To conserve natural resources, local communities are often asked to give up short term revenue they would otherwise receive by exploiting the resource. Our core belief is that unless communities are benefiting directly from conservation and having their basic needs met, they will always view conservation as a luxury. But we are also confident that rather than a luxury, protecting and conserving species and ecosystems is actually a necessity for all of us, and so we tailor our conservation interventions accordingly.
A cornerstone of our work is helping identify and seed-fund new business ventures within the communities where we work. We also provide business training to assist these entrepreneurs as they embark on new opportunities or try to operate their businesses more sustainably, so that pressures on the reef are reduced.
In some communities, educational needs are most important. In Fiji, we used the proceeds from sales of dive tags at the Namena Marine Reserve to fund scholarships for high school and college age community youth. In Indonesia, we worked with teachers from remote areas to increase awareness about the plight of that country’s sharks and coral reefs. At the same time, we were able to help the teachers improve their students’ reading and comprehension abilities by supplying them with storybooks, flip charts, teacher guidelines, and other materials. Some of our strategies are not traditional: in one case the community needed a boat, and in another, trash cans to help prevent trash from entering the ocean. We provided mini-grants to help fill those needs.