GCRF Blue Communities: Building capacity for integrated planning through sustainable interactions with marine ecosystems for the health, wellbeing, food and livelihoods of coastal communities

Millions of people across the globe rely on marine and coastal ecosystems for food, employment and their general well-being. However, the marine environment is under immense pressure from the multiple, and often conflicting, needs of the people that use it. In E and SE Asia, where marine activities are important contributors to the economies, marine spatial planning involving coordinated decision-making is a key requirement for a sustainable future.

The Blue Communities project, led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory in collaboration with the University of Plymouth, the University of Exeter, international partners, UK non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local stakeholders, will help build long-term research capability for marine planning over the next four years in E and SE Asia and, in doing so, support local coastal communities.

Through academic-stakeholder collaborations and community co-creation, Blue Communities will support the development, implementation and ongoing management of initiatives that promote the sustainable use of marine resources. One of the most important aspects of this project is effective and culturally-sensitive relationship building with the wide-ranging stakeholders to engender trust between all parties and to underpin up-take of the marine management strategies developed over the course of the project.

The Blue Communities team will focus their work on case study areas in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Malaysia. These identified areas are already designated as ‘UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserves’ or marine parks and there will be strong links forged between them and the North Devon Biosphere Reserve. These ‘science for sustainability’ support sites provide an established, collaborative infrastructure in which initiatives can be developed and tested alongside the local stakeholders, with an aim to then promote and trial with surrounding communities.

Top image courtesy of L. Greencia

Key information

Funder: Research Council GCRF

Project start date: October 2017

Project end date: October 2021

View the project website

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Professor Melanie Austen
Head of Science - Sea and Society

Other participants

Dr Caroline Hattam, Dr Tara Hooper, Dr Vikki Cheung