As a special birthday gift, Blue Ventures just learned it has won the Skal International Ecotourism Award. Skal, the world’s largest organisation of travel and tourism professionals, commended Blue Ventures for its mission to use sustainable eco-tourism to improve the environment.
Among the highlights for Blue Ventures over the past three years:
- Creating the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus
- Working with the government of Madagascar to create protected areas for octopus across the country
- Becoming the first European organisation to win the prestigious SEED award sponsored by the United Nations and the World Conservation Union, in recognition of its work to deliver sustainable development and livelihoods
- Training nearly two dozen local villagers in Madagascar as eco-tourism guides
This past year also brought about a new partnership with the Embassy of Madagascar in London. Together, the Embassy and Blue Ventures plan to highlight the needs for marine protection and well-managed tourism across the African island-nation.
“In just three short years, Blue Ventures has achieved great success in protecting some of the nation’s most critical and threatened marine areas,” said Dr. Iary Berthine Ravaoarimanana, the Chargé d'Affaires with the Embassy of Madagascar in London. “I look forward to working with Blue Ventures to ensure that Madagascar’s incredible marine resources remain healthy and productive for generations to come.”
During the past three years, Blue Ventures has brought to Madagascar more than 300 paying volunteers from across the globe. Blue Ventures trains these volunteers to conduct scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation.
Partnering with the local village of Andavadoaka, Blue Ventures staff and volunteers in 2004 helped create the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus. The success of the project – which placed seasonal bans on octopus fishing – has helped improve the local fishing economy and in 2005 led to national legislation that created similar protected areas across all of Madagascar. These protected areas, also called no-take-zones, allow octopus to grow larger and reproduce in greater numbers, giving fishermen greater yields. No-take-zones also protect against over-fishing that could permanently destroy the octopus industry in Madagascar.
Local villages are now creating their own no-take-zones that go beyond the national restrictions. In all, eight communities along the country’s south western coast have launched their own locally-managed no-take-zones with the help of Blue Ventures. These communities are also partnering with Blue Ventures to expand marine protected areas to other regions to prevent over-fishing and destructive fishing practices that threaten a wide variety of marine species.
“Madagascar is home to some of the most diverse marine species and habitats on earth,” said Alasdair Harris, founder and executive director of Blue Ventures. “It is critical that we conserve these areas, not just for the overall health of the world’s environment, but also to ensure these resources can continue to support the livelihoods of local communities.” He added: “The success of Blue Ventures and its volunteer expeditions shows that tourism can be a powerful conservation tool. Our mission is to show that economic development and environmental protection can – and must – go hand in hand.”
Blue Ventures this year launched its latest project to create a community-run ecolodge in Andavadoaka. Land on which to build the lodge has been located, and Blue Ventures is now raising funds to begin construction. The lodge, which will be fully managed by the community and will employ local villagers, will provide an alternative and sustainable income for the community that currently relies on dwindling marine resources.