Local empowerment is critical to build long-term commitment to the conservation of species and sites. MarAlliance is committed to developing the capacities and skillsets of key stakeholder groups including fishers and conservation partners, decision-makers and students, to build capacities and ownership over research and monitoring, integrate grassroots information into management and decision-making and catalyse the next generation of marine conservation scientists.

Traditional fisher to fisher peer to peer training in data collection during longline surveys. Photo: Rachel Graham.

Empowering Partners to Engage in Science and Conservation

MarAlliance trains and works with local traditional fishers, conservation and marine protected area partners and students when conducting research and monitoring activities and subsequently supports their training of other similar groups. This horizontal approach to training supports the use of standardized and replicable field methods and underpins the ability to scale up both fieldwork and conservation impact. At least 136 traditional fishers and guides from our current research sites in seven countries have have been trained to conduct standardized fisheries dependent and independent research and data collection. These skills have provided several fishers with up to 25% of their annual income from research and monitoring activities alone and enabled them to work with a range of other scientists. This additional livelihood helps to decrease fishing effort while the fishers are conducting science. Through our program, several of our outstanding fisher partners have themselves become trainers and conduct peer-to-peer training in several countries. These exchanges further foster important dialogue and search for solutions to small-scale fisheries declines. In addition to building fishers’ capacities through training and economic diversification, we have gained valuable traditional ecological knowledge from the fishers. This information is integrated into the studies to ensure that their voices and years of experience on the sea resonate in conservation strategies.

Instruction on fish anatomy as part of the hands on university student marine megafauna course.

Marine Megafauna Monitoring Courses

Empowering the next generations is key to creating decision-makers who care for the sea. To date, we have trained over 460 primary, high-school and university students in 1-4-day hands-on field courses. The training included topics on fisheries-independent megafauna monitoring techniques for sharks, rays, and turtles. The longer field courses included longline preparation, deployment, animal handling, in-water transects, abundance estimation work, size estimation, baited remote underwater video set-up and deployment, data collection, and basic analytical techniques. Several of the students have gone on to work in the marine field.

Regional partners learn how to create impactful video conservation messages during the Conservation Video Messaging course hosted by MarAlliance and the Houston Zoo. Photo: Rachel Graham.

Other Capacity-Building Courses

Knowing how to analyse and interpret your data in a standardized manner and getting your results and conservation messages out loud and clear are key to conservation success. To support common conservation goals and empower our partners to analyse data they collect we created and hosted a two week international data analysis/modeling/ interpretation workshop for regional marine megafauna monitoring partners in partnership with the University of Santa Cruz and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Based on the success of the data workshop and to help our partners better articulate their conservation messages we created the first video conservation messaging course with the Houston Zoo and brought together regional partners to learn how to shoot and edit video and craft compelling and impactful conservation messages.