From Ficus to Filter

From Ficus to Filter: Certification as Market-based Environmental Change BY: Arshiya Bose (2013 Kins

Leadership in a Conservation Context

By: Christine Ageton (2007 Kinship Fellow) “What time is it?” This simple but famous quote by Me

My Experience as a Kinship Fellow

Innovative Tools and Inspired Leaders: My Experience as a Kinship Fellow By: Jennifer Chapman, 2014


From Ficus to Filter

December 11, 2014 in Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

From Ficus to Filter: Certification as Market-based Environmental Change

BY: Arshiya Bose (2013 Kinship Fellow)

How global certifications fall somewhat short of local biodiversity needs … and the need to innovate for locally relevant and democratic market-based solutions.

As a Kinship Conservation Fellow in 2013, I had strong opinions, but muddled ideas, about how to address biodiversity threats in coffee producing landscapes. As a conservationist and coffee addict, the knowledge that every cup of coffee destroys 3cm2 of rainforest, just doesn’t sit well. And 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily. As an aspiring conscious consumer, what must I do? If I want to become aware of the ecological footprint of coffee, where can I access information? If I want to drink filter coffee with minimal environmental impact, can I find it? A little over a year later, I have put into motion the beginnings of a social enterprise that aims to use various market-based solutions to incentivize coffee producers, roasters, and retailers to grow and sell coffee grown under the shade of native-tree species. This project, going by the name of Gaia’s Cup, has taken its first steps on the ground.

The core idea for this enterprise model came from two well-researched facts in India. The first was that biodiversity threats from loss of shade cover were measurable and increasing. The second was that global certification schemes did not address these threats in truly transformative ways.

Measuring Biodiversity Threats

With respect to shade trees and biodiversity, the case of certification in India is quite unique. Coffee production in India began in the forests, amidst trees and alongside beasts.

All across the world in some of the most famous coffee locales, such as Columbia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, beans are most likely grown in areas where forests were almost totally clear-felled to plant coffee. In these regions, coffee plantations look like those of tea – endless rolling hills of coffee and one hilltop visible from the next. This method of ‘sun’ coffee is becoming increasingly preferred the world over for its booming productivity.

In India however, coffee is entirely shade-grown. It is one of the only countries in the world where 100% of its coffee is grown under the shade of forest trees. In most coffee growing regions in India, coffee plants compose the ‘undergrowth’ of a forest mosaic.

Coffee farms in India are also teeming with wildlife, especially if one looks closely underneath leaves or in the soil. Many threatened birds either nest in coffee farms or use these farms as safe flying pathways between forest fragments. Charismatic elephant giants are passé weekly visitors, often ignored, but sometimes shooed away for disrupting coffee picking activities. Leopards, however, are considered elusive celebrities!

At first glance, coffee growing in India sounds perfect. Coffee farms exist. So do trees and wildlife. In reality, however, like all coveted things, this harmony is fleeting. Coffee growing has intensified exponentially in the last three decades. Forests, paddy, and fallow lands have been brought under production. Shade trees on farms have been thinned out to allow in sunlight to boost yields. What used to be 100% shade-grown coffee is today less shade-grown and perhaps veering toward sun coffee.

So biodiversity threats have been clearly measured.

Sustainable Certifications Fall Short

Compared to elsewhere in the world, in India, the concepts of sustainable or shade-grown coffee are entirely new. In fact, most Indians don’t know what these terms mean. We therefore have a unique opportunity to discuss, debate, and find meaning in these terms for ourselves, and authenticate these beliefs with impacts on the ground. I think this makes us very lucky.

In the past, normative frameworks (i.e. ideas of good and bad) for social justice, environmental issues and business ethics were vocalised by governments, labour unions, and even religious organisations. However, in the current scenario of globalisation, ideas and cultures around social and environmental issues are ‘transnational’ rather than national. These norms are increasingly pushed for by non-government actors, such as NGOs, businesses, and public-private partnerships. Instead of laws and mandatory regulations, we see ‘voluntary regulations’ (less so in India but certainly elsewhere in the world).

The most prolific of these concepts are ‘sustainability certifications’, also called ‘eco-labelling’. Certifications work by ‘naming and shaming’ bad practices and creating incentives through certifying good practices. These extend beyond coffee of course (see FSC and MSC certifications).

The coffee industry has been one of the most active spaces for such certifications. A walk down the aisle of a supermarket presents a diversity of packages imprinted with images symbolic of the goals that they attempt to achieve – resplendent tropical birds, shade trees and faces of farmers. Intertwined with these images are the stamps of certification labels; Fair Trade, Organic, Bird-Friendly, Starbuck’s C.A.F.E. Practices, UTZ-Certified, and Rainforest Alliance.

Unfortunately, that’s the extent of most people’s experience. Knowledge about these certifications stops at the label. Most don’t know what environmental and social practices each of these certifications require from farmers. Most don’t know whether these certifications have positive impacts – whether they improve forest cover, increase populations of threatened species or secure livelihoods of farmers. More importantly, most haven’t a clue whether they have adverse impacts. We simply aren’t aware of the fine print.

However, most do know that certifications are global, meaning that certifications promote the same standards irrespective of the country or production system. For example, in Fair Trade certifications, farmers have to set up and run co-operatives and trade with buyers as per identical rules across different countries. Similarly, Rainforest Alliance certification requires coffee farms to maintain at least 12 tree species per hectare of farm area in India, Brazil, or wherever else.

Keeping all of this straight seems tricky.

With regard to shade-grown certifications, in India we find (courtesy of amazing scientists at the Coffee Agroforestry Network – CAFNET) that coffee farms can have up to approximately 54.34 species per acre. So while farmers in Brazil have to totally re-jig farming practices to meet biodiversity standards of certification schemes, coffee producers in India can sit back and practice business as usual? Pretty much – which is what I found while I was doing research on coffee certification in India. Despite clear evidence of biodiversity loss, Indian farmers were in compliance with the certification standards.

In addition to conservation problems, current coffee production also leaves social costs. Workers on plantations are often from highly marginalized communities, including landless adivasis (forest-dwelling indigenous peoples). We do not know whether employment on coffee plantations has been beneficial or exploitative of workers, but we do know that global certifications are unlikely to address the entire gamut of environmental and social problems that are peculiar to the Indian context.

So one size doesn’t fit all.

Innovating Locally

This situation causes me immense coffee-related indigestion – not wholly due to the increased consumption of chemical pesticides and fertilisers that go along with intensified farming. So I did what any sensible, strategic thinker would tell me not to do. I started a brand of coffee that wasn’t a business, but was a venture into the alternative. Gaia’s Cup is an experiment to reconcile coffee production with biodiversity conservation. We work on ways to support and incentivise coffee growers to conserve forest trees and wildlife species on their farms. We do this through a social enterprise setup – coffee from ‘conservation blocks’ on farms is sold and revenue is invested back into conservation activities. Or that’s the plan anyway! This started with developing a local farming philosophy for coffee. We have discussed and debated with coffee producers and gleaned the best of the global certification standards into a ‘coffee and conservation practice’ – currently piloted on seven farms in Kodagu district, India.

Gaia’s Cup is an experiment to reconcile coffee production with biodiversity conservation.

Venturing into a meaningful alternative isn’t straightforward. On the contrary, it is replete with dilemmas – ethical, moral and pragmatic. We may come out the other end with a project that is no alternative at all – a coffee company that trades ginormous volumes, imposes rigid rules on producers, but has little meaningful conservation or social impact. Or we could be too small, reaching only ten plantations in ten years. There is no ready prescription for the path we need to take, but the ball has been set rolling. As we roll, we will continue to reflect on our work and its contribution to the sustainable coffee movement. We’re hoping our iterative approach will help us define sustainable coffee for ourselves. For now, it would be fair to say that we’re just experimenting.

For information on our work, log on to or ping us on

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Bose_ArshiyaArshiya Bose has been captivated by the natural world ever since her school years at Rishi Valley when they would shake scorpions out of their shoes each morning! In 2005, she completed an undergraduate degree in Biology and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College. Although, this was an unconventional combination of subjects and people tried to dissuade her, she was keen to explore interdisciplinary disciplines and experiment with creative ways of expressing biological phenomena. In 2005, she undertook an MPhil in Environment, Society and Development from the Department of Geography at Cambridge University and for the first time, learned about the complexity of protecting nature. She subsequently returned to India to work with Kalpavriksh, an environmental NGO doing policy advocacy on livelihood rights of forest-dwelling indigenous communities. With the desire to learn how to carry out research, she returned to Cambridge in 2009 for a PhD. During her PhD research, she felt very strongly that academic research was not enough to conserve the coffee landscape I had been studying and loved so dearly. Motivated by the desire to make a difference, she set up Gaia’s  Cup, a small organization working on conservation in these landscapes. Through this work, she hopes to build partnerships with coffee growers to enhance sustainability by maintaining the forest elements of coffee plantations. This includes evaluating current market-based incentives such as certification and price premiums for eco-friendly coffee and proposing modifications or alternatives to these existing mechanisms.

Leadership in a Conservation Context

December 1, 2014 in Leadership and Business Skills

By: Christine Ageton (2007 Kinship Fellow)

“What time is it?”

This simple but famous quote by Meg Wheatley, leadership and systems change guru, is more relevant now than ever. What Meg Wheatley is asking is, “In what context are we being asked to lead, right now?” “What are the political, social and financial realities that impact our work?” “What do we know intuitively that is key to the big changes we are hoping to make in the world?” and therefore “What leadership is called for from us in this moment?”

I love this inquiry and I think that it is a perfect launching point for a conversation about the type of leadership that is called for as we navigate astoundingly complex ecological, geo political, and social contexts; all while keeping focused on what is possible for people and planet. No small effort!

Back in 2007 when I was a Kinship Fellow, I only had a glimpse of how my career would evolve. I knew that I cared deeply about worldwide conservation and was fascinated by how less empowered stakeholders could have greater agency in environmental management. At the time, I was working with Native American and Hispanic populations in New Mexico on rural drinking water protection. Armed with master’s degrees in community development and water resource management, I was dedicated to advancing methods for rural leaders and particularly women to understand and manage their communities’ water systems.

As time went on I invested increasingly in becoming a skilled facilitator and adult educator and my work was evolving to focus on leadership training and program building that would create the conditions for conservation and social change leaders to do their best work. I followed what interested me and found myself working less with communities on direct conservation issues and working more with the passion-driven conservationists and social entrepreneurs who were doing the work on-the-ground. After four years on the Kinship faculty and five years living and working in Latin America on conservation leadership issues, I moved back to the U.S. I now oversee three North America-based leadership programs for social entrepreneur change leaders through BALLE (BALLE Fellowship, Funders Circle, and Community Foundation Circle); consult on a two-year fellowship program for doctoral conservationists (Smith Conservation Fellows); and co-direct an international leadership program for non-North American conservation leaders worldwide (Conservation Leadership Programme, a collaboration among Conservation International, Flora and Fauna Intl., Birdlife Intl, and Wildlife Conservation Society).

In this article I’d like to share what I have learned through the course of my career about how leaders learn and how they foster others to learn. I focus on leadership development that supports two main objectives: What makes us happier and fosters deeper meaning in our lives; and what evokes real change toward the kind of world we want to live in. I’ve had the privilege to work with some amazing conservation practitioners who embody those principles. I hope these points will spark conversation about what kind of leadership you believe is called for and what you have seen in your careers so that we can grow from each other.

  1. There is no one leadership theory that serves all needs.

Traditionally, most disciplines are self-referential when it comes to leadership modeling. We ask, “Who within the conservation world exemplifies the leadership we need?” This inquiry is useful as far as it goes, but increasingly to do our best work we need to beg, borrow, and steal from the best systems change and leadership thinking of our time, which comes from many disciplines.

A recent article in Conservation Biology written by my leadership consultant and climate change scientist colleague, Maureen Ryan, and her Smith Fellow colleagues, highlights how the conservation movement has been slower to adopt new advances in leadership methodologies. The article is a call for peers to consider cultivating creativity as an essential skill in their leadership as scientists. The authors encourage their fellow conservationists to look at examples within social movements and the business world to inform their work. I concur and I’ve listed below some the resources that I believe are most useful for all change agents.

In particular, I am a fan of Meg Wheatley (Berkana Institute) and Otto Scharmer (MIT). Both are systems change theorists who study how movements build and the leadership needed to support them. Conservationists are no longer just called to do good science, but also to communicate what is needed in a compelling way, and to help build the new systems that will truly protect our planet. We need to be referencing leadership and change models that speak to these needs.

  1. Focus on your big vision, not your current title, organization, or project.

Many people get lost thinking that a specific project or organization must succeed for them to be successful in their overall vision for conservation success. According to a recent Forbes article, the average North American professional will change jobs every 4.4 years[1]. This rings true for me and many of my colleagues in North America and internationally. So, if this is the case, how can we stay true to our own mission?

The key is to stay focused on your big vision for the world and what you need to learn and do to get there. Change or failure is disturbance, and disturbance evokes learning, and learning is how we grow. The best leadership programs know this and are investing in a leader’s passion, not their current title or project. These programs have a knack for finding the folks with a passion for the cause that is in their heart and will carry through their whole lives. Kinship Fellows is a great example of this, as well as Ashoka, Echoing Green, and Rockwood Leaders of Color – these fellowship programs know that they are choosing fellows for the passion that drives them and they trust that the investment they make in these individuals will carry them through the unknown future trajectory of their career. They believe that this investment will bear fruit because they will continue to be in positions of influence that will serve conservation for the long haul. It matters very little whether Kinship Fellows go on to lead NGOs, serve in the Ministry of Environment, run for public office, or run for-profit consultancies. What matters is that we continue to be change agents resourced with the inner and outer attunement to know what is called for next, and to be able to lead in many contexts. I think that this is a seminal learning point for both individuals and institutions. So often we get hooked on a single project succeeding or on the long term success of our organization, and while these do matter, the bigger vision is paramount. Does this project, organization, or partnership still serve the bigger vision of what I believe will really make a change? If yes, great. If not, move on.

  1. Emphasize peer-to-peer learning.

Another great Meg Wheatley quote is “We are the heroes we have been waiting for.” Many of you already know this to be true, that you and your peers are creating the solutions that will truly change the world. In an expert and authority obsessed world we so often look to an academic or consultant or even funder to determine the right direction when it is our fellow conservation practitioners who have the practical and applied discernment to determine what is really needed. I think that this is particularly important as we seek to partner with other disciplines, like using market-based solutions for conservation. For instance, Grameen and ACCION understand micro lending, but you as practitioners understand the context of the communities where you work. Will micro-lending work in your situation as a tool for shifting livelihoods? Maybe, or maybe not, but it is likely that your peers who are also trying to blend market-based solutions with conservation objectives will offer you the best consult.

This is an important shift in leadership theory and application. When we turn to our peers, not outside experts, we often get exactly the applied information we need. I see this in all the groups I work with, from social entrepreneurs to conservationists to funders. Once they realize what an incredible free resource their peers are and that it is OK to ask for help and insights, the networks light up and things start happening.

  1. We have to dance on the way to the revolution.

A friend of mine returning from the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) conference lamented that it was so depressing. It seems that all the presentations were about limited funding, dire environmental conditions, and over-extended professionals. It is true that the current state of affairs for our global environment is not good. However, all of us need to feel that our work is making a difference and need to celebrate our successes along the way.

Systems change theory is increasingly showing that the pioneers and innovators who are building the new way of being need to have some space away from the dominant system to dream, connect, and create. This is what is called a Community of Practice, a group of like-minded individuals who can come together to not only imagine what is possible but also feel supported and part of something bigger. It is a long way between where we are today and the change that we want to see in the world, and the pioneers of this change need to play and connect so that they can be resourced to keep doing the good work. The networks that do this best both connect on a level of purpose as well as a level of friendship and joy.

It is inspiring to me to imagine all the incredible conservation leaders of this world resourced in a way that they feel they have the support they need, that they understand their path to impact, and that they enjoy the journey. Earlier, I stated that I’m only interested in leadership development that 1) makes us happier and fosters deeper meaning in our lives, and 2) evokes real change toward the kind of world we want to live in. This is what I will believe will create real and lasting change in our individual lives and in the world.

There is much more to read about this, here are a few of my favorites:


Manolis, J. et al. 2008. Leadership: a new frontier in conservation science. Conservation Biology 23:879-886.

Ryan, M. et al. 2014. Cultivating Creativity in Conservation Science. Conservation Biology 28: 345-353.

Scharmer, C.O. 2011. Leading from the Emerging Future: Minds for Change – Future of Global Development, Paper prepared for Ceremony to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the BMZ Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Berlin, Germany, November, 2011.

Wheatley, M. 2008. What is our role in creating change? Berkana Institute.

Wheatley, M. and D. Frieze. 2010. Leadership in the age of complexity: from hero to host. Berkana Institute.


Heifetz, R and Linsky, M. 2002. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Harvard Business School Press.

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Christine_headshot_200wideChristine Ageton is Chief Program Officer at BALLE and is based in Bellingham, Washington. She provides oversight and strategic direction for all BALLE leadership and convening programs, including Fellows and funders, while also guiding overall organizational strategy. Christine has extensive experience in national and international non-profit leadership, organizational development, program design, and facilitation. Previously, Christine designed and implemented programs in economic development (Clinton Foundation-Peru, Project Healthy Children -Kenya, Haiti), drinking water protection (New Mexico Rural Water Association), and conservation planning (IDB, World Bank –Belize, Honduras and Guatemala). Christine is also an instructor who has taught international development and conservation leadership (Conservation International & College of Santa Fe) and guided peer-to-peer learning for conservation professionals (Kinship Conservation Fellows program). Christine received her bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College and holds two master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico in Community and Regional Planning and Latin American Studies. She is a 2007 Kinship Fellow.


My Experience as a Kinship Fellow

November 28, 2014 in About Kinship

Innovative Tools and Inspired Leaders: My Experience as a Kinship Fellow

By: Jennifer Chapman, 2014 Kinship Fellow

It was a busy morning, and I was mildly irritated to hear my phone ring … again! I had been on the phone all morning and wanted to get my head down to work. My screen showed an unknown number, and I answered wondering who it could be. To my great surprise and happiness, it was Nigel Asquith, director of the Kinship Conservation Fellows, and he was calling with extremely good news. I had been selected to join the 2014 cohort!

For the entire month of July, 19 fellows working in 11 countries descended on the small town of Bellingham, Washington in the USA (a beautiful part of the world next to the North Cascade Mountains), to take part in an intensive program geared toward training conservation practitioners on the use of market-based tools to achieve environmental outcomes.

As the Fellows arrived through the day, we were all excited to learn of each others diverse work. The list of interesting and diverse projects was amazing and I felt overwhelmed to be surrounded by so many inspiring people.

The first week kicked off with a debate on the effectiveness of using market tools to stimulate positive behavior change for improved environmental protection. For example, while markets encourage fast innovation and allow a more dignified participation in conservation than regulations might, their downfall is that they assume all people want to maximize profits, ignoring the intrinsic value of nature. This angle was countered with the argument that those with a personal interest in conservation will behave in an environmentally conscious way, but those with no interest are motivated by economics – markets provide a means to include more sectors of society into achieving conservation outcomes.

Greg, a fellow from Emzemvelo KZN Wildlife in South Africa, elegantly concluded the debate with the statement: “It is not that market tools alone are the most effective conservation mechanism, but that the most effective conservation mechanism is one that incorporates market tools.” Later in the course, visiting faculty members Ray Victurine and Ricardo Bayon reinforced this while discussing the somewhat uncomfortable subjects of nature capital valuation, biodiversity offsets, and species banking.

Valuation of species, biodiversity, carbon, and wetlands forces the deconstruction of nature to be considered as a direct cost to the project implementer, such as a mining company or property developer. The idea is that once all prevention and mitigation measures have been taken to reduce environmental impact of the development or mine, the company pays a calculated offset amount to be directly invested in measurable conservation outcomes in an equivalent environment. Without this system, such companies have no incentive to reduce impact of their activities or to invest in conservation, whilst demand for their products, including parts in the computer on which I’m writing this blog, continues to rise.

During extended faculty member, Ruth Norris’s introduction to the conservation finance conundrum, I was shocked to learn that in the U.S., only 3% of all philanthropic funding is used for conservation, environmental, and animal welfare programs. This is the smallest slice of the philanthropy pie, and is simply not enough to implement all the necessary projects to improve access to clean water, clean air, combat climate change, harvest wild resources sustainably, improve agricultural practices, and slow the rate of extinctions. Ruth then gave examples of ways different approaches to overcome this, from Guayaki tea to Blue Ventures’ market-based models! I sat proudly in the room as Ruth described how our expeditions operate.

The economics portion of the curriculum was my first introduction to the subject, and simple concepts of supply, demand and opportunity cost spoke volumes about the need for an accelerated lionfish market development in Belize. It was stressed that in any market, the producers are the economic actors – this means that willingness to pay and demand for lionfish must rise to overcome the risk of lost income that fishers face if they focus their efforts away from high-value and high-demand traditional fisheries such as lobster. Furthermore, an uncoordinated market increases perceived risk even if demand exists: a fisher on the reef doesn’t know if a restaurant in San Pedro is looking to buy or has just bought lionfish, and so this must be weighed in their decision to spend additional fuel to travel to San Pedro and tout their product.

Understanding what drives human behavior is central to successful natural resource management interventions, and clearly demonstrated by the Environmental Defense Fund’s catch shares fish game – I had heard of this game being played in fishing communities around Belize as part of the Fisheries Department’s consultation process for managed access, so I really enjoyed finally taking part myself. On a personal level, I was absolutely blown away by the advances in fisheries management in the USA: catch shares and improved fishing methods have removed the race to fish, leading to enormous reductions in by-catch and ever-increasing stocks.

I was most inspired by visiting faculty Christo Marais’ Working for Water (WfW) program in South Africa, where invasive alien flora reduce water quantity and disturb rivers, leading to excessive sediment load. This has reduced water security and cost the country millions in dam maintenance. With the compounding issue of high levels of unemployment and poverty, WfW combined governmental funds for poverty alleviation with fees collected from water-users to provide training and employment in ecosystem restoration. In doing so, not only are biodiversity and ecosystem services improved, but people are also provided with jobs and the burden of expensive dam maintenance is lessened. This so gracefully shows how intertwined conservation and development needs are.

These stimulating classes were interspersed with field trips, where we had the opportunity to explore the beautiful northwest. Each field trip built bonds between the fellows, and I think we all agree that, while the whole program was above-expectations-excellent, the best outcome of our time at Kinship was building a new network of professional peers and, beyond that, friends. Friends with a wide range of perspectives, who challenge and encourage, but hold the same values and share the same overall objective: for nature to be valued in and of itself, and to bring that value to the decision-making table.

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Click here for a compilation of reflections from Fellows about their experience at the program. Click here to apply to be a 2015 Kinship Fellow!

Chapman, Jennifer - photoJen Chapman is the Country Coordinator for Blue Ventures in Belize, where she has led the development of research and conservation programmes since 2011. A key part of this has been leading the promotion of market-based strategies to address invasive lionfish populations, including the successful development of international export and domestic markets. Prior to working in Belize, Jen was based in Singapore, where she was responsible for developing and leading educational fieldtrips throughout South East Asia, specialising in marine biology, conservation and environmental education. She received a Bachelor of Science with honours in Biology from the University of Southampton in the UK, where she subsequently worked as a research assistant investigating the environmental sustainability of bioenergy crops. Jen believes passionately that innovative, sustainable, market-led approaches are required to solve problems of depletion of marine resources – the recovery of which are inextricably linked to human health, wealth and happiness.

Legendary Bahamian’s Ecotourism Destination Opens

November 26, 2014 in Conservation Collaborations, Eco-Tourism, Ecosystems & Biodiversity

By: Dan Tonnes and Scott Gillilan (2009 Kinship Fellows)

When Edwin Burrows placed the first small fish in a saltwater lake near his home on Eleuthera, Bahamas some 65 years ago, he watched it slowly swim away, knowing one day he could catch it again when it was much larger. With a growing family, he needed to diversify his income and food sources to make ends meet.  He put sea turtles in the lake, made an egg-laying beach amongst the mangroves, and raised the young turtles in a small, homemade alcove along the shoreline. He grew pineapples in a field near the lake. He caught and sold fish to locals and tourists.

Over the next four decades Edwin and this 43-acre lake in Eleuthera, Bahamas would become synonymous with each other. He become a one-man force preserving the lake, gathering trash thrown along the roadside, and driving by at late hours of the night to deter turtle and fish poachers. On some maps, the lake is even called “Burrows Pond.” Edwin secured a lease from the government, but with 14 kids, numerous grandchildren, and the attendant duties of family, his dream of turning the lake into a world-class eco-tourism destination never became a reality.

Turtle in Turtle LakeWhen Edwin died in the early 1980’s, so did his dream. Over the next 30 years the sea turtle population persisted, but was threatened by poachers and a beach that was becoming overgrown. Most of his kids and grandkids moved away from Eleuthera and found success elsewhere, though thoughts of the lake and their father’s dream remained. When developers proposed to clear the mangroves along the shoreline, forever changing the pristine environment of the lake, the Burrows knew they needed to act soon to have a chance of making Edwin’s dream come true.

Arrival of initial deck lumber_02The Burrows family reached out to a group of Kinship Conservation Fellows to revitalize the lake effort, and in 2013 and 2014, a total of seven members of the Watersheds and Coastal Resiliency Affinity Group visited the lake, bringing with them a conservation photographer, a meeting facilitator, a landscape architect, conservationists focused on marine biology and sea turtles, and a tourism industry professional. With expertise in hydrology, renewable energy, marine biology and ecology, the team developed a report that provided a roadmap to revitalizing Edwin’s market-based conservation opportunities at the lake. They conducted baseline scientific surveys and helped restore the turtle beach. Team member Clark Stevens, a professor at Woodbury University, led a semester-long design studio class on the lake. Members of the Burrows clan visited the class in California and told the story of the lake to the group of rapt students who were immersing themselves in helping to solve the challenges the Burrows family faced.

“The Kinship Team really made this lake revitalization take off. My father (Edwin) would have loved their collective passion and persistence,” said James Burrows, Marine Reserve Director and Edwin’s son.

In early 2014, Professor Stevens, 2009 Kinship Fellow Scott Gillilan, and four students from the design class visited the Burrows family in Nassau to outline the potential methods to preserve and monetize the lake. After this meeting, the Burrows wrote a three-phase business plan and have since been developing the initial business infrastructure which includes lake adventure activities for tourists, like kayak and paddle board rentals and guided nature exploration on the lake.

Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Reserve will soon become the first privately managed marine conservation area in the Bahamas.

On November 1, 2014, “Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Reserve” will become the first privately held marine conservation area in the Bahamas, emphasizing mangrove and sea turtle conservation and research. Business development has been entirely self-funded by the Burrows Family thus far, but to achieve long term protection of the watershed, including securing parcels that remain for sale and diversifying income streams, the family is starting a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. Much work remains, but Edwin’s dream now has a fighting chance of becoming reality.

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WEBINAR: Working Toward Sustainability in Fisheries

November 12, 2014 in Conservation Collaborations, Focus on Fisheries

oct2014_v3 350x350 Overfishing is one of the greatest threats to the health and sustainability of ocean ecosystems. It also poses a threat to the 3 billion people around the world who rely on seafood as an important source of protein and the millions of fishing industry workers who depend on stable wild fish populations for a steady stream of income. Unsustainable fishing—caused by poor fisheries management and wasteful fishing practices—is depleting the world’s fisheries, hurting the seafood industry and impacting marine ecosystems. However, there is hope. There is a growing number of examples where both fish and fishermen are thriving thanks to a change in incentives that aligns fishermen’s economic interest with the biological health of fish stocks.  These fishery management systems—catch shares—also known as rights-based management systems have increased fishermen’s well-being and supported the rebuilding of healthy fish populations. To watch the webinar recording, click on the video below. For the presentation slides, click here.

Featuring Kate Bonzon (2003 Fellow) of the Environmental Defense Fund, this webinar, Rights-Based Management: A Global Movement Toward Sustainability in Fisheries, examines how well-designed catch share programs can provide more fish in the water, more food on the plate and more prosperous communities citing examples of fisheries around the world.

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Bonzon, KateKate Bonzon is a leader in designing fisheries management approaches that deliver results. Collaborating with policymakers, fishermen, fishery managers, practitioners and other industry stakeholders, she is a leading pioneer in the development and design of catch shares worldwide. She oversees EDF’s cutting-edge research on catch shares and has developed numerous tools to advance catch shares including the first step-by-step guide for designing and implementing catch shares, the Catch Share Design Manual; the most comprehensive global database of catch shares; and an interactive learning game. She regularly presents on fisheries issues around the world and has trained hundreds of individuals on how to design and implement catch shares to meet their goals. Prior to her work on catch shares, she helped conceptualize, design, and capitalize the California Fisheries Fund which gives West Coast fishermen low-interest loans to facilitate their transition to sustainable fishing practices. She is a 2003 Kinship Conservation Fellow.

WEBINAR: A Global Movement Toward Sustainability in Fisheries from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.

Applications Open for Kinship Fellows 2015!

November 3, 2014 in About Kinship

Applications Open for 2015 Cohort of Kinship Conservation Fellows

Program Dates: June 28 – July 29. Applications close January 26, 2015.

em_170px_v3November 1, 2014 | Chicago, Illinois, November 1, 2014: Kinship Foundation has opened applications for its 2015 cohort of Kinship Conservation Fellows. Eighteen applicants will be selected as Fellows, awarded a $6,000 stipend and lodging for the month-long program, and gain membership into a global community of environmental leaders.Kinship Conservation Fellows is an innovative environmental leadership program that offers intensive, in-residence instruction in implementing conservation projects using market-based mechanisms. During their month at Kinship, Fellows look beyond their technical and scientific capacities to understand the economic and business contexts influencing conservation worldwide. To date, 210 Fellows in 48 countries and six continents have been selected as Kinship Fellows.

Grounding economic, finance, and business concepts in practical and applied examples, Kinship’s curriculum features a case study approach to using market-based tools to achieve positive impact. Each Fellow brings a project to Kinship which they hone throughout the month with the help of their cohort and Faculty. Practical, interactive leadership training in the classroom and individualized coaching sessions are integrated across curriculum areas throughout the month.

“Kinship Conservation Fellows is an opportunity for mid-career conservation practitioners to advance their use of market-based tools and learn from expert faculty,” says Kinship Conservation Fellows Director, Nigel Asquith. “Fellows become part of a collaborative community of impressive peers around the world.”

Through a growing network of regional chapters and affinity groups, Kinship provides access to opportunities for engaging in collaboration and sharing thought leadership with a community of conservation leaders allowing Kinship Fellows to accelerate change well after the month-long program.

The 2015 Kinship Conservation Fellows program will take place on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington from June 28 through July 29, 2015. Mid-career conservation practitioners with at least five years of field experience, a bachelor’s degree, and a demonstrated desire to innovate are encouraged to apply for consideration as a Kinship Fellow. The online application can be accessed at The application deadline is January 26, 2015.


Established in 2001, Kinship’s mission is to develop a community of leaders dedicated to collaborative approaches to environmental issues with an emphasis on market-based principles. For more information about Kinship Conservation Fellows, please contact Catherine Rabenstine at or visit

How Markets Can Make a Difference in Forest Conservation

October 15, 2014 in Carbon, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

BY: Guilherme Valladares, 2008 Kinship Fellow

Originally Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest covered more than 1.3 million km², an area larger than the state of California, but today less than 7% of this superbiodiversity-rich biome is left standing. Known for its 25 species of primates, 20 of which are endemic to the area, the Atlantic Rainforest is designated as a conservation hotspot. The remaining forest is extremely fragmented, and it continues to suffer from deforestation and forest degradation with the encroachment of millions of people living in its surroundings.

The Recôncavo region of Bahia state, where I and at least four generations of my family were born, was once covered by this lush forest. Since the 17th century, the forest has been converted into sugarcane and tobacco fields, cassava and other subsistence crops, and pasture fields.

“Presently, one of the most pressing factors contributing to the slow and steady degradation of the forest fragments is the use of wood as fuel for domestic cooking.”

Presently, one of the most pressing factors contributing to the slow and steady degradation of the forest fragments is the use of wood as fuel for domestic cooking. In the 33 counties that form the Recôncavo region, more than 100,000 households still depend on wood to fuel their stoves daily. Every day thousands of gatherers go into the forested areas to collect wood, and cook their meals over smoky, open fires.

Since 2001 we have engaged in many efforts to understand and reduce forest degradation in the region, and we have found a very effective and fast-result action that is now benefiting thousands of households: the introduction of improved cook stoves. By substituting rudimentary, open fires with efficient and robust stoves we reduce up to 60% of the wood removed from our forest fragments.

“ … we have found a very effective and fast-result action that is now benefiting thousands of households: the introduction of improved cook stoves.”

Valladares, Guilherme (2008)We have already substituted stoves in 6,000 households, and are now starting our second initiative, extending to another 6,000 households over the next three years. This effort is improving the lives of more than 40,000 people, especially women and children, who are generally the ones collecting and cooking with wood.

In 2010 our project design was the first initiative of its kind in Brazil to be validated by the Gold Standard to operate in the carbon market. The first independent verification occurred in 2012, for offsets totaling 98,000 tons of CO²e, and early this year our first carbon credits were issued and retired in the name of our client on the Markit Environmental Registry. Our second project design was validated in September of this year, allowing for the reduction of another 98,000 tons of CO²e.

” … early this year our first carbon credits were issued and retired in the name of our client on the Markit Environmental Registry. Our second project design was validated in September of this year, allowing for the reduction of another 98,000 tons of CO²e.”

Field operation requires accessing hundreds of remote, rural communities across the region. The logistics to transport materials and personnel are challenging, and may include trucks, tractors, wheel barrows, bicycles and pack animals. Stoves are built on-site at each home by our masons. After construction is completed, training and monitoring continues with hundreds of door-to-door visits and community meetings by our agents in the field.

All these results have been achieved with 100% funding from the proceeds of the carbon credit sales; we have not received any funds from philanthropy, private grants, or funds from the government or multilateral organizations. We are very proud of our fully market-based approach, which has forced us to work as a business with very lean operating costs, extremely reduced administrative expenses, firm timelines, and concrete, independently-audited results.

We are aware that many other efforts are needed to protect our forests. Nevertheless, traditional conservation efforts have failed over the last decades of intervention by big international NGOs and government agencies. Millions of dollars have been spent with no, or very few, measurable results. We feel that our success, based on a local and pragmatic approach, serves as an example of how markets can make a real difference in forest conservation.

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Valladares, Guilherme_2Guilherme Prado Valladares (2008 Kinship Fellow) is the founder and CEO of Ambiental PV Ltd., and executive director of Instituto Perene, both based in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. Guilherme holds a B.Sc. in Forestry and Natural Resources Management from the California Polytechnic State University, and an Executive MBA from the Fundação Getulio Vargas. As a professional forester Guilherme worked for Duratex, Brazil´s leader in fiberboard production and pioneer in FSC certification. Later as a consultant Guilherme has worked with companies like AngloAmerican, Arcelor Mittal, PwC, Odebrecht, and NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, Climate Care, Conservation International, Forest Trends, and CARE International. In 2011 Ambiental PV was selected by the World Finance magazine as the best forest carbon company in Latin America. As head of Instituto Perene, Guilherme helped secure the sales of two carbon credit contracts, and coordinates all field operations. In 2011 Instituto Perene was given a special achievement award by the U.S. EPA for the work with efficient cookstoves.  Guilherme is a happy family man, married to partner Renata Everett for 17 years, and a proud father of two boys, Pablo (16) and Francisco (8). He is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

WEBINAR: Catalyzing Community-led Marine Conservation

September 30, 2014 in Conservation Collaborations, Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

sept2014_blueventures_v2_200x200Seeing is Believing: Catalyzing Community-led Marine Conservation by Demonstrating the Economic Benefits of Fisheries Management in Madagascar and Belize

Join Dr. Al Harris of Blue Ventures and Dr. Tom Oliver of the University of Hawai’i in a discussion of the economic benefits of periodic fisheries closures in Madagascar and the impact that these closures have had in catalyzing a groundswell of broader community-based marine conservation efforts throughout the country and further afield. Watch the webinar recording, view the tweet chat, and read speaker bios below!



WEBINAR: “Seeing is Believing: Catalyzing Community-led Marine Conservation.” from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.

Speaker Bios:

HarrisDr. Alasdair Harris, Founder and Research Director, Blue Ventures

A marine ecologist with an unhealthy obsession for corals, Al has spent 14 years developing marine research and conservation initiatives in the Indian Ocean, and founded conservation organisation Blue Ventures in 2003.

Within Blue Ventures, Al is responsible for coordinating conservation programmes, leading an interdisciplinary and international team of scientists, educators and conservation practitioners. His work focuses on developing scalable solutions to marine environmental challenges, in particular pioneering market-based approaches that make marine conservation make economic sense to coastal communities.

Alongside his work with Blue Ventures, Al is a visiting post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, a member of the Marine Stewardship Council’s Stakeholder Council, and a technical advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species Secretariat.

Al is recipient of the IUCN World Conservation Union’s Young Conservationist Award, winner of the Condé Nast Environment Award, an Ashoka Fellow, and a passionate ambassador of Australia’s penguins. His work developing sustainable business approaches for financing conservation has twice been commended by the UK Chancellor in the ‘Enterprising Young Brits’ awards, and was highly commended by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in the 2013 inaugural Tusk Conservation Awards.

Watch Al speaking at the Do Lectures, WWF’s 2013 Fuller Symposium, and the BBC’s World Challenge

OliverDr. Tom Oliver, Assistant Professor, University of Hawai’i

Dr. Oliver received his PhD from Stanford University in 2009, studying under Prof. Stephen Palumbi. His thesis work focused on the adaptation of reef coral and their symbionts to current and future environmental extremes. Since then he has served as a Post-Doctoral researcher at Stanford, researching genomic-scale expression in response to heat stress in corals, and as a Post-Doctoral Researcher with Blue Ventures Conservation, studying the biological, economic, and social effects of temporary fishery closures among the Vezo people of Southwest Madagascar. He now serves as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Hawaiian Institute for Marine Biology, under Prof. Ruth Gates.

About Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures is a UK-based conservation organisation working to rebuild tropical fisheries with coastal communities. The organisation is committed to protecting marine biodiversity in ways that benefit coastal people.  Blue Ventures works in places where the ocean is vital to local cultures and economies, and where there is a fundamental unmet need to support human development.

Catch Shares: Challenges and Successes

September 22, 2014 in Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

In this Q&A, Kate Bonzon, Senior Director, Knowledge and Solutions, Oceans – Environmental Defense Fund, talks about the catch shares program: the history, the challenges, and the successes.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

At Environmental Defense Fund, I lead a team of experts dedicated to delivering cutting edge research and management options for fishermen and fishing communities. It’s our job to research what works, what doesn’t and share that knowledge with fishing communities that want a better future. We focus on the design and implementation of fishing rights, also known as “catch shares.”

I’m based in San Francisco and when I’m not in the office, you can find me enjoying the water—whether it’s walks on the beach, learning to sail or actually swimming in the Bay! I also love a day at the ballpark with my family or friends watching the awesome San Francisco Giants, and even better when they are in the World Series!

Q: What led you to an interest in fisheries management approaches?

I’ve always had strong ties to the oceans. Growing up, I spent my summers on Whidbey Island, near Seattle, where my mom’s family has vacationed in the same cabin on Useless Bay every year since 1949. That’s where I learned to crab, clam, and fish, and I have fond memories of walking the tide flats, exploring and enjoying the environment. And, I still return every year for at least a few days.

I realized I could actually have a career related to the ocean while in college. I took a class called “Fishing for Solutions” and was hooked! I learned about the real and complex challenges facing the ocean, but also about promising, effective solutions like catch shares, marine protected areas and sustainable labeling. These exciting new concepts coupled with my professor’s enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge inspired me to turn my passion into a career as well.

Q: Give us a snapshot of the historical context that led to the development of catch shares.

The world’s oceans were once considered so abundant with fish and marine life that we could fish harder and harder, and never deplete them. As human populations around the world increased—so did the taste for seafood—along with the advent of new and improved fishing technology and equipment. This has added increased stress on fish populations, generally resulting in dwindling wild fish stocks, decreasing catch and declining value to fishermen and communities.

In attempts to prevent such depletion, fishery managers often limited fishing effort by restricting the number of fishing trips or amount of fishing gear used. But the key drawback of “effort management” – and the reason these systems are an imperfect solution — is that reducing one measure of effort often increases other measures. For example, limiting the days a vessel can fish may lead to the use of bigger boats; limiting the number of boats may lead to the use of larger engines. The incentive to increase catch still remains because anything one fisherman leaves in the ocean could easily, and likely, be caught by another. There is no incentive for long-term stewardship.

But there is an alternative. All over the globe, we have seen examples of management systems that work, some based on thousands of years of experience and others recently implemented. Through extensive research, the common thread we discovered is that these systems provide fishermen with a long-term stake in the fishery, tying their current behavior to future environmental outcomes. By giving fishermen the privilege or right to a secure area or share of the catch, fishermen also retain the responsibility to conserve fish stocks and marine ecosystems and are subsequently rewarded by stable and healthy fish populations. Collectively termed “catch shares” more and more fisheries are trying to emulate these successful programs.

All over the globe, we have seen examples of management systems that work, some based on thousands of years of experience and others recently implemented.

Importantly, catch shares are flexible and can be custom designed to meet the different characteristics and goals of diverse fisheries. And they are. As of 2013, about 200 catch share programs are managing more than 500 different species in the waters of 40 countries.

If you’d like to learn more about catch shares, visit our Catch Share Design Center, the leading online resource for science-based information on catch shares. Another helpful resource is Google Scholar’s Catch Shares page.

Q: What are the greatest challenges in guiding a group toward implementing a catch share program?

ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 22 10.34Over the course of my tenure at EDF, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with policymakers, fishermen, fishery managers and other industry stakeholders around the world—and nearly all of them want the same thing – a productive, profitable fishery that delivers fresh, good quality fish.

But, implementing a catch share requires change. And change is hard, especially when it is unknown.

That’s one reason we developed the Catch Share Design Manual, the first ever step-by-step planning guide for fishery managers, fishermen and practitioners. It draws on the experience of hundreds of fisheries in more than 30 countries and the expertise of more than 80 fishery experts around the world. It shows how other people have successfully made this change and highlights how many different communities have tailored catch share programs to meet their unique needs.

The manual has been successful. So successful that many stakeholders began asking for more fishery management tools and resources, which prompted my team to develop a comprehensive toolkit for designing and implementing catch share programs in a wide array of contexts.

Q: What are you finding to be the long-term outcomes of catch shares management?

Around the world, from small scale fisheries to large commercial fishing operations, well-designed catch share programs are increasing compliance with catch limits, decreasing bycatch and discarded fish, increasing revenues and cutting back fishing-related costs, showing that sustainable fishing has a breadth of great environmental and financial benefits.

A review of 345 fish stocks from around the world found that those managed with catch shares had significantly lower cases of overexploitation, or fishing more than the resource can bear, when compared to conventional management practices while another study found that catch share implementation can prevent, or even reverse, collapse of fisheries.

Catch shares have also been shown to stabilize the amount of fish caught as well as fish populations.  They provide fishermen more time and flexibility to choose when to take fishing trips. These factors make fishery management more certain and improve fishermen’s ability to plan more efficient and profitable business operations, while also making fishing safer.

Q: Where do you see yourself headed in the next few years?

I’ll never forget one of my first projects when I first started at EDF. I traveled up and down the California coast interviewing fishermen about their fishing experience and knowledge and include their insights into policy discussions. It didn’t take long for me to understand that most fishermen want to take of the resource, and even feel that it’s their duty to do so. But ineffective fishing policies were making that impossible while also hampering their businesses.

Ever since then, my on-going goal is to play a pivotal role in equipping fishermen and oceans stakeholders with the resources and knowledge they need to improve their businesses while also protecting biodiversity and ocean health.

Q: If you could eat any kind of fish for dinner tonight, what would you pick?

Living in the Bay area, I have access to some of the best taquerias in the country. And I frequent them often! I love a good rockfish taco and now I can enjoy them knowing that they are managed sustainably under the West Coast Groundfish fishery’s catch share program. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium recently rated rockfish as a “Best Choice” option under their Seafood Watch Program—a seafood sustainability rating system.

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Bonzon, KateKate leads a diverse and talented team of experts to deliver cutting-edge scientific research, trainings and policy recommendations for innovative fisheries management.  Collaborating with policymakers, fishermen, fishery managers and other industry stakeholders, Kate is a pioneer in the development and design of catch share programs, a proven approach for ensuring sustainable fisheries. She has led the development of numerous tools to advance the approach, including the first step-by-step guide for designing and implementing catch shares (the Catch Share Design Manual). Over the course of her EDF tenure, Kate has advised governments, fishermen and other stakeholders in more than 30 countries on sustainable fishery management tools and policies. Prior to her work on catch shares, she helped conceptualize, design, and capitalize the California Fisheries Fund, which gives U.S. West Coast fishermen low-interest loans to facilitate their transition to sustainable fishing practices. Kate graduated from Stanford University with an M.S. in Earth Systems and a B.A. in Human Biology. She is a 2003 Kinship Conservation Fellow.

Creating a Market for Lionfish

September 15, 2014 in Economics and Business, Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Environmental Education, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

By: Jen Chapman (2014 Fellow)

In this interview, Jen describes what sparked her passion for the marine environment and how she works to create an active and diverse market for lionfish with Blue Ventures in Belize. This interview is part of a Fisheries Series this fall, featuring webinars as well as articles like on The Kinship Lens.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been raised in Singapore and South Africa, and by parents who love travelling and the outdoors. My upbringing is definitely the source of my passion for the marine environment. I remember snorkelling on Malaysian coral reefs as a child, finding a hawksbill turtle that had died entangled in a discarded fishing net, seeing shark fins drying on lines in villages, and my heart breaking when I saw the fish that I loved to see on the reef, in live seafood restaurants’ aquaria.

As I became more interested in coral reefs and fisheries, I became appalled by the methods that are used to harvest these precious resources and the associated inequality in distribution of wealth. When I finished my biology degree, I returned to South East Asia to complete a coral reef conservation internship with Endangered Species International in the Philippines and then worked as a biologist and project manager for Ecofieldtrips.

Whilst exploring the fantastic biodiversity of the Coral Triangle, I realised that my passion lay in practical conservation work, and I had a strong desire to try living somewhere I had never been before. I was thrilled to start working for Blue Ventures in Belize in 2011 and have absolutely fallen in love with this beautiful country. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself when I bump into a manatee on a water quality monitoring trip, or whilst gearing up for an early dive at our field site, Bacalar Chico; a time often coupled with an unbeatable sunrise! I am based at our office in Belize’s largest fishing village, Sarteneja, and from the moment I got off the bus, I felt at home. That feeling has never left.

Q: The major hurdle in encouraging fishermen to catch and restaurants to source lionfish, is their venomous spines. How does Blue Ventures handle educating communities about this?

Fishers Workshop. Sarteneja Fishermen Association.

Fishers Workshop. Sarteneja Fishermen Association.

Since mid-2011, we have held regular lionfish safe handling demonstrations with fishers and often couple these with tasters and information booths for the general public. These events invariably start with a presentation reviewing the lionfish invasion, so that everyone understands the negative impacts this invasive fish has on Caribbean reefs, after which we pull out the first of many dead, whole lionfish. Our objective is to show that getting a lionfish market-ready is not so tricky, as long as you know the location of the venomous spines.

Most people are aware of the large dorsal spines, but the smaller spines located on the pelvic and anal fins are less obvious and are usually the source of a sting. We also place a heavy emphasis on the effective use of hot water as first aid, as well as the difference between poisonous (don’t eat) and venomous (don’t touch).

After the first demonstration, fishers in the audience are invited to try cleaning and filleting lionfish, and offered tasters of lionfish ceviche and empanadas. During our first events, people were very hesitant to try and some outright refused; now, fishers bring lionfish home to feed to their families.

Q: Lionfish has been featured on menus in Sarteneja, Belize for a few years now. Are you seeing interest from consumers outside that community? How is Blue Ventures working to increase demand?

Yes, definitely. We work to increase demand through media appearances, submitting articles to national newspapers, as well as holding regular taster events. We are aiming at expanding our social marketing campaign to include roadside banners, t-shirt distribution, and radio adverts. We also partner with the Southern Environmental Association to conduct an annual lionfish culling derby, an event that always gets people talking about lionfish.

I suppose, in reality it’s quite simple – at every opportunity, we are there talking about lionfish, giving out tasters, playing lionfish themed games, and wearing lionfish t-shirts! To help restaurants in selling this relatively new food item, we provide marketing assistance in the form of posters, table tents, and menu inserts encouraging the consumer to try this delicious and environmentally sound seafood choice.

Q: What are the major advances you’ve seen in the last year or so in your project?

Lionfish Catch. Photo by Lee Mcloughlin.

Lionfish Catch. Photo by Lee Mcloughlin.

In mid-2013, we partnered with a US-based seafood distributor, Traditional Fisheries, and Placencia’s fishing cooperative to facilitate the first international export of lionfish from Belize. All went smoothly, however a subsequent increase in shipping costs means that we have to find an alternative route to meet the international demand. Nevertheless, the first export did attract a great deal of media attention, and fishers began to deliver lionfish to the Placencia Cooperative for distribution nationally.

In 2014, seeing an increase in demand, we partnered with the Sarteneja Fishermen Association to train another 32 fishers on lionfish safe-handling and to develop fisher-restaurant partnerships. Over the last month in particular, we have seen a huge increase in the number of fishers targeting lionfish, which they are selling to restaurants around Belize.

As of September 2014, lionfish can be found for sale in all six districts in Belize, and more restaurants are reaching out to us to develop partnerships with fishers. That’s not to say there isn’t still work to be done; we want to see lionfish in all restaurants in Belize, and eaten in homes across the country! We’re in the process of collecting data from restaurants to get an estimate of current turnover – a figure I’m excited to see. Another interesting development has been lionfish jewellery production, which has boomed in the last six months.

Q: Are you willing to share your favorite lionfish recipe?

Photo by Gordon Kirkwood.

Lionfish ceviche. Photo by Gordon Kirkwood.

I can never get enough lionfish ceviche – and it’s so easy to make! Raw, cubed lionfish fillet is marinated in a delicious concoction of tomato, onion, cilantro and lime – the lime cooks the fish, so when you see it has turned white, you know it’s ready.







Interested in learning more about Blue Ventures’ work with lionfish? Check out the resources below.

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Chapman, Jennifer - photoJen Chapman is the Country Coordinator for Blue Ventures in Belize, where she has led the development of research and conservation programmes since 2011. A key part of this has been leading the promotion of market-based strategies to address invasive lionfish populations, including the successful development of international export and domestic markets. Prior to working in Belize, Jen was based in Singapore, where she was responsible for developing and leading educational fieldtrips throughout South East Asia, specialising in marine biology, conservation and environmental education. She received a Bachelor of Science with honours in Biology from the University of Southampton in the UK, where she subsequently worked as a research assistant investigating the environmental sustainability of bioenergy crops. Jen believes passionately that innovative, sustainable, market-led approaches are required to solve problems of depletion of marine resources – the recovery of which are inextricably linked to human health, wealth and happiness.