Case study: Belize – Towards Expansion of No-Take Areas in the MPA System

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“The fact that our two main commercial species, the spiny lobster and the queen conch, have remained stable for several years is a direct indicator of the success of the combination of protected areas and managed access.”

Beverley Wade, Fisheries Administrator

Summary

Belize has a network of 14 marine protected areas (MPAs), with an additional 13 protected fish Spawning Aggregation sites, covering some 23.5 per cent of the country’s marine waters. Only a small proportion of this area is fully protected in no-take areas, and so an initiative was launched in 2013 to identify locations for replenishment zones (the name proposed for areas closed to extraction). This involved a multi-partner programme to gather ecological and socio-economic data and undertake stakeholder consultations. Recommendations for replenishment zones in deep sea areas and re-zoning of three existing MPAs have been approved by government and work is underway to implement these new areas; work is also underway on the remaining recommendations. Two innovative fishery management interventions were developed in parallel, and will contribute to effective management of replenishment zones: 1) a “Managed Access” system whereby fishers are licensed to access certain areas and provided with a mechanism for their involvement in management (described in the Sustainable Fisheries AG case study) ; and 2) the introduction of a new technology and enforcement approaches to assist with reporting.

The issue

Belize has a long history of marine protected area (MPA) establishment and management, with an MPA network covering some 23.5 per cent of the Territorial Sea (which covers the area extending out to ~12 nautical miles from Halfmoon Caye). The network comprises:

  • Nine Marine Reserves under the mandate of the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD), which are zoned: Preservation zones (no extraction); Conservation zones (recreational activities including sport fishing and scuba permitted); General Use zones (artisanal commercial fishing permitted but use of SCUBA
    is prohibited – fishing using free diving, traps and handlines is allowed);
  • Two Wildlife Sanctuaries, two Natural Monuments and one National Park, under the mandate of the Forest Department;
  • Thirteen fish Spawning Aggregation sites, under the mandate of the BFD.

The 2015 National Protected Areas Act made the following a legal requirement: 1) stakeholder and community consultation and participation in the designation or revoking of protected areas; and 2) the use of a standardised management planning process. Most MPAs are therefore managed through co-management arrangements with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), a term that in Belize includes community-based organisations.

Currently, no-take zones account for 7.61% of territorial waters (approx. 0-20 nm offshore) and 6.28% of the EEZ (approx. 20- 200 nm offshore). Fishing is a key activity for coastal communities, both for domestic consumption and for revenue generation through the tourism industry and exports, notably the lucrative queen conch and spiny lobster markets. The Conservation and Preservation zones have been effective in increasing fish biomass within the Marine Reserves but the extent to which they can protect overall marine biodiversity and enable the recovery of damaged or degraded ecosystems is limited by their small size and fragmented nature (Cox et al., 2017). There is now global consensus that at least 10 per cent and preferably much more of marine waters must be closed to extraction for successful marine biodiversity conservation outcomes and mitigation from climate change impacts (Dahlgren and Tewfik, 2015; Roberts et al., 2020).

Belize conservation zone map

The response

The National Replenishment Zone project was established in 2013 through a partnership between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the BFD, with the aim of identifying locations for new or larger no-take zones. These are called “replenishment zones” and are designed to ensure representation of all major marine habitat types in the MPA network, including open deep sea areas that are currently under-represented. The project involved an international collaboration of scientists, led by Belizeans, who worked to identify the new areas, combined with a lengthy process of consultation with stakeholders, which resulted in widespread support and a commitment to stewardship from coastal communities. Technical guidance for the identification of the replenishment zones was developed with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (Green et al., 2017). The proposed new replenishment zones were identified through an evidence-based process, using the software programme MARXAN, which helps identify locations that will maximise potential ecological and socio-economic benefits of national interest while minimising disruption to livelihoods of stakeholders (note to final editors – we could cross refer to the Seychelles case study, where MARXAN was also used ).

A two-phased approach was recommended by the members of the National Replenishment Zones Steering Committee, with Phase 1 focusing on deep sea areas and rezoning of three existing protected areas. WCS first carried out a scientific review of existing areas closed to fishing in order to identify their ecological and socio-economic benefits to Belize. Consultations were held with fishing communities and other stakeholders, particularly commercial and sport fishers, given the inclusion of deep sea areas. The information from the review and anecdotal information collected through community focus group sessions led to the development of a weekly radio drama Punta Fuego about a fictional fishing village, with stories about illegal fishing. A phone-in segment, Talking Fuego, allowed people to discuss their concerns and led to much improved communication and engagement.

In order to be able to implement no-take zones successfully, it is globally recognised that mechanisms are needed to ensure fisher buy-in and to create incentives for compliance. Until 2016, the marine waters of Belize, as in many other countries, were considered “open access” for fishers: adult Belizeans could obtain a commercial licence to fish, provided that gear and (in the case of conch exports, quota) regulations and MPA legislation were respected. The two components that contributed to improved compliance were the introduction of managed access (described in the Sustainable Fisheries AG case study) and new approaches to enforcement, using developments in technology.

The free software-based system, the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), was developed by a group of conservation organisations1 for use in both terrestrial and marine protected areas. This enables patrols to more efficiently monitor human activity including hunting and fishing, undertake biodiversity monitoring and improve enforcement and data analysis (WCS and BFD, 2017). It has been adopted by 12 governments, and is now being used globally in over 600 protected areas, including 40 MPAs. The SMART software, a mobile app with an analysis and mapping interface that can be customised, enables the collection, storage, analysis and communication of data on patrol efforts (e.g. time spent on patrols, areas visited, distances covered), patrol results (e.g. arrests made), threat levels and other enforcement activities on electronic tablets. The developers provide training in its use and a set of best practices for its effective implementation.

A second new technology being studied for improved compliance and monitoring is drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These offer a low-cost solution for identifying infractions and monitoring megafauna (such as turtles, dolphins, and sharks), avoiding the use of costly boat fuel (López and Mulero-Pázmány, 2019). In Belize, as in many countries, patrolling is normally done in small boats, which makes it difficult to cover large areas or undertake systematic surveys for megafauna. With the support of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WCS, and following a pilot study at Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, trials are underway at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve,2 using water-landing and waterproof fixed-wing, long-range, multi-camera drones. Additional trials are underway at South Water Caye and Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserves with a waterproof drone obtained through a EU grant.

Partnerships and support

The National Replenishment Zone project ran for six years from 2013 to 2019 and was led by The National Replenishment Zones Expansion Steering Committee, which included the BFD as Chair, WCS as Secretary, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), TNC, Belize Federation of Fishers, Belize Fishermen Cooperatives, the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, Belize Forest Department, the National Protected Areas Secretariat, Belize Coast Guard, the Healthy Reefs Initiative, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations and Toledo Institute for Development. Funding was provided primarily by WCS (from the Oak Foundation, a UK Darwin Initiative Grant, the Summit Foundation and the WCS MPA Fund) with contributions from TNC and the Belize Marine Climate Change Adaptation Project (a World Bank project under the BFD).

The SMART Partnership includes Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, WCS, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund and ZSL.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

In April 2019, the Government approved a joint proposal from the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation to create the first phase of a series of fisheries replenishment zones. Preparation of Statutory Instruments for the new replenishment zones is on-going. The Phase 1 expansion, when implemented, will cover 11.6 per cent of Belize’s marine waters in open or deep sea areas ranging from 200 m to 3,000 m deep, including the most under-represented habitats in the current MPA network. The proposed replenishment zones lie either within or adjacent to the existing MPAs (with the exception of Port Honduras Marine Reserve) as well as in deep waters (see Map). The latter includes an area, covering 6.28% of the EEZ, that extends beyond the Territorial Sea, south of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, which was expanded in 2020 to protect the Corona Reef, at the south-western end of the Cayman Trench. Phase 2 will cover the inshore areas, and requires more engagement, as these areas are most actively used by stakeholders.

Piloted first in 2011, the Managed Access initiative (see the Sustainable Fisheries AG case study ) was initially designed to provide a system that would allow access to fishing within the General Use zones of marine reserves only to bona fide fishers (Martinez et al., 2018) but the success of the pilot initiative led to a national roll-out in 2016 across the Territorial Sea. This means that licensed fishing communities have secured, dedicated access to their own Fishing Area, thereby reducing competition and the incentive to fish illegally. At the same time, communities must take responsibility for helping manage their Fishing Zones and must observe all regulations within their zone including those for no-take areas (see Sustainable Fisheries AG case study).

To help increase the efficiency of enforcement operations, WCS introduced SMART. The Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, Sustainable Development and the Environment, and its corresponding departments, the BFD and the Belize Forest Department, officially adopted the system in 2018. Today, all marine managers, including BFD and NGO co-managers throughout the country, use SMART or SMART Connect (which allows data entries to be linked directly to the national database) to better plan and coordinate patrols. Use of SMART has resulted in the identification of high-priority enforcement areas where there is a greater chance of detecting illicit activity, which means that resources can be deployed more cost-effectively.

More effective management and deployment of patrols and resources has led to an 85 per cent decline in the number of MPA fisheries infractions, and at Glover’s Reef there are anecdotal accounts of a noticeable decrease in infractions since 2009. According to the 2020 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card, Belize now has the highest Reef Health Index in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef region3.

Challenges

COVID-19: The greatest current environmental, as well as economic and social, challenge for Belize, as for most countries, is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. All countries and MPAs around the world have suffered a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly affected the livelihoods of local communities that may normally both depend on and help manage MPAs. MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of recovery.

  • Initial resistance from fishers and scepticism from the fisher cooperatives and associations, which led to minimal fisher participation in the early stages; there is still a challenge in ensuring their on-going participation;
  • The time taken to arrange meetings with, and influence, key decision-makers and to maintain their commitment and support;
  • Insufficient capacity and financial resources for the process; sustainable financing is essential to maintain enforcement even though compliance has improved and more cost-effective methods are being introduced. Fishers are concerned that new areas will be declared while enforcement is still lacking for current protected sites; ultimately, there may be a need for large vessels capable of patrolling all the country’s marine waters;
  • The slow process of enacting the necessary legislation and Statutory Instruments;
  • Insufficient research to date to provide evidence of success, which could lead to loss of support. Securing support for additional fishery closures requires demonstrating to stakeholders that closures offer clear and specific benefits to both fisheries and fishers;
  • Technical difficulties with the devices that some organisations use SMART on, which prevents continuous data collection;
  • Lack of meaningful supplementary livelihoods for those fishers affected in the short term was a main concern brought up by fishers during consultations; a technical sub-committee on livelihoods was set up by TNC to try and address some of these issues.

Key lessons learned

  1. Securing support for the additional fishery closures required demonstrating to stakeholders that these provided clear and specific benefits for fisheries and fishers. This was achieved by producing a report as part of the project, which provided good examples and explained the science involved (Dahlgren and Tewfik, 2015).
  2. Sustained engagement of stakeholders with a targeted communications strategy to reach all stakeholders with an interest in the marine environment and the broader public was essential. About 50 per cent of the fishers surveyed after the first season of the radio drama reported listening to it and feeling that it addressed their issues, and there is evidence that it helped change their attitudes.
  3. The parallel Managed Access programme was a complementary component of the initiative and both programmes benefited from the close collaboration and working arrangements that were established between relevant technical staff and steering committees, and the fact that the same key organisations were involved in each programme.
  4. The new enforcement technologies, with the associated training and capacity-building programme for rangers and other staff present on the water, are having clear benefits. With the SMART system, infractions are immediately linked to the licensing system, which allows managers to have more readily accessible information regarding offenders. The use of UAVs, as piloted at Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, is looking very positive for efficient monitoring and enforcement, but further work will be required to roll this technology out nationally and ensure acceptance by stakeholders. The Fisheries Resources Act has provisions to allow for admissibility of evidence (López, and Mulero-Pázmány, 2019).

Lead contacts

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator, Belize Fisheries Department: [email protected]

Adriel Castaneda, Fisheries Officer/EMU Coordinator, Belize Fisheries Department: [email protected] fisheries.gov.bz

Nicole Auil Gomez, Country Director, WCS Belize: [email protected]

Ralna Lewis, Assistant Director, WCS Belize: [email protected]

References

Cox, C., Valdivia, A., McField, M.D., Castillo, K. and Bruno, J.F. (2017) “Establishment of Marine Protected Areas Alone Does Not Restore Coral Reef Communities in Belize.” Marine Ecology Progress Series 563: 65–79.

Dahlgren, C.P. and Tewfik, A. (2015) “Benefits of No-take Zones for Belize and the Wider Caribbean Region”. Proceedings of the 67th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, Christ Church, 3-7 November.

Green, A., Chollett, I., Suárez, A., Dahlgren, C. et al. (2017) “Biophysical Principles for Designing a Network of Replenishment Zones for the Mesoamerican

Reef System”. Technical Report produced by The Nature Conservancy, Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C., Smithsonian Institution, Perry Institute for Marine Science, Centro de Estudios Marinos, Healthy Reefs Initiative and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur.

López, J. and Mulero-Pázmány, M. (2019) “Drones for Conservation in Protected Areas: Present and Future”. Drones 3 (10). https://doi.org/10.3390/drones3010010

Martinez, V., Castañeda, A., Gongora, M., Wade, B. and Requena, N. (2018) “Managed Access: A Rights-Based Approach to Managing Small-Scale Fisheries in Belize”.

http://www.fao.org/fishery/static/tenure-user-rights/root/volume3/C311.pdf

Roberts, C.M., O’Leary, B.C. and Hawkins, J.P. (2020) “Climate Change Mitigation and Nature Conservation Both Require Higher Protected Area Targets”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 375: 20190121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0121

WCS and BFD (2017) “Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART): Implementation in Belize”.

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Case Study: Coral Communities: Building Socio-Ecological Resilience to Coral Reef Degradation in the Islands of the Western Indian Ocean (2017)

CBC case study 38 coral communities thumbnailThe Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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 “Communities met each other for the first time. This is positive; we want to create exchanges between them again. They really liked shaping the landscapes. Communities felt it was important to use more practical language when describing resilience and livelihood, like how do you survive or cope.” 

 Kathy Young, Managing Director of Reef Conservation 

Summary 

Improving the resilience of communities and coral reefs to changes anticipated as a result of climate change is an issue of global importance. Hundreds of millions of people rely on coral reefs to provide essential services such as food and coastal protection. Coral Communities aimed to examine the effectiveness of different management and development strategies, and to understand what language and messages would be most appropriate to facilitate and implement delivery of these. The project was carried out in two regions of the West Indian Ocean: Zanzibar and Mauritius. 

This project has been included as a case study for the Blue Charter Action Groups as it showcases an in-depth process of engaging with coastal communities on complex topics, such as resilience, and the value of using creative methods to bring different communities and stakeholders together to discuss common challenges (illustrated by the quotation above). 

The facilitation and engagement process provided through Coral Communities allowed in-depth discussion with community members, and highlighted the importance of understanding the values people hold about their local marine environment, and how this may influence future planning for resilience in these communities. 

 The issue 

Coral Communities had two main aims:¹ 

  1. To identify and critically assess the effectiveness and potential of management and development strategies to build the resilience of coral reefs and their dependent communities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO); and 
  2. To understand to what extent ecosystem services language and approaches facilitate development and implementation of such strategies. 

In particular, the project sought to adopt creative and visual methods of community and stakeholder engagement to stimulate discussion on complex, and sometimes challenging, topics. 

The response 

The project engaged with WIO and UK stakeholders to discuss the concept of resilience and how different strategies could be used in practice to help build social and ecological resilience across the project region. Of particular interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups is the co-development of a novel and creative method that could be applied to engage local communities in challenging topics, such as ecosystem services, resilience, coral reef management and effective stakeholder engagement. 

The project drew together a network of UK and WIO collaborators to address evidence and knowledge gaps around understanding of community knowledge, connection and values towards their local environment, with a specific focus on coral reefs and their resilience. It then used this to support the development of resilience strategies for coral reefs and their communities across the WIO. 

Making a coastscape
Excerpt from Coral Communities newspaper, providing details
about the methodology adopted, photographs from the project and
reflections on the process
Source: https://pml.ac.uk/getattachment/Research/Projects/
Building_resilience/cc_broadsheet_20_03_18_English.pdf

To support meaningful engagement with local communities, the project team set out to develop a visually creative approach to exploring these complex issues. This involved a series of walking interviews, use of participatory videos and creation of “coastscapes” to stimulate discussion on topics relating to resilience and their local coral reefs. Crucially, the project sought to adopt a clear co-development process, moving away from a traditional researcher-led approach, with participants asked to interview each other about the objects they selected to include in creation of the coastscape. The approach was piloted in both Mauritius and Zanzibar, together with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Reef Conservation Mauritius and Mwambao Coastal Community Network. 

In addition, two workshops were organised with secondary stakeholders (NGOs and government officials) to support understanding of key issues around coral reef resilience and strategic management, as well as to share the visual method with workshop participants. Workshop 1 involved the whole research team travelling to Mauritius and working with WIO and local stakeholders to start to understand the challenges facing coral reefs and to support development of the visual engagement tools, including the trial of a visual method of community engagement, participatory mapping and the creation of mini coastscapes (i.e. building a model of the coast in the workshop space and using it as a discussion tool to engage stakeholders and communities). Workshop 2 brought key people from across the WIO to the UK and built on the first workshop to feed back on the project and showcase the novel visual methods trialled with communities in Mauritius and Zanzibar. 

Partnerships and support 

The project team represented a range of interdisciplinary research and drew on expertise in environmental and health economics, social sciences, development, social psychology, marine geosciences, marine biology, art (including concept and sustainable design, and photography and film making) and religious studies. 

The project was an international project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, enabling a partnership between academics, NGOs, a development consultant and a creative art and film-making team. It was led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), with partner organisations: University of Exeter (European Centre for Environment and Human Health and School of Geography), Reef Conservation, Tagscape, Truro College, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Mwambao Coastal Community Network, Indeva Consulting and Cardiff University. It brought together a wide range of expertise, including in the use of creative methods to engage communities, and supported the adoption of co-development of knowledge and engagement techniques. 

Within the partnership, the Mwambao Coastal Community Network, a Tanzanian NGO, could be of particular interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups. This organisation has extensive expertise in using participatory video methods to engage communities in issues around marine and coastal management.² 

Results, accomplishments and outcomes 

coastscape example
An example of a coastscape created through the Coral Communities project Credit: Andy Hughes https://www.andyhughes.net/page37.html

In terms of overall outcomes, the process of stakeholder engagement was the main focus of the project. By involving different actors and community members in a co-developed, visually creative process, the project team was able enhance engagement and awareness of issues relating to coral reefs, and their resilience, within the case study communities. 

Results and outputs from the project include the following: 

  • A novel, arts-based approach was developed and piloted to assess perceptions of the environment and the socio-cultural risk associated with different resilience strategies. This process was used to encourage communities to express how they felt about their environment, how they interacted with it and what their aspirations were for the future. Coastscapes were created through a participatory visual process including walking interviews with participants and collecting of items to include.³ Participants co-created the coastscapes using items they had collected or brought with them to the meeting. This process of community engagement provided a platform for community voices and generated valuable insight into community perceptions and values about their local environment, and issues facing it. The project team is seeking on-going funding to further expand on this work. 
  • A “newspaper” was produced that summarises the aim of the project and provides a detailed overview of the process involved in the visual methods approach described above, including the development and use of the coastscapes as a discussion prompt. This project output was also co-designed with the community – a member of the community designed the logo and centre spread of the newspaper and their work set the colour scheme for the paper’s design.
  • A pop-up project exhibition run in Mauritius showcased the coastscapes as well as photography and objects that project partners and stakeholders selected as representing the topics covered within the project, including the challenges and issues facing these communities around changing coral reef systems and what it meant to them individually and at a community level. The exhibition brought together a diverse range of stakeholders and community members and facilitated discussion on a range of topics. 
  • The project team conducted an in-depth literature review, focusing on 14 resilience strategies. This resulted in the creation of summary report cards, which can be freely downloaded from the project website in both English and French. 
  • The project team produced a number of videos, covering a range of topics including socio-ecological resilience and outlining the process of collecting objects from the coast to produce the coastscapes. 
  • A paper was produced on the resilience strategies applied in the WIO relevant to the development of social and ecological resilience (Hattam et al., 2020).
  • A second paper is currently being developed focusing on the visual method and will be available from the project team (contact details below). 

Challenges 

Through the project, Coral Communities examined and addressed a number of challenges. 

  • Uncertainty and reluctance from project partners and WIO stakeholders around the creative methods being adopted through the project. This is a challenge that frequently faces social science approaches; however, through engaging project partners in the process, and the resulting depth of information and connection created through the methods used, many concerns expressed at the beginning of the project were addressed. WIO project partners have expressed how they have already used components of the methods, and there is considerable interest in adopting the methods for future projects. 
  • Understanding of key concepts and terms being used within the project, such as “ecosystem services”, “resilience” and “socio-ecological” systems, and how these are being adopted and used within the WIO region. 
  • Lack of monetary valuation processes in place to support understanding of cultural values and services that may be linked to coral reefs and their future resilience. This was found to be challenging for meaningful inclusion of cultural values within decision-making and management. 
  • Further challenges around literacy and language when working in different communities across WIO. However, the use of visual methods helped overcome many of these barriers.
  •  The short timeframe of the Coral Communities project, which meant stakeholders and communities were engaged frequently over a relatively short period of time, requiring a significant commitment from both the project team and the participants. Future projects would benefit from a longer timeframe, to reduce the risk of stakeholder fatigue, supported through regular communication to maintain engagement from participants. 
how to video pocket book
Example of a “how to video” pocket book that you can photocopy back to back, fold up and share. Created by Ray Wong

Key lessons learnt 

Coral Communities emphasised the importance of meaningful and effective stakeholder engagement with local communities to support the development of sustainable marine and coastal management. 

Use of visual methods 

  • To address the challenges of literacy and language within project communities, the Coral Communities project adopted a programme of visual and creative activities. 
  • It is important to recognise that care should be taken when using visual research methods, as imagery can mean one thing to one participant/community and something else to another. 
  • Visual and co-developed approaches providing an opportunity for open, transparent conversation and dialogue between different community members can build trust between different stakeholder groups, and can support public engagement with complex and challenging topics, such as resilience. 
  • Data and information collected through the visual activities can be digitised if time and funding allow, creating valuable resources that can be used to monitor changes in the environment, as well as in public perceptions and activities. 

Time and resources 

It is important to spend time with communities to develop a comprehensive understanding of different values and perceptions of their marine environments. For community engagement to be effective and meaningful, sufficient time and resources are required to support the use of creative methods, such as those developed by Coral Communities. 

Reference 

Hattam, C., Evans, L., Morrissey, K., Hooper, T. et al. (2020) “Building Resilience in Practice to Support Coral Communities in the Western Indian Ocean”. Environmental Science & Policy 106: 182–190. 

coral communities report card
Example of Coral Communities Report Cards (available in English and in French) . Logo for the project created by Tooshir Beestobchurn from the Roches Noires community

Additional resources 

Coral Communities drew on experience from previous projects that may be of interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups interested in this type of creative or visual approach of engaging stakeholders/ communities. Information about one these projects can be found below: 

Tagscape explores ways of visualising information about natural landscapes and turning it into innovative maps that will engage the general public: https://www. plymouth.ac.uk/about-us/university-structure/faculties/ arts-humanities-business/creative-cultivator/tagscape 

The process adopted through Coral Communities is also influencing new projects. One example of this is Ruritage – an EU-funded project seeking to examine rural cultural heritage and positioning it as a mechanism for supporting sustainable development and regeneration. More information is available on the project website: https://www.ruritage.eu/project/ 

Lead contact 

Project Lead: Dr Caroline Hattam: [email protected] icf.com 

For more information on creative methods: Dominica Williamson: https://www.ecogeographer.com 

Website: https://www.pml.ac.uk/Research/Projects/Coral_Communities 

Footnotes

1 https://pml.ac.uk/Research/Projects/Coral_Communities 

2 https://www.mwambao.or.tz/ 

3 For the newspaper and other outputs mentioned here, see (unless otherwise indicated) https://pml.ac.uk/Research/Projects/Coral_Communities#videos

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It is possible to leverage ocean wealth, while protecting ocean health

By Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC

The ocean sustains life on earth, but remains one of the most undervalued, under-researched and recklessly exploited natural wonders of the planet.

Although it generates more than half the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate, feeds billions of people and supports 350 million jobs across the world, humans have not only taken the ocean for granted, we have actively contributed to its decline.

At present, almost a third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, while up to 200 million tonnes of plastic waste plague the marine environment. At least half of all coral reefs have been devastated within the past 30 years, while climate change increasingly exerts tremendous pressure on ecosystems, threatening the lives and livelihoods of communities that depend on the sea.

In the Commonwealth, we are all too aware of this stark reality. Forty-seven of our 54 member countries have a coastline, including 25 small island developing states – also known as ‘Large Ocean States’- where, on average, 96% of territory is ocean, and only 4% is land. It is the Commonwealth citizens who live in these ocean-reliant economies that bear the brunt of these challenges most tangibly and urgently.

Step up action

As demonstrated by the many global commitments, the international community recognises that it needs to step up action to tackle these crises, which are even more difficult to cope with in light of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet support and funding for ocean action are not easy to find. Of the 17 globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the commitment on ocean conservation (SDG14) is one of the least funded. Indeed, research shows less than one percent of global development assistance and philanthropy from 2013 to 2018 was targeted at developing sustainable ocean economies.

For a natural wonder that covers 70 per cent of the planet, with a reported asset value of $24 trillion and generating an estimated $2.5 trillion per year through the global ocean economy, it is only logical that we should invest more resolutely to protect it. To help member countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat recently launched an online database to share information and support access to what limited international funding is available for ocean-related projects. But much more needs to be done.

Unique opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to reorient priorities and reset our relationship with the ocean. Emerging from the pandemic, a global ‘blue recovery’ should focus rebuilding equitable, resilient, and sustainable blue economies, protecting ocean health as we leverage ocean wealth.

If we miss this window of opportunity to change our destructive approach to adopt one based on sustainability and equity, we will leave the next generation with little more than environmental destruction and resulting economic and social turmoil.

This year, as we stand at the critical juncture of multiple crises, two major summits will be key moments to bolster global discussions around a ‘blue recovery’. As world leaders gather for the UN Conference on Biodiversity (CBD-COP15) in October in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC-COP26) in November in Glasgow, UK, we must all be reminded that there is no climate nor biodiversity without the ocean. Decisions at these summits must take into account the vital role of the ocean in achieving global sustainable development, bolster commitments to ocean health, and support programmes with adequate resources to make real impact.

Beacon for multilateralism

To support this, the Commonwealth Blue Charter offers a globally unique vehicle for international cooperation to drive sustainable post-COVID ocean action through the collaboration of governments, businesses, civil society, academia and the philanthropy sector. Bringing together 54 Commonwealth countries, it is driven by the 16 champions of its ten ‘Action Groups’, committed to finding solutions to the most urgent ocean challenges locally, regionally and across the Commonwealth.

Importantly, with the Commonwealth continuing to shine brightly as a beacon for multilateralism, our member nations have come together to light the way and declare that no single country or entity can solve these issues alone. The only way to overcome the colossal challenges that face us all is to work together.

Barbados steps forward as Commonwealth co-champion for marine protected areas

World Ocean Day webinar speakers
Announcement of Barbados as co-champion on marine protected areas at a high level panel event on World Ocean Day

Barbados has announced it is joining Seychelles to co-champion Commonwealth action on marine protected areas, a vital area in promoting ocean conservation and the sustainable blue economy.

The Caribbean nation joins 15 other ‘champion countries’ that have stepped forward to take the lead under the Commonwealth Blue Charter in mobilising action groups made up of like-minded member states, to tackle some of the world’s most pressing ocean challenges.

The action group on marine protected areas (MPAs), initiated by Seychelles in 2018, aims to promote good practices in the effective management of MPAs, raise awareness on the subject across all sectors of society, and exchange expertise, information and experience amongst Commonwealth countries.

Announcement made on World Ocean Day

Welcoming the announcement, made during a high level panel event to mark World Ocean Day on 8 June, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said:

“The Commonwealth covers more than a third of the world’s coastal waters, with 47 out of our 54 member countries bordering the ocean. With so many countries dependent on the ocean for food security, jobs and way of life, it is vital to set aside ocean areas in Commonwealth national jurisdictions that are legally protected and dedicated for conservation purposes. This is the key to a sustainable ocean economy, and a way to ensure that resources are not exploited destructively, but given the opportunity to flourish.”

The Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy of Barbados, Kirk Humphrey stated:

“The Government of Barbados is pleased to have this opportunity to co-lead with the Republic of Seychelles on Marine Protected Areas.

“We have made aspirational commitments of protecting 30% of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) once the necessary scientific research has been completed to ensure that while ecosystems and their services are protected or conserved, the livelihoods of stakeholders who use the ocean space are not severely impacted or compromised.”

“It is an honour to serve as co-lead in this role with Republic of Seychelles, whose leadership in this area is world renowned.”

Barbados is finalising two nearshore Marine Managed Areas that will protect a significant percentage of nearshore reef systems along the island’s west and south coasts.

As founding champion for the action group, Seychelles’ Minister of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert, said:

“With the designation of more than 30% of our EEZ as Marine Protected Areas, our country is developing valuable knowledge on application of different Protected Areas models, innovative financing mechanism in the form of Debt for Nature Swap and financial instruments like Blue Bonds, which we would like to share with the world.

“The Action Group on Marine Protected Areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter provides the right platform for us, in partnership with other countries, to exchange our national experience and build together the framework for more sustainable use of the ocean.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups

The action group is one of ten under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, led by 16 champion countries, focusing on a range of ocean challenges, including:

  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (co-championed by Australia, Mauritius and Belize);
  • Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (focused on marine plastic pollution, co-championed by Vanuatu and the United Kingdom);
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka);
  • Marine Protected Areas (Barbados and Seychelles); Ocean Acidification (New Zealand);
  • Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji); Ocean Observation (Canada);
  • Sustainable Aquaculture (Cyprus);
  • Sustainable Blue Economy (Antigua & Barbuda and Kenya);
  • Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati and the Maldives).

Barbados is a member of seven of these action groups.

Commonwealth countries call for a “blue reset” in pandemic’s wake

 

World Ocean Day event group shot

Commonwealth member countries are supporting a call to “reset and rebuild” equitable, resilient ocean economies in the wake of the devastating impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Ocean Day event

On World Ocean Day, a panel of high-level representatives from across the Commonwealth focused on the widespread challenges facing many ocean-driven economies, particularly small states that rely heavily on tourism and fisheries as key sources of income.

They emphasised the unique opportunity to trigger a post-COVID recovery propelled by sustainable tourism and fishing industries, innovative financing for ocean protection, and leveraging the capacity of marine ecosystems to store vast amounts of carbon (known as ‘blue carbon’) as tradeable carbon credits for climate action.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives, in a keynote address delivered on his behalf by Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Aminath Shauna, said: “The oceans are our life support systems. Loss of and damage to our marine environments threaten the very existence of our way of life. We have shown we have the power to change the course of nature. Let us act now to steer a path that protects us all.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland urged: “We must build back more sustainably from the pandemic, innovating and prioritising ocean health as the foundation for a thriving, sustainable blue economy which supports our communities while protecting nature. Decisions leaders take now – on policies, legal frameworks, financing or choice of infrastructure – can bring hope and deliver immediate positive impact in lives and for communities today, and bring enduring benefit for many years to come.”

Panellists included Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy of Barbados Kirk D. M. Humphrey, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan, Minister for Pacific and the Environment of United Kingdom, Lord Zac Goldsmith, and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia Josh Thomas.

They highlighted various efforts being done at the national level to ensure gender equality in the ocean industries, the protection of coral reefs and development of marine protected areas, including the ‘30 by 30’ initiative co-led by the UK.

Barbados also announced its decision to join Seychelles as a co-champion for marine protected areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

New funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies for ocean action

Prior to the event, Bloomberg Philanthropies – one of the world’s leading philanthropic organisations – announced a new phase of partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Through Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative, which brings together world-class partners to ensure ocean ecosystems survive and thrive despite the growing threat of climate change, the partnership will target training and capacity-building programmes to advance the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Patricia E. Harris, CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies said: “The Blue Charter’s mission to protect the ocean and livelihoods it supports has only grown more critical during the pandemic. Through our Vibrant Oceans Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies is excited to build on our successful partnership with the Commonwealth – and help more member countries meet their sustainability goals as their economies recover.”

This announcement builds upon a multi-year agreement signed in 2018 between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Bloomberg Philanthropies to explore joint initiatives supporting international trade, innovation and sustainability. Since 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies has contributed over $158 million to ocean conservation causes.

The event also included statements by United Nations Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, and youth representative Josheena Naggea from Mauritius, currently a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, USA.