Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Our marine environment is being degraded, leading to the extinction of many fish species, endangered food supplies (especially in developing world) and threatened livelihoods. The core causes of this problem are multiple and diverse, from climate change to pollution to over-exploitation of marine resources.
Oceans cover 71% of the planet's surface and are home to millions of species. In the future, according to expert opinion, they will provide the main food source for humanity. However, sea resources are limited.
Historically, conservation has been seen as the “property” or responsibility of environmental organizations and academics. This has contributed to a lack of responsibility of many other actors, causing negligence, poor management of marine resources and the degradation of the ecosystems. Lack of trust among stakeholders restrains effective collaboration. In the past, groups focused on conservation have too often worked from unilateral strategies, only belatedly engaging fishermen and their communities who must be key actors in the field.
Seas and oceans represent a way of life for many people around the globe. Worldwide, approximately 200 million people are employed in fishing and around 100 million more jobs are related to the industry as a whole. About 7% of the world's fishing industry is involving fully regulated fishing fleets as that of Spain.
Spain’s fleet has a very poor reputation abroad and this has legal consequences as regulations are designed sometimes in the light of public pressure rather than being based on scientific approaches. In particular the dates for fishing seasons or biological rest periods are political decisions taken in contexts of greater negotiations, with other interests influencing decisions, which in many cases have little to do with fishing or environmental needs.
Despite the regulatory mechanisms for the world’s fisheries, a high percentage of the global catch is done by illegal fleets that use unsustainable methods. These illegal fleets are pushing legal fisheries out of the markets. If legal fleets disappear, the consequences will not only be economic, but will also have a negative effect on environment, as legal fisheries practices are in majority more environmental friendly than those of illegal fleets.
To date, existing approaches to marine conservation have tended to be imposed top-down, not taking into account needs and opportunities of the community. One of the key conservation strategies worldwide has been the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The benefits of MPAs are proven (protected areas drastically increase diversity, size and abundance of fish and biomass), but as they historically have been imposed top-down, it has created social conflict, failing to build support through compromise with local stakeholders. These practices have had a contributing effect to the failure to meet the established global objective to have at least 20% of oceans regulated under MPAs. As of today we have not even reached a 1% of MPAs with actual management.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Ricardo is introducing applied science as a critical tool for fisherman on the front line of marine conservation in order to develop effective and appropriate fishing strategies that both preserve marine eco-systems and contribute to fishing communities and to the sector’s long term sustainability. He is transforming traditional fishermen into “organized scientists,” as they have the knowledge and experience of the sea that allows them to collect valuable data contributing to scientific developments balancing livelihood and conservation priorities.
By building bridges among stakeholder groups who have historically refused to talk to one another, or who were innately suspicious, Ricardo has broadened the definition of what it means to be a stakeholder responsible for marine biodiversity conservation by considering all those that live, intervene or affect a specific area. The result is that new and productive collaboration takes place between small-scale fisherman, large fleet operators, research institutions and environment advocacy groups with private marine businesses.
From these collaborations, Ricardo creates solutions that emphasize stewardship and long-term mutual benefits, creating a new equilibrium in the fishing industry necessary for its survival.