The world’s marine habitats are in trouble, and there are only so many dollars we can throw at the problem. But putting just a few toward community education and outreach pays huge dividends, according to a new study by Nature Conservancy scientists and coauthors just published in the journal Marine Policy.
Researchers headed to the remote Indonesian islands of Misool and Kofiau — located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the richest marine environment in the world — to find out whether a community marine education program would help in the creation and management of local marine protected areas (MPAs).
They found that with a limited budget of just $24 per person per year, positive attitudes towards and local knowledge of marine resources rose in local people by 33% over the course of five years.
Perhaps the biggest change came in people’s understanding that illegal fishing activities — such as dynamite, traditional poison and cyanide fishing — are some of the most destructive ways to catch fish. In 2005, only 34% of local people knew these activities were illegal, while 74% did after the outreach program.
And scientists report that illegal fishing activities have decreased sharply after the outreach program, says Craig Leisher, lead author of the study and Conservancy senior advisor on poverty and conservation.
For more details about the study, download it here (subscription required).
(Image: Local children from Deer village playing in the ocean off Kofiau, part of the Raja Ampat Islands of Indonesia, Source: Jeff Yonover.)