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.)

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  1. commen sense tells us to protect our homes insure it’s well being from disasters yet we pay for these things with little thought of the effects of what we are doing to the actual home Earth. We can have an effect to keep our ground and other elements clear and healthy but do we care? Most of our youth today can only think about keeping the power on for their families and so desperately can’t begin to care. And how are we producint this power is it conterproductive. The Sacremento Nuclear Power plant ws built in the ’80s only to find that it actually cost more and used more power than it produced. It did create welding jobs. It was closed down and replayed with thermal power in Lake County. The placement of the power plant was another questionable move… right on the Sac. River. A main waterway for both agriculter and fishing…Salmon, Herring, Sea Urchin, Abaloni, Muscles, Clams…Bird life, People, Cougars, Zoo’s ECt…what were they thinking? Oh we need to generate income,jobs…They don’t fish Salmon anymore…where are the fish? Health prices rise.?
    Common Sense…How about planting some wheat along with the grape vines..after all who doesn’t like a but of Cheese and cracker with a glass of wine? common sense…………rll.

  2. We, at Planeta Océano ( completely agree on this study. Our experience began in 2009 working directly with schools, fishermen, local communities and government agencies in the first big effort a peruvian and young NGO started in education. On our first surveys people thought the oceans were endless in resources and so big nothing could affect them! In just 3 years we have achieved a great difference in the perception people have of the importance of the oceans, its resources and the need for conservation efforts. This has a multiplier effect, now, we have many groups of young people working with their own environmental projects in different regions of our country (see our photo albums) and also we have indirectly motivated other NGO’s to start working in education too, before only isolated workshops with no continuity were done. We continue working directly with schools (lower and upper years-photo albums), universities and institutes and local coastal communities. We have been invited to give talks of our experience in Fiji, Canada and France and have been awarded with the Ashoka fellowship and Global Shapers @World Economic Forum among others. We truly believe in education! and also that education needs more funding!

  3. Congratulations on this seminal paper. Hopefully it will have a major influence on defining our site work and leverage strategies across the Conservancy’s international programs. In Indonesia we have poured buckets of money into enforcement and related training, boats, fuel, etc. Enforcement will always be important, especially in areas with large migrant populations leading to change in the demography of the communities and in areas with transient fishers, common practice in many parts of Indonesia. A well informed and conservation-supportive community is able to contribute to surveillance and in various ways to enforcement. This study confirms for us the need to focus outreach and education more deeply at sites and more broadly through a range of media on the general public as well as targeted groups.

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