How to scale WildAid’s marine program

Our oceans and the three billion people worldwide that depend on them are in trouble. Since 1970, there’s been a 50% decline in marine life populations, leaving many in danger of extinction. Effective marine protected areas (MPAs) can help address these problems. They can quadruple fish populations, provide a refuge for endangered species habitat and their nursery grounds, increase the resiliency of coral reefs against external impacts, and provide coastal communities with vital protein supplies and income.

WildAid’s marine program pioneered a comprehensive approach to marine enforcement that, over the last 20 years, has been proven to create effective MPAs. This year, WildAid has embarked on a mission to rapidly scale our marine program model globally. Together with local partners, we aim to make the promise of MPAs real, allowing fisheries, marine wildlife, and the communities that depend upon them, to recover and flourish.

We plan to do this using our newly launched BLUEprint for MPA Success, a managed framework to develop successful and sustainable enforcement systems for MPAs.Two key goals of this new framework are to increase the percentage of project sites that make the transition from planning for their enforcement system to fully implementing it, and to create measurable milestones to determine a site’s progress in establishing their enforcement system.

Over the last six months, we’ve screened 25 candidate sites for inclusion in our BLUEprint process, knowing that we currently have the resources to begin projects in just half of them. To facilitate this process, we developed a Project Feasibility Index (PFI), currently in its third version, to help us select the projects with the highest likelihood of long-term success.

PROJECT FEASIBILITY INDEX

We developed an initial version of the PFI in the first quarter of 2018 and have been testing and modifying it since. This first version was a series of yes/ no questions with room for notes and an overall recommendation at the bottom. We tested it in the field at six different sites, but when tested by three different people, the index was filled out differently by each tester. It was simply too subjective.

We modified the PFI and added a 10-point scale to each of the questions, and tested it at one site. While this version was better at creating an objective scoring system, we realized that there were some factors that would eliminate a site from consideration and that these should be our initial focus when screening a site. These included criteria such as, is it safe for WildAid staff to work there, and is there a solid on-the-ground partner interested in working with us.

In the third and current iteration, we established this list of elimination questions to ensure our staff focused their time screening sites and partners that fulfilled those basic criteria. The second section condensed our list of questions into 20 from four different categories that are rated on a 5-point scale. The higher the score, the better fit a site would be for the BLUEprint. We also incorporated an average score for each category represented by a chart. Initial results indicate that sites that achieve a 3.5 average or a 70+ overall score may be candidates for a scoping visit or moving on to the next step in the BLUEprint process—a comprehensive assessment of their enforcement system and development of a multi-year enforcement plan.

This index has thus far been tested at seven sites with consistency between users (and in the scoring) and we have plans to conduct additional scoping visits this fall to further verify its accuracy and modify it as needed.

In short, we learned that the PFI could be a valuable tool in both screening candidate sites and sharing our findings with prospective partners to help them become better candidates for the BLUEprint process. We hope that through those recommendations, those sites can eventually enter the BLUEprint process to support the success of their MPA. We look forward to sharing additional lessons learned with you all, as we continue scaling WildAid’s marine program and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

Chinese Vessel Crew Detained in Galapagos Marine Reserve Sentenced For Transport and Possession of Endangered Sharks

On Monday an Ecuadorian judge sentenced the crew of a Chinese ship to prison terms ranging from 1-4 years for possession and transport of protected species within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In addition, the crew of the vessel was fined US$5.9 million as reparation for the damages to the marine ecosystem. The vessel was confiscated and, if sold, proceeds will benefit the Galapagos National Park. The cargo vessel was caught earlier this month illegally transiting through the Galapagos Marine Reserve with a hull filled with 6,623 sharks, including juvenile hammerhead and silky sharks.

Ecuador’s Minister of Environment Tarsicio Granizo emphasized that this sentence is in accordance with the government’s zero tolerance policy toward environmental crimes, and that the case sets an important precedent for the country and the world.

Yesterday Ecuador’s National Assembly released a resolution to further emphasize the country’s commitment to prevent illegal fishing within its territorial waters.

“The only way to stop illegal fishing of protected species is to inflict serious penalties on those caught in the act, especially the boat owners. All too often there are small fines and a slap on the wrist,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid.

The cargo vessel, Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, was detected and tracked using the Galapagos National Park Service’s new AIS monitoring system—procured and installed by WildAidWWF and Sea Shepherd. Galapagos park rangers and Ecuadorian Navy officials intercepted the vessel 34.5 miles off the coast of the island of San Cristobal and arrested its crew of 20. Upon inspecting its hold, they found 300 tons of frozen sharks and fish.

In response to the sentencing, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that “the Chinese government opposes all forms of illegal fishing and adopts a zero-tolerance attitude towards illegal trading in endangered wildlife and the products derived from them. We will not condone illegal fishing in any form.”

The spokesperson said during a press briefing Tuesday that “the Chinese government is launching its own investigation and verification. Any illegal actions, if found, will be severely punished by international law and China’s domestic laws.”

She further stated that “China has noted the sentence delivered by the Ecuadorian side. We hope that Ecuador will deal with this case in a just and unbiased way based on the objective facts and guarantee the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of the Chinese crew.”

Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup each year, including those from endangered species. To stop shark finning in the Galapagos, WildAid works with park rangers and the Ecuadorian Navy to monitor the vast reserve. This is the first interdiction of a foreign vessel since the installation of the new AIS software this year and the announcement last year of a marine sanctuary at Darwin and Wolf to protect sharks.

Galapagos National Park Director Walter Bustos said that the ship was the largest vessel ever caught in the reserve’s boundaries. He further stated that the enforcement of environmental policies in Ecuador through this case has created greater global awareness for the problems faced in our oceans daily, which may inspire greater action on an international level against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, known by the acronym IUU.

WildAid also works in China to decrease demand for shark fins through targeted celebrity-led awareness campaigns. Our Say No to Shark Fin campaign previously aired on TV, video boards in subway and train stations, airports, and university campuses featuring Yao Ming, sports icon David Beckham, actor and director Jiang Wen, and actress Maggie Q. These campaigns have contributed to a reported 50-70% decrease in Chinese shark fin consumption.

WildAid applauds both Ecuador and China for their firm stances and swift actions in this case.

Largest Wildlife Trafficking Bust in Galapagos

Earlier this week, a Chinese cargo vessel was caught illegally transiting through the Galapagos Marine Reserve with a hull filled with thousands of sharks and tuna.

The cargo vessel, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, was detected using the Galapagos National Park Service’s new AIS monitoring system—procured and installed by WildAid, WWF and Sea Shepherd earlier this year. The Galapagos National Park control center monitored its trajectory and vectored a patrol vessel to interdict. Galapagos Park Rangers and Ecuadorian Navy officials intercepted the vessel 34.5 miles off the coast of the island of San Cristobal and arrested its crew of 20. Upon inspecting its hold, they found 300 tons of frozen sharks and fish, including juvenile hammerhead and silky sharks.

Galapagos National Park director, Walter Bustos, said that the ship was the largest vessel ever caught in the reserve’s boundaries. The crew of the boat, which could face up to three years in prison, are currently being detained pending the elaboration of a case file and potential court proceedings. “Not necessarily all of the catch came from the marine reserve, but the fact that it included young sharks, even baby sharks, indicates that they could have been caught inside the reserve,” Ecuador’s environmental minister, Tarsicio Granizo was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year for the illegal shark fin trade around the world. To stop shark finning in the Galapagos, WildAid works with Park Rangers and the Ecuadorian Navy to monitor the vast reserve and prevent illegal fishing. Last year, Ecuador announced that all its vessels, no matter their size, will be monitored in real time via AIS. Previous legislation mandated hourly monitoring only for larger vessels larger than 20 gross tons using satellite VMS, leaving small vessels to navigate unchecked. Together, WWF, Sea Shepherd and WildAid procured and installed AIS transceivers and software to complement the existing satellite technology system in the park’s control center to track all fishing and tourism vessels. Since the installation of electronic monitoring systems in 2009, park rangers have used the technology to capture and sentence more than 100 industrial and artisanal fishing vessels. This is the first interdiction of a foreign vessel since the installation of AIS this year and the announcement last year of a marine sanctuary at Darwin and Wolf to protect sharks.

WildAid also works in China to decrease demand for shark fins through targeted celebrity-led awareness campaigns. Our Say No to Shark Fin campaign previously aired on TV, video boards in subway and train stations, airports, and university campuses featuring Yao Ming, sports icon David Beckham, actor and director Jiang Wen, and actress Maggie Q. These campaigns have contributed to a reported 50-70% decrease in Chinese shark fin consumption.

WildAid has used its comprehensive marine protection model to decrease illegal fishing and protect nearly 3,000 marine species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve since 2002 thanks to the support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Conservation International, IGTOA, the Walton Family Foundation, Conservation International and WWF.

Nexus Blue Launches 2018

Nexus Blue launches in 2018 as a platform to share best practices in marine management and fund innovative marine conservation projects so that together we can preserve marine species and restore the health of our oceans.

Thriving oceans provide jobs, improve national economies and feed the world. Unfortunately, our oceans are in trouble:

  • Fish stocks continue to decline—approximately 90% of fisheries are overfished or depleted,
  • Ocean pollution is increasing—5-13 million metric tons of plastic waste reach our oceans every year, and
  • Wildlife trafficking takes millions of critical marine species—over 70 million sharks are killed for their fins each year.

Yet sustainably managed fisheries and marine protected areas provide hope for protecting biodiversity, habitat and livelihoods.

Nexus Blue is a marine portal designed to improve marine management and raise awareness via three key components:

  1. Private e-learning modules, publications, and videos about best practices in marine management;
  2. A social forum for the marine community to network and discuss strategies for solving common problems;
  3. A crowd-funding platform for philanthropists to fund and follow their favorite projects.

Marine practitioners can access the latest tools and tips in marine management and collaborate with peers through registration on Nexus Blue. Registration allows access to both the Toolbox and Forum to access our library of documents, templates and training resources, as well as connect marine practitioners with their peers, non-profits and foundations.

Additionally, ocean enthusiasts can learn about and support marine conservation work around the world through both Nexus Blue’s projects incubator and small grants fund. You can support your favorite projects through crowd-funded donations to help them meet their conservation goals. Nexus Blue’s Small Grants Fund currently has $50,000 in available funding and will start accepting proposals on a rolling basis effective January 1, 2018.  Small grant funding amounts range from $500 – $10,000.

Marine practitioners around the world can submit their projects for consideration from the fund. Learn more about the application process here.

WildAid, a four-star rated charity, will review and select each project based on the following two criteria: innovation and impact. If selected, WildAid will work with the grantee to implement the project, review expenditures and provide technical assistance if deemed necessary. Donors can follow up on project progress through regular updates on the site.

Thanks to the support of the Helmsley Charitable Foundation and WildAid, Nexus Blue can become an important catalyst in the fight to protect our oceans.