Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative: Comprehensive and Sustainable Management of Ocean Resources

Blogger picture

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Waitt Foundation, ayanaelizabeth [at]

What if ocean zoning was conducted on an island-wide scale, centered on the values and goals of the community? What if management holistically strove for sustainable use, which led to improved livelihoods and improved ecosystem health?

Well, then you might have something the Waitt Foundation calls a Blue Halo Initiative. The Blue Halo concept is comprehensive ocean zoning plus sustainable management of fisheries that:

  1. Is based on the best available scientific, social, and economic data,
  2. Heavily engages the community in the planning process,
  3. Minimizes impact on fishing livelihoods, and
  4. Includes sanctuary zones (where fishing does not occur) to restore and conserve fish populations and habitats.

To many, this may sound no different than the growing number of efforts that fall under the umbrella of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), and in many ways it isn’t different – it is certainly still marine, spatial, and planning. What does seem (to my knowledge) to be different here is that the Waitt Foundation is aiming to go from concept to full implementation for entire islands, bringing together all the key pieces of the puzzle – ecological assessment, habitat mapping, legal analysis, socioeconomic surveys, stakeholder-driven zoning, communications, and local capacity for implementation. Further, we received support from the top political levels before launching, instead of building political support through smaller proof of concept projects. Oh, and we plan to do it all within a year.

There is Waitt-funded Blue Halo work in Bermuda that more or less takes this approach, and which was the source of the “Blue Halo” name I find so compelling. As in, sustainable management is heavenly, angelic.

In seeking islands that might be suitable and amenable to application of a lean and ideally replicable version of this concept, we were invited to Barbuda. (See previous blog post “Hope and Opportunity on the Island of Barbuda” for more about this wonderful place.) It has a small (and lovely) population (~1,500 people), high dependence on fishing, community awareness of the need to improve the sustainability of management, and local and national governments who endorse the Blue Halo concept.

Thus, the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative was born. This Initiative is a collaborative partnership between the Barbuda Council (island government), Codrington Lagoon National Park, Barbuda Fisheries Division, the people of Barbuda, and the Waitt Foundation. I am thrilled to be working with all these folks.

The goal is to manage ocean resources sustainably, resulting in more and bigger lobster, conch and fish, healthier ecosystems, improved fishing catches, and strengthened ocean-based livelihoods.

The approach is to develop zoning, implementation, monitoring, financing, and enforcement plans for the waters within 1 league (3.45 miles) of shore that are under jurisdiction of the Barbuda Council. This can accommodate a variety of activities, while supporting ecological integrity and productivity, and working to ensure sustainable fishing for future generations of Barbudans.

The technical experts working on this project are Benjamin Ruttenberg (ecology – California State Polytechnic University), Will McClintock (stakeholder-driven zoning plan –, Sam Purkis (habitat mapping – National Coral Reef Institute), and Kathryn Mengerink (legal assessment – I am leading the the overall project for the Waitt Foundation, as well as the socioeconomic assessment (which means I get to spend fascinating and enlightening hours talking to Barbudan fishermen and community members), local capacity building, and communications components.

Should you want to follow our progress, I’ll be blogging here, tweeting via @BarbudaBlueHalo, and there’s a Facebook page too (like away!).

Wish us all luck – or better yet send sage advice.

This piece was originally published on the National Geographic Society's Ocean Views blog on 5 April 2013.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is Director of Science and Solutions at the Waitt Foundation.

Add new comment

Sign-in with your OpenChannels Member Account and sign-up for email notifications of new blogs. Simply visit any blog post and click the "Subscribe to updates of new content of this type" link just above the comments section.