New Reef Resilience Online Course Launched

The new online course Advanced Studies in Coral Reef Resilience is designed to provide coral reef managers and practitioners in-depth guidance on managing for resilience. This free course incorporates new science, case studies, and management practices described in the Reef Resilience Toolkit.

The course includes six modules that discuss local and global stressors affecting coral reefs, guidance for identifying coral reef resilience indicators, design principles for resilient MPA networks, methods for implementing resilience assessments, and important communication tools for managers. Course participants can choose to complete any or all lessons within course modules. Read more.

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Malaysia – Communication


Managing Communication to Mitigate Potential Damage of Coral Reef Bleaching

Tioman Island, Malaysia

The Challenge
Tioman Island, part of the Tioman archipelago, is located about 55 km off the east coast of the Malaysian Peninsula in the South China Sea. The island is approximately 136 km2, with 14.5 km2 of reefs located primarily off the west coast. The archipelago includes four small islands which are ten to a few hundred meters in length, and are surrounded by reefs with 200-300 species of coral in the most diverse areas. Historically, fishing was the mainstay of the communities on Tioman, but more recently dive tourism has grown and now caters to 200,000 tourists each year, the majority of whom are divers or snorkelers. There are six villages scattered around the island which is home to a population of over 3,000 people. A no-take marine protected area (MPA), established in 1994, surrounds Tioman Island and extends for two nautical miles from the low water mark. Visitors to the island pay a conservation charge of 5 Malaysian Ringgit (in 2014, approximately US $1.53) which accrues to a Trust Fund.

Bleached coral Malaysia

Bleached coral. © Reef Check Malaysia

In March 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerted the region to the threat of an imminent coral bleaching event. Observations in May 2010 by Reef Check Malaysia, a local nongovernmental organizaton, confirmed significant bleaching. Through surveys, Reef Check found that 90% of the corals in Tioman were bleached. The worst of the bleaching came in June and lasted through August. Water temperatures surrounding Tioman Island reached 3-4°C above normal. Reef Check observed that the bleaching affected other islands off the east coast of Malaysia and affected the deepest reefs in the region – as deep as 20 m.

Actions Taken

Reef Check Dive Operators

Reef Check Malaysia conducts annual surveys. © Reef Check Malaysia

Institutional Response
Once NOAA alerted the region about bleaching, the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia, the national management authority for natural resources, established a monitoring program. In May 2010, the bleaching event came to the public’s attention when a dive operator from mainland Malaysia returned from a dive trip off Tioman Island and relayed the information to a friend who worked at a local newspaper. With very little scientific or empirical data, the bleaching event was reported in the local news and asserted that the coral reefs around Tioman were all dying due to bleaching. Dive site closures were suggested as one possible management option.

Reef Check Malaysia took the initiative to use reef resilience concepts to identify which reef sites would be most suitable for protection, with minimal disruption to tourism businesses, in the event site closures were deemed necessary. Reef Check approached dive operators on Tioman and two adjacent islands – Perhentian and Redang. Through discussions, it was determined which sites to close that would have a minimal impact on dive business. Reef Check aimed to close four critical sites on each island for protection. However, before the consultation process was completed, in June 2010, the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia announced area closure plans because of the severity of the bleaching. Due to a lack of clear communication, subsequent news reports (both local and international) suggested that entire islands were being closed to diving, not just selected reef sites. Because of the poor communication, most dive shop operators did not support the government-mandated closures and did not consider the closures when taking tourists to the reefs.

Reef Check Community Consultations

Reef Check Malaysia consultations. © Reef Check Malaysia

Bleaching Response Plan
In response to the lack of an organized action plan regarding the 2010 bleaching event, Reef Check began writing a bleaching response plan for Malaysia in 2011. The plan was adopted and published by the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia in 2012. The four major components of the plan are:

  1. Early warning system
  2. Ground-truthing survey
  3. Public awareness and communication exercise
  4. Resilience building action plan

The plan established a Bleaching Response Committee and clearly highlights steps to follow during bleaching events. For example, on receipt of a “bleaching watch” announcement from NOAA, the Committee will automatically issue pre-prepared emails requesting dive operators to conduct weekly Bleaching Watch surveys. In the event the alert level is increased to a “bleaching warning” the Committee will automatically issue invitations to specialists to conduct ground truthing surveys, and if the alert level reaches “bleaching alert level 1” the Committee will automatically issue pre-prepared site closure notices.

The plan includes pre-written press releases and FAQs for use at different stages of a bleaching event, and a database of relevant contacts, including media and dive and resort operators. The plan includes consultation with relevant stakeholders to clearly communicate the bleaching response plan (i.e., site closures).

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Clarity of Communication: Reef Check Malaysia used a communication response to mitigate the potential damage from a bleaching event. Management can only be effective if stakeholders at all levels know what is going on and where it is happening. Creating a communication plan will ensure everyone will be up-to-date and informed, to prevent misinformation and miscommunication.
  • Consultation: It is important to communicate with businesses that will be impacted by a disturbance. It is also important to educate and consult the community. Even if community members are not directly affected by a disturbance, they can help to mitigate damage.
  • Increasing Local Resilience: The most common cause of coral bleaching is regional increases in water temperature, a worldwide threat associated with global climate change. Although the cause of the disturbance is not local, the focus must be on local management of threats because this builds resilience. The global nature of this threat means that management of these events becomes just as important as preventing them.

Funding Summary
Reef Check Malaysia relies on corporate sponsorship for most of its funding, as well as some grant funding:

  • Khazanah Nasional Berhad
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Lead Organizations
Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check Malaysia Annual Survey Report 2010 (PDF)
Reef Check Malaysia Annual Survey Report 2011 (PDF)
Coral Bleaching
Bleaching Watch Survey Reporting Form (PDF)

Written by: Julian Hyde, Reef Check Malaysia

This case study was adapted from: Cullman, G. (ed.) 2014. Resilience Sourcebook: Case studies of social-ecological resilience in island systems. Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY.

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Pacific managers participate in Strategic Communications Learning Exchange

Communications LX group photo

From September 9-11, 2014, fourteen practitioners from Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, and Yap participated in a Strategic Communications Learning Exchange in Maui, Hawaii. The workshop was designed to provide marine conservation professionals with training in strategic communications, including working with the media and facilitation skills with a focus on the practical application of these skills to a current project. In addition, 42 managers attended a half-day workshop on key components of strategic communications and select communications tools– including social marketing– that can be practically applied to meet their conservation needs.

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Social marketing campaign engages Madagascar fishing villages in sustainable fishing practices

Community sail with campiagn messages 2

Campaign logo painted on local boats. © Blue Ventures

Can social marketing campaigns affect fisheries in Madagascar? Yes, they can, by using messages on the radio, banners, posters, t-shirts, and festivals to change a communities’ way of thinking about fisheries management issues.

Andavadoaka’s coastal waters boast a diversity of fish and coral species and draw fishers and more recently, tourists. In the Velondriake area, some destructive fishing practices such as fish poisoning and the use of illegal nets, threaten the health of coral reefs and fisheries and the local way of life. With the successful implementation of fishery closures for octopus, the community implemented greater marine resource management. Critical to this success were a suite of communication tools as part of a social marketing campaign used by Rare and Blue Ventures. Read more in our Madagascar: Communication case study.

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Time Preferences and the Management of Coral Reef Fisheries

To better understand resource use patterns in Curaçao and Bonaire in the southeast Caribbean, the authors conducted a socioeconomic study of the time preferences and marine management preferences of local SCUBA divers and fishers. Through interviews with 197 divers and 153 fishers on the two islands, they calculated individual discount factors and present bias to evaluate time preferences and preferred strategies for managing coral reefs. Divers’ discount factors were significantly higher than fishers’, meaning they value the future more highly or are more future-biased. Divers, on average, supported more restrictions than fishers such as gear restrictions and marine reserves. And, only 1% of fishers were willing to limit the number of fishers, while 34% of divers were willing to limit the number of divers. Overall, divers were more supportive of management than fishers. The main management and policy implication of this study is that differences in diver and fisher groups should be addressed for effective marine management. The authors suggest offsets, such as a dive fee, like the Nature Fee in Bonaire used for marine park management. A portion of the fee could be used to pay fishers to reduce high-impact gears or the buyout of traps and nets. They also suggest property rights schemes within a larger management framework that includes some mix of gear or effort restrictions, incentives for sustainable use, enforcement, and local buy-in.

Author: Johnson, A.E. and D.K. Saunders
Year: 2014
View Full Article

Ecological Economics 100: 130–139. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.01.004

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Papua New Guinea – Communication

Guardians Protect the Sea in Papua New Guinea

Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea

The Challenge
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country that is world renowned for high levels of biodiversity. The country is made up of twenty unique provinces, where five percent of the world’s species can be found in a wide range of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. However, due to increased anthropogenic and environmental pressures, the presence of these unique ecosystems are declining. With anthropogenic pressure, such as a rapidly growing population largely driving changes to the local environment, the challenge in PNG is educating local communities in order to help them better understand the impact of their actions and use marine and terrestrial resources in a sustainable manner.

MEEP students on way to Restorf Island field excursion sighting orcas. Photo @ Adolphina Luvongit/MND

MEEP students on way to Restorf Island field excursion sighting orcas. Photo @ Adolphina Luvongit/MND

Kimbe Bay, located in the West New Britain (WNB) province of PNG, is a large bay (140 km x 70 km in area) comprised of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, and seamounts. Up until the 1960s, most of Kimbe Bay’s population was made up of traditional and indigenous groups who lived a subsistence lifestyle and engaged in cash cropping, e.g. cocoa and copra. In the late 1960’s Kimbe Bay witnessed the arrival of the palm oil industry which significantly altered the demographic and economic makeup of the area. Migrants from other PNG provinces arrived to the area as smallholder participants in the industry. Employment opportunities grew as the industry became successful and expanded. People born in other PNG provinces now make up a large percentage of the population of WNB. In addition, pressure from overfishing and some destructive fishing methods continues to be an area requiring continuous community awareness education in Kimbe Bay.

Actions Taken
In an effort to help preserve the local environment, in 1997, The Nature Conservancy, the European Union Islands Regional Environmental Program, and Walindi Plantation Resort worked together to form a small NGO known as Mahonia Na Dari (MND), or Guardian of the Sea. Operating from the Walindi Nature Centre in Kimbe Bay, MND strives to understand and conserve the surrounding natural environments for present and future generations living in Kimbe Bay and PNG. Hoping to build environmental and reef stewardship within the local community, MND developed an education and outreach campaign which includes a Marine Environmental Education Program (MEEP), field excursions, and additional outreach activities.

MEEP students on field excursion to Restorf Island. Note fish identification guides. Photo @ Stefan Andrews

MEEP students on field excursion to Restorf Island. Note fish identification guides. Photo @ Stefan Andrews

There are currently four programs that target different age groups. In the Intensive MEEP, groups of twenty secondary school students spend nine to ten days in classroom and field sessions learning about reef biology, local environmental problems, and protection strategies. Students also get hands on experience with reef survey techniques and data collection. The Community Conservation Awareness Outreach Program conducted by the Community Conservation Officer visits schools and communities surrounding Kimbe Bay. Baby MEEP, for elementary school students, includes activities such as storytelling, reef walks, and drawing. And the five day Teachers MEEP ensures that critical knowledge is passed on to local Primary school educators. Due to the program’s effectiveness within the community, some activities have become an official part of school curriculum.

Madang Teacher’s College MEEP Training graduates. Photo @ Adolphina Luvongit/MND

Madang Teacher’s College MEEP Training graduates. Photo @ Adolphina Luvongit/MND

In hopes to expand their audience, MND encourages groups from anywhere in PNG or across the world to come to the Walindi Nature Centre for field excursions. While these excursions can take on many different forms depending on the requests made by the visiting group, they almost always include practical and hands on experiences with the surrounding coral reefs. By allowing diverse groups to stay and study at the Walindi Nature Centre, MND is disseminating knowledge to a global audience while simultaneously acquiring new knowledge from outsiders. MND works in close association with James Cook University (JCU) Townsville Australia. JCU is a world leader in marine biology research sciences. JCU has had a base at Mahonia Na Dari Research and Conservation Centre since its inception in 1997.

While the MEEP and field excursions serve as a strong foundation for building community stewardship, one of MND’s most popular activities is a puppet show that tours local villages and schools as part of the Outreach Program. MND developed a puppet show providing an entertaining and educational way of sharing information. In the play, two characters cause trouble by using destructive fishing techniques and learn about how simple actions can affect the entire reef ecosystem. Since its inception, the puppet show has helped to effectively spread messages of conservation and sustainable reef management practices throughout local communities. In addition, MND also produces marine conservation videos, booklets, and pamphlets and distributes them throughout the community.

Primary School visits around Kimbe Bay. Photo @Francis Gove/MND

Primary School visits around Kimbe Bay. Photo @ Francis Gove/MND

By involving a wide range of stakeholders, MND was instrumental in establishing one of the first community based marine reserves in PNG directly adjacent to the Walindi Nature Centre. Known as the Kilu LMMA, this area has become an epicenter for research in Kimbe Bay as annual concurrent studies have been conducted by JCU now for 21 years giving the longest collection of such data in an LMMA anywhere.

How successful has it been?
The efforts of MND now reach more than 13,000 individuals each year. The extensive education and outreach campaigns have helped to strengthen knowledge of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and built support for conservation in Kimbe Bay. Community members are able to gain an understanding of how their livelihood choices directly affect their surrounding ecosystems, while travelers from other parts of the world are able to learn about the conservation work of a small local NGO.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Small NGOs can be effective and powerful
  • Identifying gaps of knowledge in the community and targeting that group may be most effective in continuing to spread knowledge
  • Creative outreach and education activities helped increase the success of the program, for example, puppet shows provide an entertaining and educational way of sharing information
  • Persistent reassessment of the effectiveness of different strategies is necessary to continue to engage communities through time
  • Baseline surveys at the onset of implementing a marine protected or a locally managed marine area provide a reference for comparison to future conditions

Funding Summary

Past and Current Donors
Packard Foundation
Canada Fund
New England Bio-labs Foundation
Australia Volunteer International
NZ Volunteer Services Abroad
Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
PADI Foundation
WNB Provincial Governor Sasindran Muthuvel
WNB Provincial Government
New Britain Palm Oil
The Ocean Foundation
RV Alucia
Hargy Oil Palm
UNDP – GEF – Small Grants Program
Democratic Governance Transition Phase (Australian Aid)
New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Fund
Roger Roth: Under Water Image
New Zealand High Commission: Head of Mission Fund (HOMF)
Pacific Development and Conservation Fund NZ
The Nature Conservancy
Walindi Nature Centre

Lead Organizations
Mahonia Na Dari
The Nature Conservancy
Walindi Plantation Resort

Walindi Plantation Resort
James Cook University
New Britain Palm Oil Ltd
The Nature Conservancy
Live & Learn
WNB Provincial Administrations
Office of the Governor
Office of the Provincial Administrator
WNB Division of Education
Community Development
Schools within the Province Talasea LLG (Local Level Government)
Hoskins LLG
Bialla LLG
Council Ward Areas (Talasea & Hoskins and Bialla Districts)
Communities in Talasea & Hoskins and Bialla Districts

Video on Mahonia Na Dari
Video on Mahonia Na Dari Marine Conservation Centre in Kimbe
Video of Mahonia Na Dari school camp snorkeling trip
Dateline video on Kimbe Bay: Marine Research & Conservation, Papua New Guinea
NBC News video on Mahonia Na Dari’s Marine Environment Education Program

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Madagascar – Communication

Social Marketing Campaign Engages Madagascar Fishing Villages in Sustainable Fishing Practices

Andavadoaka Coast, Madagascar

Coral reef in Velondriake. © Blue Ventures

Coral reef in Velondriake. © Blue Ventures

The Challenge
Stretching almost 350 km along the southwestern coastline of Madagascar is the Grand Recif barrier reef system, consisting of a barrier reef and fringing and inner lagoon reefs. Andavadoaka’s coastal waters boast a diversity of fish and coral species and draw fishers and increasingly, tourists. In the Velondriake area, some destructive fishing practices such as fish poisoning and the use of illegal nets, threaten the health of coral reefs and fisheries and the local way of life. With the successful implementation of fishery closures for octopus, the community implemented greater marine resource management. Along with local partners, the Velondriake locally managed marine area (LMMA) was established in 2006. Although the LMMA bans destructive fishing practices, compliance and enforcement were lacking. The Velondriake Committee of elected representatives from each of the participating 25 villages is responsible for the overall management and enforcement of the local laws. The local people depend on reefs for food and their livelihoods. With a growing population, the future health of these resources is critical.

Actions Taken
To address this threat, Rare and Blue Ventures launched a social marketing campaign from 2009 to 2011 to raise awareness about the ban on illegal fishing and improve compliance. Rare campaigns use innovative marketing and messaging to achieve the conservation goals of the project.

Behind Rare Pride Campaigns
Rare’s signature Pride campaigns aim to change knowledge, attitudes and behavior by using proven social science methods and innovative delivery methods. The campaigns are successfully implemented at the local level by first planning campaign objectives, selecting a flagship species and carefully researching the target audiences. Rare Fellows, who run the campaigns, follow a “theory of change” model for the project that is tailored for the target community. This model identifies the benefits of, and barriers to sustainable behavior. A substantial portion of the project takes place early on in with the site assessment process. Working closely with the community, local staff collect baseline information through stakeholder workshops and surveys. This helps design a community-specific campaign and set specific measurable objectives for the project.

Rare’s Theory of Change Model © Rare

Rare’s Theory of Change Model. © Rare

Rare campaigns set conservation targets for their projects. For the Campaign for Sustainable Fisheries Management Andavadoaka Coast, the target was to increase fish biomass, fish diversity and CPUE (catch per unit of effort) from the site to within 5% of values from a control site by using safer fishing practices and following the rules of the LMMA. The campaign aimed to change local attitudes about community responsibility for enforcing regulations and to raise awareness about unsustainable fishing practices such as using small mesh nets and poison fishing which kill juvenile fish and destroy nearshore marine habitats. The target audience was local leaders, boat owners, beach seiners, and the communities living along the coast. The campaigns are designed jointly by Rare and their on-the-ground partner who receives training before the campaign and continuing support throughout the campaign from a Rare campaign supervisor.

To better understand the issue, local Blue Ventures staff, led by Rare Fellow Gildas Andriamalala held a series of focus group meetings and one-on-one discussions with fishers. A pre-campaign survey (see Resources section) was also conducted to collect baseline information about the community’s knowledge, attitudes, perceptions about marine resource use and local marine laws and the target audiences’ barriers to behavior change. Also, information was collected to determine the types of communication that would be most effective in the community.

Campaign logo painted on local boats. © Blue Ventures

Campaign logo painted on local boats. © Blue Ventures

A number of communication tools were used, including messages on the radio, banners, posters, t-shirts, as well as events such as festivals. Vezo Aho, “I am Vezo” is a simple, key message of the campaign, which celebrates local fishers’ self-perception as sea stewards with significant seamanship skills and knowledge. The campaign title was “stop beach seining and poison fishing in the Velondriake area”, and the by-line is “the sea is my heritage and that of my descendants.” To effectively reach the fishers and local community members, the message was taken out to sea. The Vezo Aho logo painted on more than 150 sails on local pirogues (dugout canoes) serve as traveling billboards to spread the message of unsustainable fishing and what can be done to lessen this threat. Radio spots featured local fishers who described the importance of marine resources to their livelihoods. A total of 900 t-shirts and 600 posters were also distributed.

How successful has it been?
Rare Pride campaigns conduct project-specific monitoring techniques based on the type of information that is needed to assess objectives at each site and within funding limitations. Three types of data were collected:

  1. Ecological data, to provide reef baseline data and post-project data for comparison;
  2. Proxy indicators, for example, using enforcement as a measurement for a decrease in the resources threat;
  3. Social surveys, to measure changes in knowledge, attitudes, and self-reported behaviors. A post-campaign survey using the same survey instrument as the pre-campaign survey was used to measure messages exposure, changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.

After one year of implementation of the campaign, results showed:

  • Improved knowledge about the local laws among leaders and fishers
  • Positive attitudes about the local laws among leaders and fishers
  • Moderate increases in enforcement of the local laws
  • Moderate decreases in the use of destructive fishing practices
Octopus cyanea - Blue octopus- Rare

Blue octopus (Octopus cyanea) harvest. © Blue Ventures

Overall, an evaluation of the campaign found that social marketing tools were fostering sustainable behavior in fishing communities. When combined with governance and enforcement strategies, the campaign is helping to foster sustainable behavior and decrease destructive fishing practices. Rare staff believe that messages targeted at a key audience were critical to the success of the campaign. Lessons learned from the campaign continue to be used to guide activities related to the LMMA.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:

  • Many target audiences made the campaign difficult to manage.
  • Failure to address barriers of behavior change for migrant fishers was a shortcoming of the campaign. Addressing the need for alternative fishing methods and livelihoods was difficult to do due to financial and logistical reasons.
  • Pirogue owners were not specifically targeted in the campaign with individual messages. This was a missed opportunity that could have allowed for more leveraging of their decision-making power and cultural leadership roles as trend-setters.
  • Government officials were not properly incorporated into the campaign. This missed opportunity could have led to a more institutional support for local law enforcement.
  • The spatial context of the Velondriake area contributed to high campaign costs. The dispersed nature of the 25 target villages made for high transportation costs.
  • The Pride campaign has been massively successful in building capacity with Blue Ventures and the Velondriake committee members. Learning the Rare social marketing strategy and applying it in the field, with the guidance of a Rare campaign advisor, was revolutionary. Blue Ventures entire field team is now being trained in the social marketing methodology.
  • Engaging community members from the planning to the implementation phase was a key success to the campaign in terms of messaging strategies.
  • The social marketing campaign piloted in Velondriake was definitely replicable to other sites in the west coast of Madagascar due to the similarities of the fishing villages.

Funding Summary
Direct costs to run the campaign were $40,000 US co-funded by Blue Ventures and Rare.

Lead Organizations
Blue Ventures

Rare’s The Principles of Pride (pdf)
Watch Gildas Andriamalala talk about developing the campaign with the local community Gildas’ video (video)
Rare Blog
Using social marketing to foster sustainable behaviour in traditional fishing communities of southwest Madagascar
Pre-campaign survey (pdf)


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