The first in a series of Training of Trainers (TOT) workshops included 26 managers from 19 Caribbean countries and territories. Participants took part in the three-month, intensive online course based on the Reef Resilience curriculum which included weekly discussion postings, online assessments and one long-term management planning assignment. The in-person workshop focused on reef resilience principles and provided participants with the tools to become successful trainers including facilitation, presentation skills, evaluation and the development of training implementation plans.
At the Water’s Edge (AWE): Enhancing Coastal Resilience in Grenada
Greater Grenville Area, Grenada, Eastern Caribbean
Like most of the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, the island of Grenada is grappling with the effects of climate change, experiencing higher temperatures, more intense storms, rising sea levels, flooding and coastal erosion. In Grenada, coastal communities are affected by these impacts, particularly At the Water’s Edge’s targeted coastal communities (Telescope, Grenville, Soubise and Marquis) within the Greater Grenville Area. The communities of Telescope and the Town of Grenville have borne the brunt of climate impacts over the years, and continue to experience changes at an increasingly alarming rate, threatening lives, food security, livelihoods and valuable coastal property.
The Nature Conservancy’s At the Water’s Edge project (AWE) addresses climate impacts through the implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) solutions. These efforts are designed to support social and ecological resilience and increase the community’s capacity to respond to climate change through strong community engagement, and the implementation of nature-based solutions (e.g., restoration of coastal vegetation, installation of artificial reef structures to attenuate wave energy).
National actions to build capacity and support resilience include:
- GIS data (e.g., benthic habitats, critical infrastructure) has been gathered for the entire island
- A vulnerability analysis of Grenada was conducted; results provided the rationale for focus in the Grenville Bay Area
- GIS training workshops were held with participation fromboth the public and private sector
- Census data by enumeration districts for the years 2001 and 2011 were spatialized with personnel from Grenada’s Department of Statistics
- The AWE component of the Coastal Resilience website was developed with tools and data including the census data, sea-level rise scenarios, benthic habitats and other data, creating maps to aid in decision making
Local actions – (specific to the project communities) to build capacity and support resilience include:
- Training of AWE community leaders in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- A participatory 3D mapping exercise was conducted with the communities. Members constructed a model of the surrounding villages and the Bay of Grenville, highlighting existing natural and cultural resources
- The development of a community action plan and concept booklet with partners which outlines actions and opportunities through targeted interventions for the communities
- In collaboration with project partner Grenada Red Cross, a Vulnerability Capacity Assessment (VCA) was conducted which included ecological and social data (e.g., fisheries, climate change, and community perception and use of marine ecosystems). Red Cross provides trainings to fishers and the surrounding communities on sustainable fishing practices, and the importance of coastal and marine habitats to support local communities
- Through project partners, Grenada Fund for Conservation, community members were trained to collect, care for and out-plant mangroves seedlings along specific areas of the Telescope shoreline. These trainees are being engaged in other areas of the island for mangrove restoration work with other groups
- Innovative reef pilot structures were installed that were developed based on 60 years of wave data, utilizing a hydrodynamic model to mimic the protective functions of the reef, dissipating wave energy before it reaches the shoreline. In January 2015, the Conservancy with a local commercial diving company and 12 fishermen from the surrounding communities successfully installed 30 meters of submerged breakwater on the northern reef within the bay of Grenville
- A Community Resilience Plan (CRP) is being developed in collaboration with NaDMA – Grenada’s disaster management agency, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), local partners and the targeted communities
How successful has it been?
Although AWE is an ongoing project, the actions are combined to achieve the project goals. On the socio-economic front, most notable amongs these actions have been the training of community members to collect, care for and plant mangroves within the Bay of Grenville. Some of the community members were given a stipend to work on the project. The pilot reef structures were designed based on the following criteria and have been performing as expected:
- Must provide significant reduction in wave energy reaching the shore
- Must last at least 30 years
- Do not shift in heavy surf or intense storms
- Promote natural biological growth and accretion of coralline algae and corals, and provide habitat for fish
- Must be installed using local labor and materials at a cost which is less than that of a traditional breakwater
Based on scientific studies and modeling, the full shoreline can be protected if approximately 300 meters of submerged structure is built. For the pilot, 30 meters of submerged breakwater structures was installed to ensure the model projections are accurate and to make any refinements necessary before the full structures are installed. The structures are monitored quarterly by TNC Scientists and monthly by local partners. To date, they have withstood winter swells, are crusting over with crustose coralline algae, recruiting coral, dissipating wave energy and, serving as a nursery and habitat for fish. Efforts are currently underway to raise funds for the installation of the full structure, which will provide the necessary protection to the shores of Telescope and Grenville.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
- Community engagement. The importance of sustained community engagement and involvement throughout the life of the project from conception to implementation has been critical
- Integral partnerships with government agencies. TNC and the communities provided technical expertise and local knowledge of the project areas to make informed decisions to support AWE’s interventions
- Ecosystem-based Adaptation. EBA can provide new and innovative solutions to climate change impacts (e.g., installing artificial reefs to provide coastal protection from storms and habitat/nurseries for fish)
AWE’s work has been funded by various donors over the years. Donors include but are not limited to:
- Angell Foundation
- Carnival Cruise Line
- German Federal Foreign Office, which provided the funding for the implementation of the pilot phase of the reef re-engineering works
The Nature Conservancy
Communities of Telescope, Grenville, Soubise and Marquis
Government of Grenada
Grenada Red Cross
Grenada Fund for Conservation
Belize Lobster and Conch Fisheries: Collective Impact of Managed Access Program Puts Fisheries on Path to Recovery
Port Honduras and Glover’s Reef, Belize
Acclaimed for its beauty, biodiversity, and economic bounty, Belize’s barrier reef is the impetus behind a transformative rethinking of the country’s fisheries management system. The wild-capture fishery sector contributes significantly to the country’s economy, bringing in approximately $29 million in 2012 and employing 3,000 Belizeans, according to the Belize Fisheries Department. But the open-access system that characterizes fishing in Belize has allowed uncontrolled numbers of fishers with readily obtained licenses to harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish. This has resulted in a threat of overfishing, declining stocks, and fewer economic benefits for fishers over the long term.
To address this challenge, Belize has designed and implemented a coordinated managed access program for its fisheries, including the country’s main seafood exports, lobster and conch, that effectively unites the goals, efforts, and interests of fishers and fishing sector stakeholders with ocean stewardship at two pilot sites, Port Honduras and Glover’s Reef. Based on territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs), the new paradigm aims to protect the health of the world’s second-largest coral reef ecosystem while ensuring the livelihoods of the fishers and fishing communities that depend on it.
Piloting policy reform: managed access
Starting in 2011, the government of Belize, the Belize Fisheries Department, and partners piloted a rights-based approach for managing fisheries at two of the country’s marine reserves (Glover’s Reef and Port Honduras). The program works to improve the overall health and biomass of the coral reef ecosystem and reverse overfishing and illegal fishing by using harvest controls and replenishment (no-take) zones to rebuild and sustain the lobster and conch populations—two of the country’s most important commercial species. While fishing is prohibited in replenishment zones, licensed fishers are permitted to catch a controlled portion of fishery stocks within designated general-use zones at the two marine reserves. Policy actions have included:
- Using a new area-based fishing licensing system and verification process that ended open access prior to the managed access pilot
- Collecting all catch data from fishermen to monitor total production from the two pilot sites
- An adaptive management framework to assess fisheries and make management decisions based on regularly collected data
Pride campaign fosters sustainability, science-based management
Rare trained four employees of the Belize Fisheries Department as fellows in its signature Pride campaign. The two-year program focuses on leadership, communications, social marketing research, and technical assistance to foster community support for the adoption of sustainable behaviors and conservation strategies among Belize’s diverse peoples. The fellows tapped Langostin the Lobster to serve as the campaign’s lovable mascot, who appears at festivals and other events, spreading key messages to generate widespread support for sustainable fishery habits.
The fellows serve as managed access coordinators for the pilot sites and will play a key role in rapidly scaling the program nationally. They will generate support for the range of fishery management methods, including credible science strategies such as protecting nursery areas and spawning populations, minimum size and weight limit regulations, closed fishing seasons, and inexpensive low-data stock assessment models for calculating catch limits and restoring fish populations.
How successful has it been?
The two pilot sites demonstrated improvements two years after implementation, including the following:
- The sites issued zero licenses to unqualified fishers (as determined by fishers in Community Managed Access committees responsible for making recommendations on license eligibility)
- More than 90 percent of fishers submitted their catch data, which helps determine stock assessments and Total Allowable Catch numbers
- Fishing violations dropped 60 percent
The managed access program has been so successful that Belize will expand it to eight sites (its entire marine reserve network) by 2017 to foster fish stock recovery and reduce fishing pressure. As in the pilot initiative, the Managed Access Working Group, which includes fishers, will develop policy and build support for and compliance with the program among Belize’s nearly 3,000 fishers. Results include the following:
- The majority of the fishing community supports Belize’s new policy
- Fishers feel they have a vested stake in the recovery of the reef and are adopting sustainable practices
- Fishers are stewards for long-term sustainability and play an active role in setting policy and carrying out enforcement
- Fish stocks are recovering
- After one year, fishing violations dropped 60 percent, and the department did not issue any licenses to unqualified fishers
- More than 90 percent of fishers submitted catch data
Belize’s fishery management reform model embraces a stakeholder-centered, participatory process that focuses directly on rebuilding fish populations to support and foster people’s livelihoods and marine resource stewardship. This community of innovative problem solvers is building sustainable and profitable fisheries at the right scale and pace to offer tremendous social, economic, and ecological benefits.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Economic incentives build support
Prior to the implementation of managed access, Belize’s open-access system allowed increasing numbers of people with readily obtained fishing licenses to harvest more fish than the ecosystem could replenish. This resulted in overfishing, declining stocks, and fewer economic benefits for fishers over the long term. Although they made a profit in the short term, fishers had to spend more time at sea to catch more fish while depleting the marine environment they depend on long-term for income and food.
Managed access creates economic incentives for fishers and fishing cooperatives to become better stewards of marine resources. For example, fishers helped enforce fishing limits through active participation in the monitoring and reporting of commercial species catches, resulting in a decline in illegal and unreported fishing. They also developed a new fishing licensing system and verification process, vetting the applications themselves to determine who would receive a managed access license and who would get renewed. “The fishers saw it was making a difference,” says Janet Gibson, WCS country director. “There was no need to race to get out there when the season opened. They were getting better catches in a shorter period of time.”
To succeed, the program must effectively unite the goals, efforts, and interests of fishers and fishing sector stakeholders with marine stewardship. It has already taken action to empower fishers:
- The Managed Access Working Group brings together fishers, fishing communities, government, and NGOs in a collective impact model
- Fishers participate in decision making so they have a vested stake in the recovery of the reef
- Fishers collaborate in the management of the fishery and provide monitoring and enforcement
- Hundreds of meetings with fishers and coastal communities have built relationships and engendered support
- The Belize Fisheries Department’s social marketing campaign fosters community support for the adoption of sustainable behaviors and conservation strategies among Belize’s diverse peoples
Gathering hard data on fishery health, catch, habitat, and so on is critical to scaling the program nationally and generating support for new fishery management methods. Credible science strategies include the following:
- Data-based catch limits and replenishment (no-take) zones rebuild and sustain the lobster and conch populations
- Catch data and fisheries’ independent data help determine stock assessments and total allowable catch (TAC) numbers
- The Belize Fisheries Department oversees efforts such as protecting nursery areas and spawning populations, setting minimum size and weight limit regulations, closing fishing seasons, and creating inexpensive low-data stock assessment models for calculating catch limits and restoring fish populations
New management interventions may cause potential income loss in the short term, and there is the need to generate revenues to cover operating costs of the managed access system and reduce reliance on philanthropic funding mechanisms. Activities include the following:
- A national plan of programs to diversify income sources from fishing and non-fishing activities
- Fostering access to new premium markets to meet international demand for sustainable seafood
- Establishing a local seafood certification brand
50in10 helped foster collaboration among partners and co-funded a market analysis with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Rare to help Belize fishing cooperatives explore options to secure investment capital and access premium, higher-revenue export market opportunities.
Partners in the Managed Access Working Group include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Rare—all active participants in 50in10—along with the government of Belize, local NGOs, fishing organizations, and fishing cooperatives.
Countries around the world are taking actions to promote coral reef conservation and management. For example, many countries are working to expand protection of coral reef habitat by designating Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), one of the most widely used methods for protecting coral reefs. It has been observed that coral reefs rely heavily on ocean currents that provide new recruits from near and far locations. These connections are known to be a key ecological support system for coral reefs and studies suggest that reef connectivity influences community-level biomass, population persistence, resilience, and species diversity. However, since connectivity is typically not incorporated into regional design processes, studies have shown that MPA networks rarely achieve their full potential. A key challenge in the MPA network design process is to identify the appropriate size, spacing, and location of MPAs to secure sufficient connectivity processes that will maintain a healthy functioning ecosystem.
In this study, larval dispersal was modeled across coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to identify important reef connections on a regional scale. A spatially explicit connectivity model was used to model coral population connectivity based on a 30-day maximum larval dispersal period across eight spawning events from 2008-2011. This information was then used in the conservation planning software Marxan to identify coral reef priority areas that meet conservation targets while maintaining important connections between reef populations. The results suggest that 77% of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico with a high regional connectivity value are not included in existing MPAs. Researchers quantified and reported larval connectivity data by Exclusive Economic Zones (EZZ) and used the connectivity information in a systematic conservation planning program to design a regional MPA network that includes these important reef connections. The study hopes to promote multilateral cooperation in coral reef protection and management, aiding in disturbance recovery and improving reef resilience by identifying important shared reef connections between marine jurisdictions.
Author: Schill, S.R., G.T. Raber, J.J. Roberts, E.A. Treml, J. Brenner, and P.N. Halpin
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PLoS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0144199
Freshwater Cup Soccer and Environmental Competition Builds Reef Stewardship in Belize
Toledo District, Belize
Belize is well known for its incredible biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In the Toledo District in southern Belize, the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor is home to many species including iguanas, ocelots, jaguars, and over 500 species of birds as well as coastal ecosystems with mangrove fringed cayes, soft-bottom seagrass beds, and fringing reefs.
This area currently has a low but rapidly growing human population. Watersheds are still relatively pristine and water quality is high but land-based pollution is increasing. The main sources are agricultural runoff, soil erosion due to clearance of riverside forests, detergents from clothes washing in rivers and plastic trash from littering or improper disposal of solid waste. Land-based pollution impacts marine ecosystems but people living far from the sea can often be unaware of the impacts they have on the reef. The local nongovernmental organization, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) is working on projects to protect water quality in southern Belize despite the growing population by enhancing stewardship of freshwater resources.
Belizeans love football – playing it, watching it, talking about it. Local tournaments are some of the most popular social activities in the south and competitions with prizes always draw a crowd. Capitalizing on this passion, in 2004 TIDE set up the Freshwater Cup. This is a football tournament with a twist – in order to enter, each team must first plan and execute a project to protect freshwater resources. Typical projects include planting trees to protect riverbanks, removing trash from creeks, painting murals celebrating nature or installing signs with environmental messages.
Originally, the competition was exclusively for adults. A children’s competition was introduced in 2007 and in 2011, the adult competition was removed in order to accommodate more children’s teams. The competition is now for primary school children (male and female) aged twelve or under. Approximately 20 schools participate.
TIDE’s Approach Step by Step
1. TIDE’s environmental education coordinator visits schools to present the competition, explain the rules, and encourage teams to enter.
2. In a second visit, the education coordinator gives presentations on aquatic and marine ecosystems, land-sea interconnectivity and human impacts; facilitates a discussion on problems affecting local freshwater resources and encourages teams to suggest solutions; and uses examples of past projects to illustrate how to design a good project and encourages teams to seek input on the design from the wider community.
3. Teams then plan projects tailored to their community’s needs and fill out a project plan form that includes a budget (typically less than US$250), funding plan and timetable for completion of activities.
4. Teams register for the Freshwater Cup by submitting their completed project plan form, a list of team members and a team contract agreeing to abide by the rules of the game and the principle of fair play.
5. TIDE staff members evaluate each project plan. Proposals are accepted or returned to the team for modification. A team whose proposal is returned must improve its project plan or withdraw its application.
6. Once approved, teams have four months to complete their projects. In this time, they receive at least one visit from the education coordinator, who monitors progress and provides advice and encouragement. A small budget is made available to support the projects.
7. By the deadline, each team must provide a project report. Teams unable to complete their project or provide a report must provide justification for an extension or be disqualified.
8. TIDE personnel judge the projects according to pre-determined criteria. They read the project reports and visit the sites, where the children present their projects. The winners are announced at the football tournament finals (see below).
9. The football component of the Freshwater Cup has two parts, a league stage and a knockout stage. First, male and female teams are divided into two leagues by geography (giving a total of four leagues). Over several weeks, each team plays the others in its league. TIDE provides the schools with equipment, arranges transportation for away teams, and organizes volunteer coaches and referees.
10. The two teams earning the highest number of points in each league advance to the knockout tournament, which is held on one day toward the end of the school year. On the championship day, the semi-finals, third-place play-off and final are played before the prize-giving ceremony.
11. First, second and third placed winners of the best environmental project and football tournaments (male and female) receive prizes consisting of school supplies, a trophy and a framed photograph of the team for the school, plus school supplies, school fees and winners medals for the individual team members.
How successful has it been?
The TIDE Freshwater Cup has been remarkably successful. It has mobilized schools and entire communities to develop greater awareness of and commitment to freshwater ecosystems.
Enhanced Environmental Stewardship
Through the mini-projects, many people have seized the opportunity to improve their local environment. “In many cases, the environmental projects transcend the football championship” (UNICEF 2009). For example, in 2007, the adult team from Bella Vista cleaned up an area at the edge of their village that had inadvertently become a garbage dump. They used a dump truck to remove the garbage to a nearby landfill. The following year, they took up the issue with the village council, constructed a new sanitary landfill and arranged regular waste collection for the village. Similarly, in 2008, the senior team in Jacintoville cleaned up a garbage dump and put up signage to discourage dumping. They formed an environmental club, which continues to organize regular village clean-ups.
The most popular projects have often been the ones that create green spaces in schools and communities. For example, in 2012 Bladen Primary School cleared trash from a local creek and created a pleasant riverside space with benches to enjoy nature. Other successful projects have included setting up organic vegetable gardens at schools, installing garbage bins by rivers and highways, tree planting and finding imaginative ways to recycle, such as building garbage bins and fences from used plastic bottles. There have been some bold education projects too. In 2013, the school team from San Marcos gave presentations to their parents, most of whom are farmers, to educate them on the harmful effects of pesticides and herbicides on aquatic life.
Players, classmates, and family members join in the environmental projects, thereby creating a domino effect of environmental awareness in the wider community. The reward that children get from successfully completing an environmental project (not just the competition prizes but also the appreciation and praise of their parents, teachers and peers) helps children to develop a sense of social responsibility and environmental stewardship. What is more, the TIDE Freshwater Cup is the first time that many of these children (and even teachers) are exposed to key environmental messages. Many had never heard of climate change, or were aware that the Belize Barrier Reef can be harmed by activities of people hundreds of miles inland. The majority of participating children seem to have internalized these ideas because school principals and teachers comment that since the Freshwater Cup, school compounds are much cleaner and they hear children telling others not to litter. TIDE provides the opportunity for these children to carry enhanced stewardship into their adult lives.
Other Social Benefits
Being part of a team that comes up with a shared vision for a project and successfully realizes it is tremendously rewarding for the children. It fosters teamwork and empowers kids by making them realize what can be accomplished when they work together. The sports component has given thousands of girls, boys, women and men the opportunity to participate in a sports competition, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle, gender equality, teamwork, self-esteem and friendship between people of different ethnic and cultural groups. Three members of the current Belize national team played in the TIDE Freshwater Cup. “Given the shortage of leisure activities and the overall poverty of the local area, the programme also acts as a sound source of entertainment that contributes toward a healthy lifestyle for adolescents and children” (UNICEF 2009). The competition has proven so popular that is has become a household name in Toledo.
To increase the impact of environmental projects, TIDE plans to start encouraging schools to conduct multi-year projects, and will be assisting other organizations with replicating the program within Belize and internationally.
The TIDE Freshwater Cup has won several international awards for innovation in sustainable development, namely: the CEPAL Social Innovation Award in 2008 (from among over 800 entries), the Green Apple Award in 2010, and the International Olympic Committee’s Award for Sport and Sustainable Development in 2012.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Prioritize schoolchildren: Originally, the TIDE Freshwater Cup only involved adult teams but we have gradually shifted to only involving schoolchildren. This is because children are generally more receptive to learning and behavior change than adults and working with schools brings advantages in terms of organization. Teachers ensure projects are completed on time and teams consistently show up for games. Lastly, family and friends almost always get involved in the children’s projects, leading to more widespread awareness in the community.
Support teams to improve their environmental projects: Teachers and students sometimes enter the program with a low level of awareness and do not know what effective steps they can take to protect freshwater ecosystems. Teachers also have many demands on their time and leading a project can easily slip to the bottom of the pile. TIDE overcomes this lack of capacity by providing guidance and encouragement at key junctures, such as:
- Meeting with school principals to gain their support
- Hosting classroom lessons on human impacts on freshwater ecosystems
- Facilitating project inception meetings with teams
- Visiting projects and calling team leaders to check on progress
- Providing a clear set of criteria for judging projects
- Publicly rewarding and recognizing good performance, not just with prizes, but with praise and certificates of appreciation
All this takes a lot of time and effort – we estimate at least one hour per team per week for the four-month duration of the projects – but it is worth it because you will be leveraging orders of magnitude more time and effort and building capacity for environmental stewardship at the same time.
Children can be effective agents of change but they must be enabled: Children and adolescents are open to new ways of thinking and can challenge older generations to do more about the world’s problems. They can be influential environmental advocates, as recognised by UNICEF (2009), who have sponsored the program for a total of three years. “There is no doubt that respect for children and adolescents as subjects with full rights provides enormous benefits for society as a whole. This process… includes involvement and respect for young people as prime movers in environmental protection and the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters” (UNICEF 2009). For this to happen, children must be enabled to come up with their own ideas and have their say. Unfortunately, busy teachers sometimes find it easier to write projects themselves without consulting the children. Do your best to encourage teachers to include the children in the project design as this will maximize the personal growth of environmental stewardship from within.
Encourage teams to include other stakeholders: The most successful projects often enlist the support of multiple stakeholders, such as village councils and community groups. Obtaining input from these stakeholders during project planning will help garner their support. Local businesses may be keen to be associated with a popular community environmental and sports event. Your organization and the participating teams may be able to capitalize on this to get sponsorship for team kits, equipment, transportation and prizes.
Use the games for environmental awareness: Once the environmental projects are done and the soccer competition is underway, it can be easy for some to forget stewardship of freshwater resources. There are several things you can do to ensure the environmental focus is not lost. Have the teams present their projects at the games – enthusiastic teams will give performances every bit as entertaining as the match! Insist that each team displays a banner illustrating their name and project. Get volunteers to talk to people in the crowd about ways they can protect downstream environments. And, if you can, get a PA system and have an MC commentate on the games and remind everyone of your environmental messages. Use the event to draw media attention and get your message out to a much wider audience.
Hold a debriefing: A focus group meeting to evaluate the program will provide useful feedback to continually improve.
Make the most of volunteers: Use local and international volunteers. Try to establish a committed set of long-term volunteers (e.g. referees, coaches, project leaders). Build their capacity through training and give them incentives to show they are appreciated.
Make the competition prestigious: Use official FIFA rules and, if possible, invest in kits, boots, trophies, official size and weight balls, pitch improvements, trained referees, floodlights, a PA system, video projection and other frills. These will give the event a degree of cachet and boost eagerness to participate.
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE)
This case study was adapted from: Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) 2015. Reef stewardship in Belize: TIDE Freshwater Cup soccer and environmental competition. A case study developed for the Australian Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration.
Community Researcher Program Builds Reef Stewardship in Belize
Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize
The Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) is a national protected marine reserve in the Toledo district of Belize. It covers 40,470 hectares (100,000 acres) of mangrove and coastal ecosystems, and encompasses over one hundred small, mangrove-fringed cayes, benthic habitats comprising soft-bottom seagrass beds and fringing reefs.
A local nongovernmental organization, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) employs rangers that carry out management and enforcement throughout the reserve, and until recently, had also been primarily responsible for monitoring in the reserve. However, the large area and limited staff resources made monitoring and effective enforcement difficult. The other main challenge is that of building support for the MPA and fisheries regulations among stakeholders. Until the Port Honduras Marine Reserve was founded in 2000 and TIDE and the Fisheries Department began to enforce regulations, local fishers were unaccustomed to being regulated. Fish stocks were, and still are, in a relatively healthy state, making it difficult to convince fishers that regulation is needed. In particular, the ban of gill nets in the reserve is perceived as having had a negative economic impact, increasing conflicts and hindering efforts to build stewardship.
With the logistical challenge of monitoring fisheries, endangered species, ecosystem health and water quality over 100,000 acres of water in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, TIDE began the Community Researcher Program. Through this program, TIDE has trained 15 young people from PHMR’s buffer communities (five per year for three years) to SCUBA dive and conduct environmental monitoring, then employed the best performers to conduct monitoring in PHMR on an on-going basis.
The monitoring activities performed by community researchers include:
- Coral reef health using the MBRS method (specific to the Mesoamerican Reef) and AGGRA method (for comparison with the rest of the Caribbean)
- Seagrass health using the SeagrassNet method
- Mangrove ecosystem productivity using the MBRS method
- Turtle nest monitoring
- Conch and lobster surveys
- Water quality monitoring, including nutrient and sediment analysis
- Fish stock assessment (catch and market surveys)
- Lionfish monitoring and culling
- Collection of fish otoliths and observation of gut contents and gonad development.
As well as the monitoring techniques, community researchers are trained in:
- SCUBA diving (PADI Open Water Diver)
- GPS use and basic GIS analysis
- Emergency first response
- Basic environmental science, including basic coral reef ecology, land-sea interconnectivity and the impact of human activities.
How successful has it been?
The program has been very successful at addressing the challenges of monitoring and building support for the reserve. Zoe Walker, an independent assessor, concluded that “the Community Researcher Programme provides a good model for other organizations, with integration of community researchers into the science programme activities, and capacity-building targeted to ensure reliable data collection.” To date, the main successes of the program are:
Building Stewardship: The initiative has excelled at building passion for conservation in the young participants. Community researcher Willie Caal was studying to be a primary school teacher when he joined. Within six months, he had switched to natural resource management and is excited about a career in conservation. “Being a community researcher can actually change your life. It changed me because I got more chance[s] to be in the ocean. I’m now more interested in conservation, in protecting the environment.” Community researcher Alana Barillas put it this way, “it makes you appreciate the environment more. It makes you see what’s really happening. [For example,] you see what is affecting the sea grass and the benefits that sea grass brings in terms of the nursery and controlling sedimentation. Knowing that makes you want to cherish it.” Those community researchers who are also fishers say they have improved their practices. “I have more commitment to practicing the right things that will benefit the environment,” said one.
The impacts don’t end with the community researchers – they are rippling through the wider community. Fishers now have more confidence in the use of scientific research as a basis for reserve management. One recently commented that he believes TIDE’s research results because his own daughter is involved in the data collection. “I come from a fishing family,” says Willie Caal. “My family loves to see me working in this kind of field. They ask me about the abundance of conch and lobster in the sea. I tell them they are more abundant in the conservation zones and they are reproducing there.” The community researchers are ambassadors for conservation and sustainable management. They communicate with resource-users about human impacts on ecosystems in a way they understand, creating deeper understanding and building stewardship. Fishers are starting to buy in to the idea that resource management is something that should be done by the community, for the community.
Building capacity for conservation: The program has increased TIDE’s research and monitoring capacity greatly by enabling the survey of more sites more often and to a higher standard than before. It is also providing trained personnel for other organizations. For example, our community researchers have done monitoring work for the Healthy Reefs Initiative and collaborated on projects with Blue Ventures and the University of Belize.
Employment opportunities outside of fishing: TIDE is employing up to ten community researchers on a part-time basis. Furthermore, the training is enabling participants to find good salaried positions, for instance in the Belize Coast Guard and at a local dive resort. Over the coming years, we expect more to find jobs with the University of Belize, Fisheries Department and NGOs around the country.
Personal development: The program has created an exciting environment in TIDE’s research and monitoring department. Community researchers are exposed to exciting projects and interact with international volunteers. They like working alongside likeminded people passionate about the environment. With the initial group of community researchers, it was very difficult to get them to do anything without paying them. Now, most of them volunteer for extra duties because they care about the work and the research results, they want to gain experience and they enjoy the work.
A Level 2 TIDE Community Researcher course is being planned, in which participants will be trained in ecology, basic data analysis, laboratory techniques and communications skills and receive PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification. Next steps also include having the community researchers talk at schools about life as a community researcher and what it means to protect the environment. They will also receive media training and act as spokespeople to help build reef stewardship across Belize.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Make an effort to recruit the right people: Having the right people is key and using a widely publicized competitive application process including an application form and interview will maximize your chances of finding good quality candidates. TIDE recruits people who not only represent the community but also have a commitment to the environment and the right aptitudes. To be eligible, candidates must:
- Come from the local community
- Be aged 18+
- Have graduated from high school
- Be able to swim
- Be contactable by phone and email
- Demonstrate an interest in the environment and willingness to learn
Put due effort into training: As with selecting the right participants, this is key. Get the training right and everything that follows will be easier. ‘Continual reinforcement’ is used throughout the training. Provide handouts to avoid note-taking and enable trainees to listen. Most importantly, make the trainees learn by doing. The best way to learn anything is to do it and practical, hands-on training works best for most people. Allow the trainees plenty of time to practice techniques under supervision and be prepared to throw out your initial data as practice runs. Even classroom lessons can be interactive – don’t just state facts, get them to discover concepts for themselves by asking them the right questions.
Save yourself time and resources by using teaching resources from organizations: Find out what monitoring methods other organizations in your area are using. Standardize methods with them and see what they can offer in terms of training – they may be able to provide methods training or at least materials. For example, TIDE’s coral health monitoring methods and protocol for monitoring mangrove productivity were taken straight from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Survey manual. The Healthy Reefs Initiative has training materials for the AGGRA method and ECOMAR provides training and materials for turtle nest monitoring.
Quality control mechanisms are necessary: To ensure a high quality of data collection and management, quality control checks must be performed at multiple stages. Trainees must pass theoretical and practical exams to qualify as TIDE community researchers and all research and monitoring activities are carried out under the supervision of an experienced marine biologist. The supervisor performs duplicate measurements alongside the community researcher on the first occasion that they use each technique and at random intervals thereafter. Any discrepancies between the results are discussed and problems resolved. All data entry is double-checked and there is an accountability trail for all data (the names of the people who collected, input and checked the data are recorded). Only community researchers who demonstrate competence and reliability continue to be employed.
Ensure high safety standards: Clearly an accident could undo a lot of your good work and so health and safety must be maintained. TIDE’s community researchers are insured for diving (the cost is shared) and they receive training in emergency first response and practice implementing an emergency action plan. The research vessel is equipped with an O2 kit and first aid kit and TIDE ensures that a rescue diver is present on all monitoring trips involving diving and insists that community researchers submit their dive logs before they can get paid.
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE)
This case study was adapted from: Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) 2015. Reef stewardship in Belize: TIDE community researcher program. A case study developed for the Australian Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration.
Can you believe it? A decade ago, TNC – with the support of partners AROUND THE WORLD– launched the Reef Resilience Network, creating what would grow to become a global network of resource managers sharing ideas, experiences, and expertise to effectively manage our coral reefs and reef fisheries. Curious to see what ten years can do for managers and reefs? Take a look below and here!
Special thanks to NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose committed support to the Network has helped managers innovate, accelerate, and leverage solutions for improved global coral reef health and restoration of reef fisheries.
Managing exposure of corals to oxybenzone, a common ingredient found in sunscreen lotions, is critical for managing for coral reef resilience. A new study found that coral planulae exposed to oxybenzone became deformed and sessile, and had an increased rate of bleaching which increased with increasing concentrations, affecting coral recruitment and juvenile survival. Because oxybenzone is a photoxicant, high light levels at or near the surface of the water where planulae of broadcasting species spend 2-4 days before settling may place them at higher risk than was seen in this laboratory study. Water samples were also collected in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii to determine oxybenzone concentrations occurring around swimming beaches. In this study, cell death was seen in seven Indo-Pacific and Caribbean coral species at concentrations similar to the water samples taken. Caribbean species sensitivity to oxybenzone was similar to the model of coral tolerance to other stressors (Gates and Edmunds 1999)—boulder corals and other slow growing species have a higher level of tolerance to stressors. For management, the data from this study can help predict changes to coral reef community structure in places with significant oxybenzone exposure and can be integrated into reef resilience management plans.
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Lionfish (Pterois volitans) from the Indo-Pacific have recently invaded the Caribbean and southeastern coast of North America. This study looked at lionfish abundances and the physical and environmental characteristics of the invasion process of reefs on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas. Lionfish abundance was significantly higher at sheltered sites compared to wave-exposed environments. This finding suggests that high-energy environments can provide native fish populations with natural refuges to lionfish invasions. It was further found that the abundance of medium prey fish and large native predators (large native groupers) did not negatively affect abundance of lionfish, however there was a relatively low biomass of large grouper on the island. The authors recommend that managers continue to protect and restore lionfish predators in the Caribbean.
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PLoS ONE 9(9): e106229. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106229