Blue Ventures, a conservation organization that works to protect marine ecosystems while improving the lives of the people depending on them, has just been named the winner of the 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Known as “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award,” the $100,000 Buckminster award money will help Blue Ventures further develop and expand the scope of its work, which shows the positive bio-economic possibilities of marine conservation.

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Blue Ventures’ approach assumes that first and foremost, that the “survival of a natural habitat and the people whose lives depend on it are inseparable.” The comprehensive approach strives to give developing coastal communities the resources they need to live sustainably. They extensively research all aspects of the communities, including marine and fisheries research, family planning and public health, environmental education, fisheries management, and protected area development. They then use this knowledge to propose new ideas that would improve the environment and community residents’ lives.

In Madagascar, Blue Ventures enabled poor fishing communities to increase and diversify their incomes by protecting the biodiversity of the water. Blue Ventures volunteers are continually training and educating the residents where they work in Madagascar, ensuring that sustainable practices are maintained. Blue Ventures has also started the first community-run sea cucumber farm in Madagascar. It is a pioneering development of commercial-scale sustainable aquaculture, and it has helped to alleviate poverty in the coastal communities.

Another success story comes from 25 fishing villages on the Indian Ocean, where Blue Ventures created the largest community-run Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the region. More than 10,000 people have directly benefited from the MPA, and it has given rise to new conservation legislation.

“For the first time in marine conservation, we’re able to demonstrate enduring economic benefits to traditional fishing communities from short-term closures of fisheries,” said Dr Alasdair Harris, Founder and Research Director of Blue Ventures in a press release. “We’re confident that this holistic, whole systems approach brings important lessons that are relevant to many other communities that are struggling with poverty and environmental degradation.”

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