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We're currently celebrating our tenth anniversary year, recognising a decade of groundbreaking work at the interface of tropical coastal conservation and development. The past ten years have seen us active in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans, pioneering new approaches to incentivise community-based conservation, and protecting critical biodiversity and coastal livelihoods. Click on the timeline below to find out more about some of the highlights of our journey so far.

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Read more about us, how we work and what we do

Our expeditions take place in environmentally and culturally diverse regions of the world. All of our expedition volunteers are thoroughly briefed to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages.

We provide pre-departure materials and in-country guidance to ensure that all team members conduct themselves in a culturally sensitive way. We take very seriously our responsibility to minimise negative impacts on the environments in which we work, as well as to provide tangible benefits to our host communities.

Working with communities

As part of our commitment to investing in people, we award several fully-funded marine science and scuba diving scholarships each year for university students from the Western Indian Ocean region and community members from the Velondriake area of southwest Madagascar to undertake an intensive six-week training course in conservation research alongside our expedition volunteers.

The programme focuses on learning how to scuba dive, conduct ecological surveys, and identify species. We have also trained the first Malagasy national to be certified as a PADI Open Water Instructor, and the first three Malagasy nationals to be certified as PADI Open Water Assistant Instructors.

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We regularly hold "open days" to inform local communities about our research, and our conservation team supports them to develop strategies for sustainably managing their fisheries and marine resources. This ranges from developing markets for invasive lionfish in Belize to establishing periodic reserves for octopus in Madagascar.

We also enable communities to develop alternative livelihoods such as sea cucumber farming in order to reduce pressure on their marine resources and improve their economic status. Our community work even encompasses reproductive and maternal health in Madagascar, where we train local women to offer basic health education and services in their villages.

Sarteneja
Our expedition volunteers in Belize are hosted by a local homestay association during the time that they spend in the village of Sarteneja. The Sarteneja Homestay Group is made up of several local families who provide accommodation and meals for our volunteers. This model ensures that there is a direct benefit to the local economy and gives our volunteers an authentic Belizean experience.

“A few months after the Sarteneja Homestay Group formed, we met Blue Ventures. They really helped us to start and we've been working with them since then. All of the women and families are benefitting economically, making us less dependent on our husband’s money, and allowing us to develop other artisanal activities.” - Ivett Cobb, President of the Sarteneja Homestay Group

We have a strong commitment to local employment, with over 50% of our expeditions teams employed from the communities with which we work. Wherever possible, food and supplies for expeditions are purchased from local vendors. Volunteers are encouraged to build relationships with community members through involvement in local schools, purchasing goods from local shops, and spending time in villages.

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Our school scholarships programme was established by a number of our expeditions alumni, who wished to create a lasting educational legacy for the young people whom they had connected with while in Madagascar. Thanks to the ongoing generous donations and fundraising efforts of our ex-volunteers and supporters, we are able to send 200 disadvantaged children in the Velondriake area to school every year.

Underwater impact

Our dive protocols have been developed to ensure that our research teams and expedition volunteers are aware of the fragility of the marine environment in which they are diving, and take all necessary precautions to prevent harming the reefs.

Divers are required to maintain good buoyancy control so as to avoid accidental contact with the reef or stirring up sea floor sediment. Research boats are only launched in areas that avoid damage to reefs. 

Terrestrial impact

Our expedition sites are located in areas that avoid sensitive habitats and vegetation types, and we carry out monthly beach clean-ups in partnership with local communities. Fresh water use is kept to a minimum, and all waste is sorted and disposed of as responsibly as local conditions allow. Expedition staff and volunteers are encouraged to use only biodegradable cleaning products.

Electricity use is minimised to a few hours per day, and renewable energy is promoted wherever possible. In 2008, we conducted an internal audit of our energy use and carbon footprint relating to all of our expeditions and conservation activities in Andavadoaka, Madagascar. The recommendations made in that report have been implemented in order to reduce the impact of our operations.

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Recognition of our practices

We have been recognised six times at the annual Responsible Travel Awards, winning the prestigious 'Best Volunteering Organisation' in 2010, and also winning the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ in the British Youth Travel Awards in 2012. As a leader in responsible travel, we have also been recommended as an ethical volunteering organisation by the Guardian and the Telegraph. We are a member of the Year Out Group and all of our expeditions abide by their Code of Practice and Charter.

  • 2012: winner in the 'Best Volunteer Organisation' category at the British Youth Travel Awards.
  • 2010: winner in the 'Best Volunteering Organisation' category at the Responsible Travel Awards.
  • 2009: highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category at the Responsible Travel Awards.
  • 2008: highly commended in the 'Best Volunteering Organisation' category at the Responsible Travel Awards.
  • 2007: highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
  • 2006: highly commended in the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ category at the Responsible Travel Awards and winner in the 'General Countryside' category at the Skål Eco-tourism Awards.
  • 2004: highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
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    List of fact sheets

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    Our awards: Our projects and our work in conservation and sustainable development have been recognised by organisations as diverse as the United Nations, National Geographic, Ashoka and The Observer newspaper. We have been recognised 6 times in the annual Responsible Travel awards, winning the prestigious 'Best Volunteering Organisation' in 2010.

    Responsible practices: Our projects are focused in environmentally and culturally sensitive regions of the world. All our visitors are required to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages. We insist that all team members, acting as ambassadors to Blue Ventures, adapt their behaviour to recognise local cultural sensitivities.

     

     

    Recognition for our commitment to responsible tourism

    2011-Green-Tourism-finalist

    British Youth Travel Awards, 2011

    Finalist in the "Green Tourism" category.

    The awards, organised by the British Educational Travel Association (BETA), celebrate the work and success of organisations engaged in youth, student and educational travel. The Green Tourism award is for youth travel organisations working to maximise their positive impact on the environment and local community.

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    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2010

    Winner in the "Best Volunteering Organisation" category.

    The Responsible Tourism Awards are the most competitive and prestigious awards of their kind in the world and are a collaboration between responsibletravel.com, who founded and organise the awards, UK media partners Metro Newspaper and Geographical Magazine, and World Travel Market, who host the Awards ceremony.

    RT-2009-awards

    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2009

    Highly commended in the "Best in a Marine Environment" category.

    The Responsible Tourism Awards are the most competitive and prestigious awards of their kind in the world and are a collaboration between responsibletravel.com, who founded and organise the Awards, UK media partners The Daily Telegraph and Geographical Magazine, and World Travel Market, who host the Awards ceremony.

    Responsible Travel Awards 2008 Blue Ventures

    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2008

    Highly commended in the "Best Volunteering Organisation" category.

    The Responsible Tourism Awards are sponsored by responsibletravel.com, Virgin Holidays, The Daily Telegraph, Geographical Magazine and BBC World News, and the World Travel Market. The awards are the most competitive and prestigious awards of their kind in the world.

    The awards recognise tourism ventures that make a positive contribution to conservation and the economies of local communities while minimising any negative impacts of tourism.

    More than 1,900 tour operators from across the globe were nominated for the awards.

    responsible travel 2007

    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2007

    Highly commended in the "Best in a Marine Environment" category.

    The Responsible Tourism Awards are sponsored by responsibletravel.com, Virgin Holidays, The Times, the World Travel Market and Geographical magazine. The awards recognise tourism ventures that make a positive contribution to conservation and the economies of local communities while minimising any negative impacts of tourism.

    More than 1,700 tour operators from across the globe were nominated for the awards.

       
    responsible travel 2006

    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2006

    Highly commended in the "Best Volunteering Organisation" category.

    The First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards are sponsored by responsibletravel.com, The Times and Geographical Magazine.

    The awards are the largest of their kind and recognise tourism organisations that respect and benefit local people and places. Blue Ventures was chosen from among 1,200 nominations.

       

    skal 2006

    Skål International Eco-tourism Awards, 2006

    Winner of the "General Countryside" category from Skal, the world's largest organisation of travel and tourism professionals.

     

       
    responsible travel 2004

    Responsible Tourism Awards, 2004

    Highly commended in the "Best in a Marine Environment" category.

    The awards recognise companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to 'responsible' tourism – that is, projects which make a positive contribution to conservation and the economies of local communities, while minimizing the negative impacts that tourism can have.

     

     

    Recognition for our work in conservation and sustainable development

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    Buckminster Fuller Challenge, 2011 - "For developing a comprehensive, integrated, solution that has significant potential to solve one of humanity's most pressing problems."

    In 2011, Blue Ventures was selected from 165 entries as winners of the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an award of $100,000, for its work to protect marine resources and improve the livelihoods of poor coastal communities in Madagascar. The Buckminster Fuller Institute is dedicated to accelerating the development of solutions which radically advance human well-being and the health of our planet's ecosystems. BFI recognised Blue Ventures for its unique whole-system approach – combining scientific research, the development of sustainable aquaculture, family planning support, environmental education, and the creation of community-led protected areas – to bring direct benefits to both people and nature.

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    Observer Ethical Awards, runner-up 2010

    Blue Ventures was commended for creating the Indian Ocean's first replicable blueprint for community-centred marine and coastal conservation planning.

    Working alongside some of the world's poorest coastal communities, and drawing on international resources, Blue Ventures has created a model for community members to actively implement, manage and monitor marine conservation strategies.

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    wcpa

    IUCN Young Conservationist Award, 2010

    Blue Ventures’ Research Director Alasdair Harris was selected as winner of the 2010 Young Conservationist Award, an award by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the International Ranger Federation which honours outstanding achievements by young people in the world’s protected areas.

    Al, a founding Director of Blue Ventures, has spent a decade promoting the cause of marine conservation and research in the western Indian Ocean. His work has focused on developing new models for the sustainable financing of marine conservation in the region. Conservation initiatives piloted by Blue Ventures have won international acclaim for their contribution to biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.

       
    Conde Nast Environmental Award

    Condé Nast Traveler Environmental Award, 2009

    For two decades, Condé Nast Traveler has been honouring environmental visionaries around the world who have found innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Each year, Condé Nast receives hundreds of nominations and, with the help of a panel of expert judges, selects one winner and three runners-up.

    In 2009, Blue Ventures' work in Madagascar won international acclaim for its progress in demonstrating the sustainable economic benefits of responsible marine stewardship. Madagascar is widely regarded as the world's most critical conservation priority, yet the island continent faces massive environmental problems linked to climate change, population growth and over-exploitation of natural resources.

       
    equator undp prize 2007

    Equator Prize (United Nations Development Programme), 2007

    Blue Ventures' partnership with the village of Andavadoaka won the UNDP Equator Prize in recognition of outstanding community efforts for poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation.

    Blue Ventures worked with Andavadoaka in 2004 to establish the world’s first community-run octopus no-take zone. The strategy, which created seasonal closures, not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus populations, but also results in greater yields for fishermen when the closures are opened each season.

       
    seed award 2005

    United Nations SEED Award (UNDP, UNEP, IUCN), 2005

    Blue Ventures won this prestigious award along with our community partners in recognition of innovative, locally-driven partnerships delivering sustainable development and livelihoods. Winners were selected from over 260 entries from 66 countries, representing 1,200 organisations.

    Blue Ventures’ partnership project ‘Madagascar’s first community-run, experimental Marine Protected Area’ was chosen as a ‘shining example of how economic development and environmental protection can go hand in hand,’ according to the international panel which made the selection.

     

     

    Recognition for our commitment to social enterprise

    Camden Islington Business Awards

    Camden & Islington Business Awards (CIBAs), 2011

    Finalist in the "Charity/Social Enterprise of the Year" category.

    These awards celebrate the hard work and success of local businesses - we were a finalist in the charities and social enterprise category. 

    geotourism finalist 2010

    Finalist, Ashoka and National Geographic Geotourism Challenge, 2010

    Blue Ventures was selected as one of 12 finalists, winning a joint prize from StepUp Travel, MatadorU, Xola Consulting and the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

    Places on the Edge: Saving Coastal and Freshwater Destinations, was a competition to identify innovative solutions allowing coastal destinations to protect the environment and strengthen the heritage and livelihoods of local residents.

    You can read more about our entry on the changemakers website >

    Future100

    Al Harris named one of the Future 100 Young Social Entrepreneurs, 2009

    The Future 100 Awards recognises young entrepreneurs demonstrating flair and innovation in running a responsible business venture - one which demonstrates a balance between economic, environmental and social goals.

    ashoka national geographic geotourism challenge 2008

    Finalist, Ashoka and National Geographic Geotourism Challenge, 2008

    Blue Ventures was selected as one of 14 finalists from 516 nominations, from 89 countries.

    The goal of the Geotourism Challenge is to identify and showcase innovators - individuals and organisations that support the approach known as geotourism: tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

    You can read more about our entry at http://www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/5935

       
    enterprising young brits 2005 2006

    Enterprising Young Brits Awards, 2005 and 2006

    Blue Ventures was highly commended for two consecutive years by then UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in the 'social and environment' category of this national enterprise competition.

    Chancellor Gordon Brown said; ‘All of the finalists are winners – they are creating new opportunities and advancing new ideas to create an enterprising society. Do not underestimate the power you have to encourage others – you are making your mark by showing that enterprise is changing the face of Britain.’




    Responsible practices

    Blue Ventures’ projects are focused in environmentally and culturally sensitive regions of the world. All project visitors are thoroughly briefed to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages. We provide pre-departure and in-country briefings to ensure that all team members, acting as ambassadors to Blue Ventures, adapt their behaviour to recognise local cultural sensitivities.

    All Blue Ventures personnel are made aware of the effect that their presence and activities have on local habitats. We have a responsibility to minimise negative impacts on local environments and communities where we work, as well as to provide tangible benefits to our host communities.

    We have taken steps towards this in the following key areas:

    Working with communities

    • Regular village and community meetings and workshops are organised to discuss ideas and proposals.
    • As part of our commitment to local training and capacity building, we offer 10 fully-funded conservation scholarships and 20 scuba scholarships per year to Malagasy nationals. Recent scuba qualifications have included the first ever PADI professional certification for a Malagasy diver. In 2009 we launched similar initiatives at our research site in Malaysia and in 2010 Belize was added to our project sites and the same opportunities will soon be available there.
    • Community groups work closely with us in developing conservation and management plans. We work to empower local communities to manage their own resources.
    • Wherever possible, food and supplies for expedition operations are purchased from local sources.
    • Volunteers are encouraged to build relationships with community members through involvement in local schools, purchasing goods from local shops and spending time in villages.
    • Blue Ventures works to develop alternative livelihoods in the communities in which we work, to reduce the fishing pressure on fragile marine ecosystems and to try to improve the economic status of poor and isolated communities. Recent examples of these initiatives have included sea cucumber farming and algae farming projects, and eco-tourist guide training programmes.
    • In Belize our volunteers are hosted by a local Homestay Association during the time they spend in the village of Sarteneja. The Homestay Association is made up of 12 village families who provide food and accommodation to our volunteers. This model ensures that there is a direct benefit to the local economy and gives our volunteers an authentic Belizean experience. Since March 2010 our volunteers have spent over 3,500 nights in homestay accommodation.
    • Blue Ventures, with support from staff, volunteers and other donors has provided over 750 School Scholarships since 2005. These scholarships allow children whose families cannot afford school fees to attend primary and secondary school. In 2007-8 this scheme paid for 104 children in 11 villages to attend school as well as help finance students from remote communities to continue their secondary education in colleges in major towns. Increased funding has increased the number of villages and students within the programme and in 2013/14 a record 200 scholarships have been supported.
    • Expedition camps are located in areas that avoid sensitive habitats and vegetation types.
    • Expedition personnel carry out monthly beach cleanups in partnership with local communities.
    • Fresh water use is minimised, and water is conserved wherever possible.
    • All waste is sorted and disposed of responsibly.
    • Expedition personnel are encouraged to use only biodegradable cleaning products.
    • Participants in Blue Ventures projects are required to offset carbon emissions from their flights to the host country through contributions to the Blue Ventures Carbon Offset scheme, a non profit carbon offsetting initiative that brings direct benefits to host communities and environments, as well as pioneering projects in South Africa.
    • At project sites electricity use is minimised to a few hours per day, and renewable energy is promoted wherever possible.
    • In 2008 Blue Ventures conducted an internal audit of energy use in Madagascar and our carbon footprint for all of our expedition and conservation activity in Andavadoaka. THe recommendations made in that report have been followed to reduce the impact of our operations. Click here to download the report.

    Underwater impact

    • Blue Ventures’ dive protocol has been developed to ensure that research teams and volunteers are aware of the fragility of the marine environment in which they are diving, and take all necessary precautions to prevent harming the reefs.
    • Divers are required to maintain good buoyancy control so as to avoid accidental contact with the reef or stirring up sea floor sediment.
    • Research boats are only launched in areas that avoid damage to reefs.

     

    Encouraging Sustainable Development

    • Blue Ventures works with host villages to develop long-term sustainable environmental management strategies, focused on protecting biodiversity, reducing poverty, and improving the quality of life of local communities.
    • Sustainable resource use is encouraged at project sites through management plans and interventions including seasonal and permanent no-take zones, marine reserves, small aquaculture projects, and fish aggregation devices.
    • Blue Ventures employs local staff members wherever possible, providing a range of technical, academic and skills development training programmes.
    • Responsibly managed reef-based tourism is promoted as a non-extractive industry that can provide employment to local communities.
    • Blue Ventures’ carbon offset scheme provides energy-efficient stoves to communities throughout southwest Madagascar as well as in South Africa. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, these projects work towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals; promoting sustainable development by reducing fuel costs to the households, reducing health risks associated with indoor cooking, and decreasing the rate of local deforestation. These projects would not occur without the Blue Ventures’ carbon offset finance.

     

    Recognition of our commitment to responsible tourism

    • In 2007 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.
    • In 2004 Blue Ventures was highly commended in the 'Best in a Marine Environment' category in the Responsible Travel Awards.


    The Awards recognise companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to 'responsible' tourism – projects that make a positive contribution to conservation and the economic development of local communities, while minimising the negative impacts that tourism can have.