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I believe we can use the ocean in a way that is sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable. I travel the world on a mission to collect, create, actualize, and amplify the best ideas in ocean conservation. I am Executive Director of the Waitt Institute. I'm @ayanaeliza on Twitter.

Small Caribbean Island Shows Bold Ocean Leadership: Barbuda Overhauls Reef and Fisheries Management for Sustainability

On August 12th, Barbuda Council signed into law a sweeping set of new ocean management regulations that zone their coastal waters, strengthen fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries. This comes after seventeen months of extensive community consultation and scientific research supported by the Waitt Institute. With these new policies, the small island…

To Save Coral Reefs, Start With Parrotfish

  Coral reefs are very complex ecosystems, but luckily managing them sustainably is not. Simply don’t catch fish faster than they reproduce, don’t damage the corals or pollute the water, reduce atmospheric CO2, and protect some areas as marine reserves. That’s easier said than done, and it’s not news. What is new is that an…

Our Ocean Conference: A Turning Point for Ocean Conservation?

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Jacob James Ocean conservation is in need of action, not talk, but the Our Ocean Conference, hosted by Secretary John Kerry and the U.S. Department of State last week was not just hot air. Rather, it was worth its carbon footprint, and we were honored to attend. All in attendance…

Priority Investments for Sustainable Fisheries

I had the honor of participating in the Global Ocean Action Summit in The Hague last week. This small conference of diplomats, NGO leaders, and philanthropy and industry representatives came together to define discrete actions for how to achieve food security and blue growth. Broad focal areas included improving traceability, transparency, information sharing, and collaboration…

Can Behavioral Economics Help Save Coral Reefs and Fisheries?

It’s not that people don’t care about the environment; it’s that more pressing needs like feeding their families and paying their bills trump environmental concerns. As a marine biologist, I worry about how poverty can hinder the sustainability of fishing, and therefore endanger the future of fishing communities. The “teach a man to fish” adage can only hold…

Barbuda Blue Halo: Using the Ocean Without Using it Up

As is easy to do, I have fallen in love with Barbuda. It’s magical. The community, the beaches, the children, the tranquility, the seafood, the ingenuity. But from photographs and stories, it’s clear that when you literally dive beneath the surface, Barbuda is not as magnificent underwater as it once was, or as it could…

3 Steps to Community-Driven Ocean Zoning

Co-authored with Will McClintock Ocean zoning is a simple concept. As on land, where there are industrial, commercial, residential, agricultural, and conservation zones, you can’t do everything in the same place at the same time in the ocean. Zoning ensures that each key use of the ocean is allocated appropriate space, and these different uses…

Protecting Fisheries on a Budget: Low-tech Solutions in Barbuda

Co-authored by Shah Selbe Ayana: Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Caribbean governments and stakeholders about potential ways to restore and sustainably manage their oceans. I speak about how marine reserves increase the number and size of fish, and restore ecosystems. How protecting key herbivores (parrotfish, surgeonfish, and urchins)…

3 Questions to Save the Ocean

1. What are your concerns? 2. What do you want your ocean to look like? 3. How can we help you get there? Concept: Empower communities to create a community-driven, science-based sustainable ocean policy that address their concerns, by providing tools and information. Of course, it’s never that simple, but that’s the approach we’re taking in Barbuda,…

What Do You Want Your Ocean to Look Like?

The Waitt Institute has a new mission: empower communities to restore their oceans. This film provides a sneak peak into what that work looks like as we endeavor to preserve livelihoods and cultures by sustainably managing ocean resources. It’s a vignette of one island’s commitment to finding solutions. This installment features the community-driven mapping work of…

Listen to Your Elders: Words From Barbudan Fisherman Larkin Webber

I was putting up posters in Barbuda for an upcoming community consultation meeting about Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative, when I had the pleasure of meeting Larkin Webber. Mr. Webber, now 75 years old, has fished in Barbuda’s waters his entire life. He became a full-time fisherman in 1976. He raised seven children on fishing. He has seen…

Ask: What do you want your ocean to look like? Then listen.

There is a lot of talk in conservation about “community-based” and “stakeholder-driven” projects, but what does that really mean? When pursued honestly, it can be summarized in one word: vulnerability. The Waitt Institute’s evolving approach to ocean conservation is based on asking a community two questions: What do you want your ocean to look like?…

Explaining the Barbuda Ocean Initiative on Live TV

I’ve been writing here about the Barbuda Ocean Initiative, which the Waitt Institute is coordinating. In essence, it’s about asking a community what they want their future ocean to look like and figuring out how to get there. It’s an exciting model for island-wide, comprehensive ocean zoning and sustainable management of fisheries. It’s science-based, collaborative,…

Assessing Barbuda’s Ecosystems – What’s Under the Water?

Before making changes to ocean management, it helps to know something about the status of living creatures and ecosystems you’re trying to use sustainably. So, nine marine biologists* (plus me makes ten) descended on Barbuda in May to conduct an ecological assessment of the fish, coral, lobster, conch, and water quality within 3 miles of…

Caribbean Nations Must Think Bigger and Act Boldly and Soon to Sustain Ocean Resources

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Caribbean Challenge Initiative’s Summit of Political and Business Leaders, which took place in the British Virgin Islands May 17th and 18th. (See AP story for an overview of the event.) I spoke from the heart, and here is what I said: At the risk of…