Whether it’s vendors’ carts on Vietnam’s beaches, or Maine lobster from Portland’s docks, few things are better than fresh, local seafood. Yet, in many places, the fish and the fisherman are becoming endangered.
RARE, an organization dedicated to finding community approaches to conservation, is trawling the world using an online competition to find local solutions to local problems. While industrial fishing fleets targeting species such as tuna and swordfish are often (rightly) fingered as the reason for collapsing fisheries, new sustainable certification programs exist with support from major companies such as Whole Foods and Walmart, edging them toward a somewhat more sustainable path.
No such programs exist at the local level, which is where 100 million people rely on what’s swimming off their coasts for livelihoods and a meal, according to the FAO (PDF). In some places, although factory trawlers are an easy target, local fisherman can have just as major an impact on stocks: The WorldFish Center reports about half the fish caught in the Philippines are captured by local fisherman.
RARE hopes to take the best ideas from its “Solution Search,” in partnership with National Geographic, to reward and replicate the most successful projects. “What we focus on in this search are proven solutions,” says Katie Heffner, special projects manger at RARE. “We’re looking for things that have results, shown success, and then be able to replicate them.”
There’s been more than 100 submissions so far, some of which are truly novel. Strategies range from Zanzibar’s Islamic outreach effort for marine conservation through the Qu’ran, to a new industry in Vanatu harvesting Crown of Thorns starfish for fertilizer.
“The whole idea behind the platform is finding proven solutions for community-based marine fisheries,” says Heffner. “Near shore fisheries are in danger. There are a lot problems in coastal communities, and a lot of them can be addressed by engaging the communities directly.” RARE will announce the finalists for the public to pick a winner on November 16, and may turn its global search into a series of global pilots for marine conservation.