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Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. Life in the seas evolved three billion years prior to life on land, giving rise to a variety of life unrivalled elsewhere.
Currently there are over 250,000 marine species known to science, although it is recognised that the actual figure could be 10 times this number.
Marine ecosystems provide us with essential resources and services, including food, minerals, oil, medicines, and recreation. They also play a critical role in the regulation of the Earth’s climate, producing more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and absorbing significant quantities of carbon from it.
Historically we believed that the vast oceans were infinitely able to provide for our needs and accommodate our waste. However, decades of neglect and over-exploitation are pushing marine ecosystems to their limit.
A substantial donation awarded to Fauna & Flora International (FFI) by the Arcadia Fund has provided us with a springboard to bring about real benefits for the marine environment around the world.
To learn more about how we work, visit our dedicated pages:
Alternatively, keep reading to learn more about our current marine projects or view them on Google Earth by downloading this kml file (needs to be unzipped).
As the oldest conservation organisation in East Africa, the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) has benefitted from support from FFI. It has been extremely successful in combating rhino and elephant poaching in the past, but was struggling to function by the mid 1990s. FFI has helped to rebuild EAWLS’ conservation capacity and is currently supporting them in the development of a regional conservation plan focusing on their coastal and marine programme. The overall goal is to conserve biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities through the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources in Kenya.
The Ecuadorian government is striving to establish a system of Marine Protected Areas along its coast. FFI is supporting this process together with the national organisation Fundación Futuro Latino Americano and the Ministry of Environment. We are focusing especially on developing innovative participatory governance systems for the emerging protected areas.
We are also working with communities in the south of Ecuador to protect large areas of mangrove swamp and promote sustainable use of the crab and cockle populations that thrive there. FFI and partners are now forming a regional collaboration between Ecuador and initiatives in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, to advance innovative approaches to marine habitat conservation.
Wolf Rock in Queensland currently supports half the pregnant female population of grey nurse sharks on the east coast of Australia and is the only known aggregation site where females gestate before returning to New South Wales to pup. Protecting such sites is pivotal to the survival of the species, yet we still do not know where the other half of pregnant females aggregate. Using a Geographic Information System, 200 sites have been identified that have similar features and habitat to known aggregation sites. Research teams are conducting habitat analysis and checking for sharks at these potential aggregation sites. Pregnant female grey nurse sharks tagged with special acoustic tags will then be tracked using underwater ‘listening stations’ installed at potential sites. The programme has been enabled through the collaboration of FFI; the Queensland Departments of Environment & Heritage Protection, and National Parks, Recreation, Sport & Racing; Burnett Mary Regional Group; Australia Zoo; and the University of Queensland.
On the north coast of Kenya, FFI is continuing to support individual communities to become effective custodians of their natural resources through the establishment and strengthening of community-based institutions, and the implementation of community-led actions to improve the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources from the Tana Delta to the Somali border. The project will facilitate greater coordination and cooperation between communities through the development of an umbrella organisation that will represent shared interests and offer a platform for addressing large scale threats and challenges affecting the marine and coastal environment of the north coast.
Building on our experience of Marine Protected Area governance in Ecuador, Fauna & Flora International and partner FFLA are forming a new regional collaboration to enhance marine habitat conservation across Central America, focusing on Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua.
This initiative will benefit from lesson-sharing with experienced regional and national partners: CoopeSoliDar R.L, RECOTURH, FUNDENIC and FFLA. We are focusing on addressing common themes of marine governance, participatory processes for natural resource management, spatial management and access rights.
FFI is working in partnership with the Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management (BMRG) to enhance conservation in the Burnett Mary Region of south-east Queensland. The region’s stunning Great Sandy Biosphere supports an especially diverse array of species and is an important stop-over for humpback whales.
Poachers are a serious threat to leatherback, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. They illegally harvest the turtle eggs along beaches and kill hawksbills to use their shell for jewellery. FFI has trained over 80 community members in turtle protection and hatchery management, achieving an impressive rise in hatching success on key nesting beaches, and protecting over 90% of leatherbacks nesting in Nicaragua and an estimated 50% of the known nesting hawksbill population in the Eastern Pacific. In addition, FFI has helped communities to find other ways of making a living (such as making handbags from recycled plastic bags) and has raised national awareness to reduce demand for turtle eggs. We are now maintaining all this work and extending protection to near-shore waters.
The south Kenya coast, from Msambweni to Vanga on the Tanzanian border, is an area of outstanding natural beauty that harbours highly significant marine biodiversity including black corals, mangroves and seagrass. Small islands within the area provide overwintering and feeding grounds for birds, as well as important nursery and feeding habitat for five species of sea turtles and dolphins. FFI is supporting communities living along the coast to take greater role in the management and care of their marine resources through participatory management and the diversification and development of sustainable livelihoods. A network of seven Community Conserved Areas has already been established, some of which are now reporting a marked decrease in the use of illegal fishing gear, alongside improvements in overall ecological health.
The coastal systems of Aceh, Indonesia, contain some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world, with Critically Endangered species such as leatherback turtles, and genetically unique species such as giant clams. To protect this from unsustainable fishing practices, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with coastal communities and the Government of Aceh’s Marine and Fisheries Agency, and through a scientific assessment this project has identified the biodiversity-rich areas. To secure these, FFI is empowering the customary leaders and coastal communities to work with local government in implementing a network of 23 Locally-Managed Marine Areas spanning 318,160 ha across the entire province. This co-management system uniquely combines customary marine law and government policy, and is being implemented through several core components: conservation capacity building of key stakeholders; marine policy development; establishment of conflict resolution systems; coastal community livelihood development; and coral reef and fish stock surveys to assess project impact.
This project aims to improve understanding of the ecological, social and cultural significance of mangroves in the Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve in Liberia, and to identify and manage the drivers causing their on-going deforestation. The project will improve the capacity of civil society to sustainably use and conserve this important resource, and will facilitate the participatory development of a science-based, locally-relevant management plan that can fit within the overall management strategy for the reserve.
In 2012, FFI started a new project designed to increase marine conservation capacity in Myanmar, in order to more effectively establish and manage Marine Protected Areas in the country. FFI will provide training to our NGO partner BANCA and the Forestry and Fisheries Departments in marine survey methods, community-based fisheries and Marine Protected Area establishment and management. Initially FFI and partners will work in two priority sites: Meinmahla Kyun (an ASEAN Heritage Site), and the Myeik archipelago (a priority site for coral reef conservation in Myanmar). Our target groups are local civil society organisations and coastal communities.
The Gökova Bay Marine Protected Area is recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot, encompassing important seagrass beds, endangered dusky groupers, giant devil rays and Critically Endangered sharks and Mediterranean monk seals. FFI and local partners are working to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of marine resource management in the Gökova Bay Marine Protected Area. As a first step, the project will enable local community members to take an active role in patrolling and monitoring six ‘No Take Zones’ (areas that are closed to fishing) as a means to minimise illegal fishing activity, promote fish stock and habitat recovery, and raise awareness of the need to protect the marine environment for the benefit of local livelihoods.
Gökova Bay in Turkey is dynamic and growing. While fishing is a major component of the identity of the local area, the bay is increasingly becoming popular with tourists due to its exceptional environment which could offer visitors (when developed responsibly) a unique experience to see rare marine fauna and flora. With funding from the Travel Foundation, the ‘Back to the Sea’ project takes advantage of the above factors by offering local fishermen relevant training, capacity building and access to the tourism industry in order to diversify their income by offering marine excursions to visitors, sharing traditional fishing knowledge, and communicating the importance of effective Marine Protected Areas.
Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere. Despite its high biodiversity and economic significance, it was the only substantial offshore location in Belize without meaningful protection. Unregulated development, mangrove conversion, and over-exploitation of fishery resources pose serious threats to the health and resilience of the Atoll. FFI has worked alongside the Blue Marine Foundation and the Belize Government, as well as the NGO and donor community, to catalyse the establishment of a new Marine Reserve on Turneffe Atoll, and to ensure financial support for the long-term management and enforcement of the site. FFI will continue to provide technical support to local partners to enable the formal designation of the area, and plan for strictly protected ‘No Take Zones’ (areas closed to fishing), with the full participation of stakeholders. We will also help to build the capacity of local institutions to lead its effective operation.
A new pilot project is underway to help the financial sector to evaluate the sustainability of the fishing companies in which they invest, and to apply stricter sustainability criteria in their credits and investments (as a means to improve the operations of the fishing industry at a large scale). Working through the trusted Natural Value Initiative (NVI), the project will support the development and testing of a benchmarking methodology in partnership with financial institutions, and will convene fishing, financing and NGO communities in a workshop to present results and generate buy-in for a full scale project.
FFI continues to support the University of York with their research in the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone, one of only three small areas in the United Kingdom where all fishing is currently banned. The research seeks to establish the rate, trajectory and nature of recovery for commercially important marine species following the cessation of fishing. Strategic communications of the results seek to encourage consideration of the costs and benefits of protection in future management decision making, as the UK works to establish networks of Marine Protected Areas.
As part of our work in the Firth of Clyde, we are providing support to a local community organisation to help them deliver and advance effective marine conservation. The ‘Community of Arran Seabed Trust’ (or COAST) successfully campaigned for the establishment of Scotland’s first ‘No Take Zone’ (an area closed to fishing) in Lamlash Bay, and are now involved in the active enforcement of this site. FFI has supported COAST to develop their organisational strategy and governance structures and is working in partnership with COAST to share their experience and knowledge with other coastal communities seeking a voice in the future management of their seas. FFI will continue to work with COAST to help document and share their lessons and experiences of establishing a No Take Zone with other communities, so that this approach can be replicated.
Grey Nurse Shark Watch is a community-based photographic identification and monitoring project that is gathering information on grey nurse shark numbers, movements and distribution in Queensland, Australia. Every shark is different, with a unique pattern of spots, making photographic identification an ideal way to differentiate between individuals. Photographs submitted by volunteers will contribute to a national database on the grey nurse shark, which will be made available to stakeholders, researchers and managers.
Bali Province, Indonesia, has one of the highest levels of coral species richness in the world, and an associated abundance of marine fish as well as important marine ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses. Marine ecosystems in Bali face significant pressures from tourism and coastal development as well as threats from high levels of trade in marine ornamental species, and destructive fishing practices. FFI has identified key conservation responses to address the threats to a site in north Bali, and is developing partnerships with two local Indonesian NGOs in order to strengthen their capacity to secure long-term finance for the implementation and operation of a network of Locally-Managed Marine Areas in northern Bali.
In the Philippines, FFI is supporting two indigenous coastal communities to establish the rights to manage their traditional marine and coastal resources. The project is building the capacity of key stakeholders to engage in coastal resource assessment and management, to understand relevant legislation and tenure, and to integrate local-level marine conservation issues into management planning for their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plans. The project will document lessons learned on models of effective local indigenous marine management, and will encourage these to be shared with the authorities in order to inform subsequent policy decisions and encourage model replication.
As part of our work in the Firth of Clyde, we are supporting the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) to develop their capacity for fundraising and project development. This work supports a project that focuses on finding an alternative, sustainable model for fisheries within the Firth of Clyde. SIFT’s project aims to find alternative management solutions, which could provide the opportunity for ecological recovery in the Firth of Clyde while maintaining economic returns. Possible solutions might include looking for a more sustainable balance of prawn trawling, scallop dredging and other fishing practices (through zoning or other measures). As a result of FFI’s support, SIFT now has the required structures and funding in place to start planning and lobbying for alternative fisheries models on the Clyde. SIFT’s work is helping to demonstrate how pragmatic approaches can result in timely conservation gains and can complement broader planning processes conducted at the national level.
Bottom trawling for shrimp is one of the most damaging forms of unsustainable fishing, due to high levels of by-catch and physical impact on habitats. Coastal communities complain bitterly of the damage done to the marine ecosystem and their livelihoods.
In a new project, FFI is supporting Ecuadorian government agencies and NGO partners to monitor the ecological and socio-economic changes resulting from a recently imposed national ban on bottom trawling, with the exception of one form of shrimp trawling. The monitoring results, combined with a compilation of lessons learned from such bans elsewhere in the world, will help Ecuador to build public support for the ban and to avoid pitfalls, such as failure to manage changes in other fisheries, as people respond to changing distribution and abundance of resources.
At the same time, at Tárcoles in Costa Rica, FFI is supporting a fishing community and NGO partner, who have successfully lobbied for, protected and monitored a zone free of bottom trawling for shrimp. By communicating the impressive results, the project will consolidate political support for the exclusion of bottom trawling and encourage replication of the initiative in other community-based ‘Responsible Fishing Areas’.
Fauna & Flora International is coordinating an initiative that will provide technical and practical support and best practice guidance to those coastal communities around Scotland who want to conserve their local marine areas. This builds on our existing partnership with the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), a community based organisation on the isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland that has been uniquely successful in gaining protection for its local coastal area and has learnt important lessons that could prove invaluable to other communities. Ultimately the project hopes to create a network of communities, allowing them to work together to share their experiences and benefit from a louder voice in the debate around the future of Scotland’s seas.
Designated as a special protected area, the Firth of Forth on Scotland’s east coast supports a wealth of marine life and complex natural habitats. It is also a highly industrialised area, however, and has become a hotspot for ‘nurdles’ – small pellets of plastic that are melted together to form almost all plastic products. Produced in their millions, these nurdles are easily spilled and often end up in our rivers and seas where they can harm wild animals, which often mistake them for food. Today, thousands of pellets are caught in the Forth estuary’s vegetation; to tackle this serious threat, FFI has partnered with local charity Fidra to launch ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ which aims to improve business practices and reduce nurdle spillage through a combination of public awareness, citizen science and corporate engagement.
Cambodia’s waters are home to an abundance of important habitats ranging from coral reefs and seagrass meadows to mangrove forests. These ecosystems support a rich variety of marine life, including many charismatic species such as Irrawaddy dolphins, hawksbill and green turtles. Cambodia’s marine environment plays an important socio-economic role; fishing and related activities are crucial for coastal economies, and fish is an essential part of people’s diet in Cambodia, accounting for over three quarters of the animal protein consumed. Unfortunately,…Read more
The Philippines lies within the ‘coral triangle’ – the epicentre of marine biodiversity – and is home to around 3,000 fish species, 500 coral species and over 40 species of mangroves. Endangered species of sea turtles, whale sharks, yellowfin tuna and dolphins also inhabit these waters. The reefs are among the most threatened in the world due to overfishing, destructive fishing methods, pollution, coral mining and unregulated coral reef tourism, all of which contribute to the rapid decline of marine…Read more
Within the Great Sandy Biosphere, between Fraser Island and the mainland of south-east Queensland, Australia, lies the Great Sandy Strait. These coastal sandy habitats support species such as resident and migratory turtles and shorebirds, dugongs, and humpback whales. A little further south in the Great Sandy Marine Park, the endangered grey nurse shark can be found. However, pressure from fishing, unsympathetic tourist activity and the degradation of coastal habitats is putting the species that rely on these ecosystems at risk.…Read more
On the Scottish island of Arran, situated off the west coast of Scotland, a community has been campaigning to protect its seas for almost 20 years. It all began in 1995, when two Arran divers, Howard Wood and Don McNeish, set up the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) with the aim of reversing the decline of the island’s marine habitats, which had largely been caused by the 1984 removal of the ban on bottom trawling within three miles of…Read more
Hidden treasures off the Ecuador coast The eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean harbour a dazzling diversity of marine life. Remarkable numbers of species have been recorded, including five species of sea turtles, twenty kinds of whale and dolphin, hammerhead and whale sharks, manta rays and countless species of fish, corals and molluscs. Recognising the importance of Ecuadorean waters for both marine biodiversity and coastal communities, the Government of Ecuador is striving to establish a national network of Marine Protected…Read more