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Seacology begins work in 70th country

June 25, 2024

Thirteen new Seacology projects will help island communities in 12 countries spanning the globe to protect threatened ecosystems and species. With Seacology’s support, our local partners will establish new land and marine protections encompassing tens of thousands of acres of island habitats, improve the stewardship of existing reserves such as the Cook Islands’ massive Marae Moana marine park, adopt sustainable fishing practices, and more. Our projects also invest in critically important community needs like education for local kids, sustainable livelihoods, and green energy.

These new partnerships also include our first-ever projects in New Zealand and Turkey, which means that we have now worked in 70 countries! This milestone was made possible by our growing team of field representatives, who work with local communities to develop our projects, and our community of generous donors. Their commitment to and confidence in our grassroots conservation strategy have allowed us to expand from a small all-volunteer group with a single project to an award-winning international NGO that has helped more than 400 island communities safeguard the unique environments they depend on.

Read more about each of these exciting new projects:

Cook Islands: Voice of the Sacred Ocean

In 2020, Seacology backed an effort to support Marae Moana, the world’s largest multi-use marine park. This initiative has made significant strides in spreading awareness, including popular activities with school kids and the creation of a massive mural. To further the cause, a new program, called Te Reo o te Marae Moana (Voice of the Sacred Ocean), will immerse young Cook Islanders in their heritage and marine conservation, with plans to create 150 ambassadors over five years.

Dominican Republic: Las Calderas Bay

This protected area features dunes and dry forest vegetation that support diverse wildlife such as the Hispaniola parrot, rhinoceros iguana, and West Indian manatee. An earlier Seacology project conserved 173 acres of button mangrove forest, bolstered the local honey cooperative and implemented solid waste management. This next phase will raise awareness of and protect the seagrass ecosystems crucial for manatees, sea turtles, and other species through community patrols, workshops, and tourism development.

El Salvador: San Sebastián Island

The mangroves on San Sebastián, one of El Salvador’s largest islands, face significant degradation from pollution, which affects wildlife like crocodiles and endangered leatherback and hawksbill turtles. Our local partner will train 30 local women in effective beach clean-up methods, analyze trash sources, clear half a mile of mangrove channels, and replant five acres. The women will get support in the form of equipment for their small businesses, and the school will get a new fence.

Honduras: San Carlos Island

San Carlos Island in southern Honduras is known for its rich wildlife, including critically endangered hawksbill turtles and many bird species. But for people, life is hard: freshwater is scarce and degradation of the marine environment affects the main livelihood, artisanal fishing. The fishermen will install artificial reef domes to help fish and mollusk populations recover. With our local NGO partner, they will use a grant to provide rainwater collection systems for 30 families.

Indonesia: Gamta and Magei Villages

The Raja Ampat archipelago boasts incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems and diverse marine life including whales, dolphins, and dugongs. Misool Island, renowned for vibrant soft corals, is home to nesting marine turtles, manta rays, and mangrove forests. The Misool Resort and local communities established a 300,000-acre marine reserve in 2008, prohibiting fishing; as part of the effort, Seacology funded a kindergarten on the island. The Misool Foundation still guards the reserve with ranger patrols and community engagement. With a Seacology grant, it will build a new kindergarten that will serve children in two more remote villages.

photo by Tobias Zimmer

Madagascar: Ambalaomby Commune

The Tsinjoarivo-Ambalaomby Protected Area, which covers 61,906 acres in the highlands and is home to critically endangered lemurs, frogs, ducks, and orchids, is threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture, poaching, and logging. This project will support regular patrols and sustainable practices. It will provide funds to build a much-needed secondary school for local children and promote coffee cultivation to stabilize soil and rehabilitate degraded land.

Madagascar: Ambatosarotse, Malaintsatroke, Ala Mahavelo

This project will protect over a thousand acres of rapidly disappearing dry spiny forest, crucial habitat for endangered species like the radiated tortoise and a lemur called the Verreaux’s sifaka. Partnering with the Turtle Survival Alliance, which has a strong presence in the area, we are funding community education, tree nurseries, and sustainable livelihoods to combat poaching, habitat destruction, and climate impacts.

Malaysia: Pitas Laut Village

Pitas Laut is a remote fishing village in Sabah, home to the Suluk ethnic minority, who often face discrimination. The area is rich in biodiversity, home to endangered species like Borneo pygmy elephants and orangutans, but marine ecosystems are largely unprotected, and large-scale commercial fishing threatens local fisherfolk’s livelihoods. Women there protect turtle nests on the beach, and the village has zoned it as a community-based conservation area, where clam harvesting is restricted. They will use Seacology’s help to fund a solar mini-grid, which will replace diesel generators.

Photo by Roland Wirth via Wildscreen Eschange

Marshall Islands: Ajeltake Village

Small-scale fishermen here have noticed a decline in both the number and size of fish due to overfishing, pollution, and climate change, exacerbated by destructive fishing methods and the loss of traditional practices. To address this, the community is establishing a 1,280-acre marine protected area where fishing is banned, aiming to restore fish populations and protect marine life, such as tuna and giant clams. With a Seacology grant, the village will build a cultural center to keep younger generations connected to Marshallese culture through traditional storytelling, cooking, and crafts.

Mexico: El Pardito Island and Palma Sola

El Pardito and San José islands, in the Gulf of California near La Paz, serve as critical migration routes for rays, whale sharks, and whales, and are home to numerous bird species and endangered sea turtles. Local fishers established a 1,543-acre no-take fishing refuge to aid fish recovery and mitigate threats like pollution and illegal fishing. With a grant, they will repair or replace the insufficient bathrooms on El Pardito Island, put up prominent signs spelling out the no-take area’s rules, and patrol the area.

New Zealand: Waiheke Island

In Seacology’s first New Zealand project, we will support a traditional no-take zone, declared by the Ngāti Paoa iwi (Maori tribe). The zone, which covers Waiheke Island’s entire coastline and extends a mile out, bans the harvesting of four ecologically and culturally significant shellfish species that have been overharvested. To enforce the no-take zone’s rules and reduce conflicts with recreational fishers, the iwi will use a Seacology grant to install 25 sign boards around the island and distribute pamphlets to residents and visitors, explaining the boundaries and importance of the no-take zone.

Philippines: Barangay Bulanon

Negros Island is known for its natural beauty, and its diverse habitats support many species, including the vulnerable Philippine duck. But more than a quarter of households in the village of Bulanon struggle with poverty; many men work in sugarcane fields, and others rely on fishing or tourism-related activities. The community established a local conservation area in 2022, encompassing mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. They now collectively run a tourist business, renting out floating cottages, and will use a Seacology grant to build a building that will serve as both watchtower and kayak center.

Turkey: Gökova Bay

Lionfish, originally from the Pacific Ocean, have become a major problem in the Mediterranean, with their numbers skyrocketing by 400% off Cyprus between 2018 and 2020. These venomous fish, along with other invasive species, are outcompeting native marine life, causing significant ecological damage and threatening the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. This project in southwest Turkey aims to reduce invasive populations by giving local fishers training and equipment to harvest them safely and creating a market for the invasive species.

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