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Project Support: Fisheries Replenishment Zones in the Gulf of California, Galapagos and Mesoamerican Reef

Rare is an international conservation organization with a replicable model for community-led conservation. Rare’s mission is to conserve imperiled species and ecosystems around the world by inspiring people to care about and protect nature. Since the 1980s, Rare has specialized in training local conservation leaders to use outreach and advertising tactics to build awareness and support for conservation. Rare and its partners in more than 50 countries are committed to designing conservation programs that benefit both people and nature — ensuring that change is embraced and sustained. Rare works at the community level to address human behaviors that threaten biodiversity, such as overfishing, illegal logging, and unsustainable agriculture.

To combat these threats, Rare identifies innovative community-based solutions that have proven successful at changing behaviors. Using its Pride campaign methodology, Rare adopts these conservation bright spots and replicates them around the globe. Pride campaigns use social marketing techniques to inspire people to take pride in their natural resources and to promote sustainable behavior change and alternative practices in communities to benefit conservation.

Conservation ultimately comes down to people – their behaviors toward nature, their beliefs about its value, and their ability to protect it without sacrificing basic life needs. And so, conservationists must become as skilled in social change as in science; as committed to community-based solutions as national and international policy-making.

Callum Roberts, marine conservationist and coral reef expert, talks to Rare’s CEO Brett Jenks about the decline of fisheries in the Philippines and how replicating marine protected areas is an effective way to reverse this crisis.

Fisheries Replenishment Zones: Latin America

Overfishing is the principal threat to marine resources and biodiversity in the Gulf of California, the Galapagos, and the Mesoamerican Reef—where fisheries that provide livelihoods and food security are close to collapse. Although local fishers are responsible for much of the threat, they also have a strong incentive to protect their source of food and income. Fisheries management experts, scientists, governments, and NGOs agree that effectively addressing overfishing here requires the establishment and strengthening of designated, community-supported areas where fishing is strictly prohibited. A necessary complement to this approach is showing fishers how they can harvest sustainably, and giving them incentives to do so, in order to restore and maintain fish populations at healthy levels.

Rare is launching a cohort of Pride campaigns to accelerate the support and establishment of community-monitored Fisheries Replenishment Zones (FRZs). FRZs are scientifically selected areas where all fishing is suspended, either inside or outside of formally designated Marine Protected Areas. Each Pride campaign will be supported by a Pride Fellow specializing in social marketing and by at least one Fisheries Fellow specializing in community fisheries management.

Rare will train and mentor this network of Pride and Fisheries Fellows as they gain community understanding and support for rights-based management and Fishery Replenishment Zones. In total, the proposed network will comprise nine local partners in the Gulf of California, the Galapagos, and Mesoamerican Reef regions. Each campaign will target behavior change at the community level in coastal areas with populations between 5,000 and 100,000 people.

Helping communities return fisheries to a healthy status will benefit these sites of amazing biodiversity, improve human well-being (safeguarding food and livelihood sources for the future) and have global marine conservation significance.

Omar Ortiz from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve talks about his experience partnering with Rare, and how Rare campaigns can benefit the fisheries replenishment zones in the Gulf of California.

Why FRZs?

Within designated FRZs, fish and other marine life can grow larger and reproduce more (bigger fish produce more eggs than smaller fish). FRZs give fish populations the protection they need to increase and eventually expand to areas where harvesting is permitted. As fish populations grow, fish will spillover from the protected area and boost the yield of fishers. Additionally, currents will disperse eggs and newly hatched fish to populate other habitats. Essentially, an FRZ acts as a ‘fish bank’ wherein the community stockpiles fish for future use, and takes only the interest for themselves. This allows the fishing communities’ core livelihood to remain intact and eventually increase. For this solution to be sustainable, local fishers must be made aware of the short- and long-term benefits of FRZs and given meaningful incentives to support and participate in their enforcement.


The larger a fish is allowed to grow, the more eggs it is able to produce. For example, one snapper weighing 24 pounds produces the same number of eggs as 250 snappers weighing 2 pounds each.

Accelerating behaviors that demonstrate community respect and support for Fisheries Replenishment Zones in the Gulf of California, the Galapagos, and the Mesoamerican Reef will fulfill one of the highest priorities in marine conservation.

Jacques Cousteau once called the Gulf of California the “aquarium of the world”. While it represents only .008% of the world’s ocean, it is home to 900 species of fish (90 of which are endemic), and one-third of the Earth’s marine mammals. The Gulf is also critical habitat to five species of turtles and some of the most endangered whale species–gray, humpback, blue, Bryde’s and minke. The Gulf’s deep trenches and rich seabeds are extremely valuable economically, yielding 70% of the entire fish catch by volume for all of Mexico.

Comprised of more than 60 species of coral, the Mesoamerican Reef stretches nearly 600 miles–from the Bay Islands of Honduras, north through the coasts of Guatemala and Belize, to the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. It is the second largest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and the largest in the Americas. Through tourism, commercial and artisanal fishing, the Mesoamerican Reef provides livelihoods for nearly 2 million people. It is also extremely rich in biodiversity, supporting more than 500 species of fish and marine animals like manatees, whale sharks, dolphins and turtles.

Creating Power in Numbers

Each Pride campaign targets a specific site, yet Rare launches them in cohorts of 10-15 — all focused on a common issue — so that partners can share learning and serve as a network for broader change. Each year, Rare and its partners launch Pride cohorts in each of the four languages in which training is offered. The focus for each cohort is determined approximately one year in advance, at which time Rare begins recruiting partners with shared goals and capacity to participate in the three-year program.

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