.

Icelandic cod caught by gill/fixed net, longline and demersal trawls are currently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and, since 2010, included in the Food and Agriculture Organization-based Iceland Responsible Fisheries Management Certification Programme.

The coastal sector has consolidated, making it more difficult to enter on account of higher costs (investment/capital). The economic and environmental consequences have been positive but there have also been social implications. For example, the number of employees in fisheries has decreased by 40 per cent in the past 25 years, as the sector has become much more efficient. On the other hand, some communities, which were previously not considered fishing villages, such as Arnarstapi, have grown in size, with fishing becoming a new and important part of their economy.


While there have been overall economic gains there have been both winners and losers.

The level of initial stakeholder involvement was limited, with some industry stakeholders, such as fishers and people whose livelihoods depended to a great extent on fishing, not explicitly engaged. This was deliberate, to speed up the process to avert a crisis, but required subsequent agreement over exemptions and amendments to the system as well as efforts to better distribute the benefits of this common resource, such as regional quotas to help communities rather than the fishing firms directly.

The small vessel fleet (<15 metres), operated largely from small fishing villages, was severely affected, as optimisation and aggregation of quota shares by the largest seafood companies left small traditional fishing villages with little or no fishing rights. Around 75 per cent of the quotas now belong to 25 of the largest vessel operators and fishing companies in Iceland. Concentration of fishing rights has also gravitated towards a few big fishing harbours.

Cod catches are now largely in line with TACs; however, there remain some infractions by coastal fleets exceeding their landing allowance. There are substantial financial penalties in such cases, and the government is considering whether any further adjustments to the system are required.

Key lessons learnt

Complications, such as the need for piecemeal amendments, can arise with reforms where certain fleet segments are not treated in the same way, as demonstrated by the initial exemption of small-scale fishers from the ITQ system.

Regional quotas have been important to ensure some quota is given to towns or regions where fishing is the mainstay of the economy and therefore to help communities rather than the fishing firms directly. The effects differ widely from one region to another; they have clearly benefited the region around the capital because of its proximity to some of the regions that have received such quotas.

The initial free allocation of quotas via the “grandfathering” scheme raised concerns about the distribution of benefits of what is a common property resource to a few individuals/companies. A resource rent tax, introduced in 2012, sought to address this, with the monies raised – based on the profit margin of harvesting different species – going into the general government budget to be shared throughout the country. The level of this tax remains a controversial issue: some sectors see it as too onerous and some see it as insufficient.

The changes were driven by but not exclusively the result of the ITQ system. For example, countrywide wet fish auction markets helped increase specialisation and led to more stability in the supply of the raw material and more efficient marketing.

Sound inspections systems that control fisheries and catches are needed as well as a robust monitoring framework and scientific advice to maintain a more sustainable ecosystem and build an efficient and viable industry.

The economic element has become more sustainable but there have been social implications. The aim was to try and address these through community quotas and, although these have stopped a decline and even increased the focus on fisheries in some villages, others in less favourable areas for fishing activity have lost out.

The reform was driven mainly by economic concerns and the fact that the stock was on the brink of collapse, but other issues such as social justice were also considered important.

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EU Ports Energy and Carbon Savings Project: Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Small and Medium-Sized Ports (on-going)

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“There are already a lot of existing tools to become more low-carbon and more energy efficient. But unfortunately the existing tools are made for the bigger ports, and are not so easy to implement for the smaller ports.” Wim Stubbe, PECS Project Coordinator, Port of Oostende


In 2018, 173 countries adopted a goal to reduce the carbon emissions of global shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050 (UN Climate Change, 2018). While this effort will focus mainly on changes at the ship level, there is an important role for coastal communities to play in reducing emissions from ports. To this end, several large ports have made ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction commitments. This case study focuses instead on options for small and medium-sized ports, highlighting the work done through the Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project (PECS) in Europe.

The issue

CO2 emissions from maritime shipping reached 932 million tons in 2015 – 2.6 per cent of total global CO2 emissions and a 2.4 per cent increase from 2013 (Olmer et al., 2017). With the expansion of international trade, shipping emissions are expected to grow by as much as 50-250 per cent by 2050 (IMO, 2015).

While the broader challenge of decarbonising maritime transport focuses mainly on alternative fuels and propulsion technologies for ships, there is an important role for actions taken at the port level. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, these actions can also help reduce the local air pollution created by docked ships, which have harmful health impacts on coastal communities.

Reducing GHG emissions at ports includes both:

  1. Reducing emissions from ships at berth; and
  2. 2. Reducing emissions from port operations.

Reducing emissions from ships at berth usually involves offering some type of incentive for lower-emitting ships, such as reduced port fees (see Table: Large ports with environmental port fees), or requiring them to adopt some type of low-carbon practice, such as connecting to shore power while at-berth (e.g. California’s At-Berth Regulations).1

Reducing emissions from port operations is more varied, but generally involves some combination of:

  • Measuring port-level GHG emissions;
  • Installing low-carbon power at the port;
  • Installing energy-efficient lighting and building retrofits;
  • Installing energy-efficient port equipment (e.g. vehicles, linkspans, roll-on/roll-off ships, etc.).

The response

EU Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project

Several ports around the world are now undergoing major transformations towards low- or zero-carbon emissions. For example, the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has a plan to reduce its emissions by 90 per cent by 2050, while the Port of Oslo recently announced its plan to become zero-carbon (Gerretsen, 2018; Lindeman, 2019).

The EU Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project (PECS), however, has set its focus on reducing GHG emissions at small and medium-sized (SMS) ports, which often lack the human and financial resources of their larger counterparts. “Small and medium sized ports and marinas don’t have enough resources in staff or in money, so for them it is really a challenge to understand what kind of solutions they can implement in order to meet a low-carbon management scheme,” said Wim Stubbe of the Port of Oostende.2 2

The project is a collaborative effort between 10 partners, including ports, municipalities, companies and universities across the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, which have come together to develop, test and validate various tools, methods and technologies that can help SMS ports reduce their carbon emissions. It will run from 7 December 2017 to 30 June 2021, with a total budget of €8.1 million from the EU.

The tools and methods being tested in the project include:

  • A methodology and protocol for energy auditing in SMS ports;
  • An assessment of the potential for cost-effective renewable energy at SMS ports;
  • An assessment of the potential for energy-saving options at SMS ports; and
  • A tool to help SMS port mangers identify the best mix of renewables and energy saving options.

The project is also piloting several low-carbon technologies suitable for SMS ports, most of which are currently in place, including:

  • A 100 kw medium-sized offshore wind turbine at the Port of Oostende (Belgium) providing electricity to a port terminal (installed June 2018);3
  • A liquid natural gas (LNG)-powered linkspan at Portsmouth International Port (UK), which also operates more quickly, resulting in fuel savings for ships (installed March 2018);4
  • A waste recycling unit at the Port of Dunkirk (expected to be operational by Q3 2020);5
  • An energy pontoon designed and built by a startup company BPS (Blue Power Synergy), with wind generation, solar generation and energy storage at the Port of Oostende (Belgium) (testing in Q3 2020).6
  • An IT-enabled Local Energy Market (LEM) platform to enable flexible renewable energy distribution at Omgevingsdienst IJmond (Netherlands) (in development).7

Key lessons learnt

One of the main objectives of PECS is not only to reduce carbon emissions from project partners but also to provide a model and guidance for other SMS ports. To this end, the project conducts feasibility studies on all of the tools, methods and technologies adopted, so that other SMS ports can learn from its experience. Currently, dozens of feasibility studies and guides are available on the PECS website.8









European Union Ports Energy and Carbon Savings Project

Wim Stubbe, PECS Project Coordinator, Port of Oostende: [email protected]

Sources and further reading

Gerretsen, I. (2018) ‘Zero Carbon at Sea? Rotterdam Port Eyes a Greener Future’. Reuters, 23 October. https://

IMO (2015) Third IMO Greenhouse Gas Study 2014. London: IMO.

IMO (2018) Port Emissions Toolkit Guide No.1: Assessment of Port Emissions. London: IMO.

ITF (2014) Shipping Emissions in Ports. Paris: OECD.

ITF (2018a) Reducing Shipping Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lessons From Port-Based Incentives. Paris: OECD.

ITF (2018b) Decarbonising Maritime Transport Pathways to Zero-Carbon Shipping by 2035. Paris: OECD.

Lindeman, T. (2019) ‘Oslo Wants to Build the World’s First Zero-Emissions Port’. Grist, 9 November. https://grist. org/article/oslo-wants-to-build-the-worlds-first-zeroemissions-port/

Olmer, M., Comer, B., Roy, B., Mao, X. and Rutherford, D. (2017) Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping, 2013–2015. Washington, DC: ICCT.

UN Climate Change (2018) ‘World Nations Agree to at Least Halve Shipping Emissions by 2050’. News, 14 April.

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Best Management Practice Training for Egyptian Fish Farmers Managed by WorldFish Under the IEIDEAS and STREAMS Projects

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“What I have learned from the training is very useful: how to prepare the land, how to handle fingerlings, how to calculate the required amount of food and how to measure water quality. I have noticed better weight of fish and increased survival. These results will help to give my family a better livelihood,” says Abdel-Wahab, Egyptian fish farmer


The Egyptian aquaculture sector has grown rapidly since the 1980s into a strategically important source of nutrition for the country’s population. The fish farming system had not changed much since the initial establishment of pond-based fish farming zones except that there was increasing dependence on feeds. The 2011 Arab Spring revolution resulted in a downturn in the Egyptian economy that threatened the profitability of fish farms. Selling prices for fish were static or declining while costs continued to increase.

A study commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) in 2011 identified opportunities to improve the situation through best management practice (BMP) training and the release of a faster-growing strain of tilapia developed by WorldFish at its Abbassa research centre over the previous decade. This resulted in WorldFish implementing a three-year SDC-funded project, Improving Employment and Income through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector, from early 2012.

The project trained over 2,400 fish farmers in BMP in a field-based programme delivered by private sector, locally based trainers. This resulted in high adoption rates and significantly improved feed efficiency that generated average increased profits of US$16,000 per farm and total value added by the project of US$27 million. Increased feed efficiency also resulted in environmental benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced discharge of nutrients to ecosystems.

The issue

Egyptian aquaculture is based on small- to medium-scale pond-based fish farms covering around 120,000 hectares in designated aquaculture zones, mainly on the southern edge of shallow lakes along the north coast of the Nile Delta. The current system was established in the early 1980s when aquaculture was prioritised as an important sector for development. A management and regulatory organisation, the General Authority for Fisheries Resources Development (GAFRD), was established that leased aquaculture land to the fish farmers in small blocks. Government-owned feed mills and hatcheries were built and, because aquaculture was profitable, the sector expanded rapidly through private sector investment. Aquaculture production rose to almost 1 million tons per year by 2010, almost all consumed locally, making it a strategically important source of nutrition and resulting in Egypt becoming the largest aquaculture producing country in Africa and the Near East. However, this success was threatened by the Arab Spring revolution in 2011, which slowed the economy, making it difficult for fish farmers to pass on rising input costs. Many fish farmers were unable to make profits using the tilapia and mullet farming systems they had developed since the 1980s, and it seemed unlikely that aquaculture production could continue to thrive.

The response

The international research organisation, WorldFish (formerly the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management and WorldFish Center) has had an office and research centre in Egypt since 1997. Meanwhile, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) indicated that it would be keen to support a project focused on increasing employment following the Arab Spring. SDC supported a 2011 scoping study that identified a need to improve management practices in the aquaculture sector as well as releasing an improved strain of tilapia to Egyptian fish farmers and providing support for women fish retailers.

The new three-year US$6 million project, Improving Employment and Income through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector (IEIDEAS), began in 2012. One of the first actions was to set up a best management practices (BMP) training programme by involving key stakeholders in its design and implementation. Representatives from across the main aquaculture zones were brought together to develop BMP guidelines, based on blending current Egyptian aquaculture practices, which varied in different aquaculture zones, and international best practice programmes such as GlobalGAP and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification schemes. The local experts then helped develop BMP training modules: short, field-based training sessions on the key topics, each containing a practical demonstration and delivered using simple materials such as posters, flipcharts and readily available tools. This was followed by training of trainers, again involving the local experts, as well as additional private sector trainers, who delivered the training to fish farmers in their own fish farming areas. Trainers were paid a small fee for delivery of each training module to a small group of up to 20 fish farmers. Around 10 training modules might be delivered at the appropriate time of year in 3 or 4 sessions, each session covering 2–4 training modules.

Partnerships and support

The IEIDEAS project was funded by SDC and implemented by WorldFish as part of its Egypt research programme and its global aquaculture programme. It involved staff from the Egyptian Government, particularly from GAFRD and the Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research (CLAR), which seconds several staff to WorldFish. On-the-ground support also came from the Fish Farming Associations and the apex organisation, the Aquatic Union of Fisheries Cooperatives, as well as some of the main private sector fish feed companies, including Skretting and Aller Aqua.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Over a three-year period, the IEIDEAS project provided BMP training to around 2,400 fish farmers and the fastergrowing strain of Nile tilapia (Abbassa improved strain) reached around 500 fish farms.

The quantitative results were assessed in 2015, through field-based surveys including a BMP adoption survey, to determine whether fish farmers had applied the recommended practices, and a fish farm and farmer impact assessment survey.

The project resulted in greatly increased profitability for fish farms equivalent to around US$16,000 in extra profit generated per farm and US$27 million total value added by the project. Increased profitability was mainly achieved by cost savings through more efficient feed management rather than increased production. Average Food Conversion Ratios (FCR = amount of food fed divided by fish weight gain) fell from around 1.8:1 for control farmers to below 1.5:1 for farms that received BMP training. Reduced FCRs will have resulted in reduced environmental impacts (greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient discharges).

The BMP training continued through a follow-up threeyear project, Sustainable Transformation of Egypt’s Aquaculture Market System (STREAMS), also funded by SDC, with the aim of reaching 6,000 fish farmers. Challenges Although profitability of fish farms improved, the directly attributable employment increase from farmers who received assistance from the project was only 28 fulltime equivalent (FTE), well short of the project target of 10,000 new jobs.

The pre-project study had established that there were 14 FTE jobs along the aquaculture value chain for each 100 tons per year of production, and total employment in the value chain of around 100,000. If fish farmers increased their production by around 10 per cent as a result of the project, employment should increase by around 10,000 FTE. SDC saw increased employment as a critical objective of its economic strategy in Egypt after the Arab Spring.

The IEIDEAS project included not only BMP training but also the release of a faster-growing tilapia strain and expansion of aquaculture into a region of Upper Egypt. However, the dissemination process for the improved strain of tilapia meant that it was only in the final year of the project that it reached significant numbers of farmers, and aquaculture production in Upper Egypt effectively started from zero, so these interventions did not contribute toward production increases during the project’s lifetime. Meanwhile, faced with increased input costs and a stagnating market, the fish farmers behaved logically by using the BMP training to greatly increase their efficiency, reducing their feed use but maintaining production levels and increasing their profitability rather than increasing risk by producing more fish.

Official statistics show that aquaculture production increased rapidly across the country over this period but there is a question of attribution. Official statistics are based on productivity estimates for the main fish farming areas rather than farm-by-farm data collection, whereas the project inception and completion reports were based on field surveys covering statistically representative numbers of fish farmers. It was clear that fish farmers were applying the new practices and benefiting from this immediately in terms of profitability. However, it was proposed that the target was still likely to be met in the longer term as a result of project interventions as the use of the faster-growing tilapia strain expanded and farmers invested their profits from improved practices in production intensification.

The Egyptian aquaculture industry also faced a new fish health challenge over this period, called Summer Mortality of Tilapia, leading to many farmers losing a significant proportion of their fish during the hottest part of the year. WorldFish research found a potential link between Summer Mortality and the spread of Tilapia Lake Virus; however, this has not been confirmed.

This is a good example of a project being driven by donor priorities – in this case employment. An apparently logical strategy was constructed around the link between production and employment. However, for fish farmers, the central issue was their economic survival in very challenging circumstances. This emphasises the importance of understanding the priorities of key stakeholders during project design and setting achievable targets.

Key lessons learnt

Filed-based BMP training can have very significant impacts on the financial performance of small- to medium-scale fish farmers.

The BMP training allowed farmers to significantly improve the efficiency of feed use, producing similar amounts of fish compared with before the BMP training but using less feed.

The main messages from BMP training were adopted immediately and applied by the majority of fish farmers. The training was delivered mainly by locally based fellow fish farmers rather than extension staff, which probably increased the rate of adoption.

The parallel intervention of releasing an improved strain of tilapia took much longer to implement and achieve impacts than the BMP training.

Lead contact

Dr Harrison Karisa, Country Director, WorldFish Egypt


Dickson, M., Nasr-Allah, A.M., Kenawy, D., Fathi, M., ElNaggar, G. and Ibrahim, N. (2016) ‘Improving Employment and Income through Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector (IEIDEAS) Project’. Programme Report 2016-14. Penang: WorldFish. http://pubs.iclarm. net/resource_centre/2016-14.pdf Dickson, M., Nasr-Allah, A., Kenawy, D. and Kruissen, F. (2016) ‘Increasing Fish Farm Profitability through Best Management Practice Training in Egypt’. Aquaculture 465: 172–178. aquaculture.2016.09.015

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Tahiry Honko – Community-Led Mangrove Carbon Project, Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area, Madagascar (on-going)

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“We inherited these mangroves from our ancestors, providing materials we need to survive. I want to ensure we can pass these forests on to our children.” Joel François, member of the Velondriake management association


The Tahiry Honko mangrove carbon project is helping build community resilience and provides a model to help tackle climate breakdown by restoring and protecting mangrove forests.

Working in partnership with Blue Ventures, 10 villages within the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in southwest Madagascar are employing a participatory monitoring and management approach as a solution to address degradation and deforestation of mangroves. By verifying the success of this management and monitoring under the Plan Vivo standard, this approach generates carbon credits whose sale can in turn provide sustainable income to both the project villages and the Velondriake management association.

The project promotes locally led conservation, reforestation and sustainable use of over 1,200 hectares of mangroves, alongside initiatives for building improved and alternative livelihoods. It prevents the emission of almost 1,400 tonnes of CO2/year and the funds from carbon credit sales will support management of the LMMA – including fisheries management – and also development of infrastructure and community services.

The issue

Mangroves underpin coastal fisheries, provide vital sources of fuel wood and timber, protect coastal people from extreme weather and act as a key natural climate solution by sequestering globally significant amounts of CO2. Despite their huge value, mangroves are being deforested at an alarming rate. Unabated, mangrove destruction will deprive tens of millions of people of their livelihoods and undermine their well-being. It will exacerbate the global climate emergency we now face, while taking away what vital natural protection coastal people have against it.

Blue Ventures has worked with coastal communities in Madagascar for 15 years, to explore new ways to derive benefits from protecting mangroves, in particular, by capturing the value of mangrove carbon sequestration, as well as indirect fish production.

The response

By protecting forests within the bay from deforestation and restoring areas of degraded mangroves, local communities are able to safeguard the vast amount of carbon stored in the mangrove vegetation and sediments – so called ‘blue carbon’ – that is released as CO2 when mangrove forests are destroyed.

As of October 2019, these avoided emissions have a value on the voluntary carbon market – a value that has now been realised by formal validation of the communities’ efforts by the Plan Vivo standard, enabling the project to start to sell verified blue carbon credits. This will provide regular income to support community conservation efforts within the Velondriake area over the next 20 years.

Introductory video:

Partnerships and support

The Tahiry Honko mangrove carbon project is implemented by the Velondriake management association with technical support from Blue Ventures and in close partnership with the Government of Madagascar. The CO2 emission reductions are verified by the Plan Vivo Foundation.

The development of this project is funded by the Darwin Initiative through UK government funding, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through its Blue Forests Project, the MacArthur Foundation and by UK Aid.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The project promotes locally led conservation, reforestation and sustainable use of over 1,200 hectares of mangroves, alongside initiatives that build alternative livelihoods – including sea cucumber and seaweed farming and mangrove beekeeping – and support the delivery of health and education services in the region.

By avoiding emissions of over 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per year, Tahiry Honko will provide a regular income through carbon credit sales to support local management of the marine protected area over the next 20 years. Funds will also help finance community development, including the construction of vital infrastructure and supporting health care and education.

One of the most critical parts of the project development process has been the creation of the benefit-sharing arrangement, which is really the key to making these projects successful in the long term. The partner villages decided between them that 50 per cent of the funds should go to the villages within the mangroves, and they have come up with a list of priority social investment projects that will improve their well-being – things like solar panels, safe drinking water projects, improved buildings for schools. Then, 23 per cent of the funds go to the management association to cover the running costs of the locally managed marine area. The remaining 27 per cent goes to the national government, as the other main partner in the project.


Mangroves inhabit a unique environment at the transition of land and sea. While this presents many opportunities, from a policy perspective it can also lead to conflicting legislation, because mangroves are at once both terrestrial and marine. To overcome these challenges, it is necessary for projects to work closely with both the relevant authorities – forestry and fisheries.

Also from a policy perspective, in many countries carbonspecific legislation is still in its infancy, and is not always fully inclusive of mangroves. While Madagascar now has a relatively mature and clear carbon policy framework, the project did encounter challenges as it was developed simultaneously with this framework. Close collaboration with and support from the national REDD+ body was vital to project success.

Key lessons learnt

The benefit-sharing scenario developed by the partner villages is critical to long-term project success. It takes time to develop clear, transparent benefitsharing scenarios in a truly participative manner. To ensure that interest in the project is maintained, shorter-term incentives to conservation need to be developed concurrently.

The monitoring and evaluation whose results dictate the number of carbon credits generated – and thus project income – also needs to be completed in a participatory and transparent way. To support this, the project has developed robust, simplified methods for carbon and forest monitoring that can easily be implemented by the community members themselves but that still fulfil the requirements of the Plan Vivo standard. Clear and simple data-sharing methods have also been developed so the Velondriake association can share the results with the often-illiterate project participants.

Lead contact

Lalao Aigrette, Blue Ventures

References and sources

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