Using Video to Support Marine Conservation

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By Toni Parras, Communications Professional, toniparras [at]

If a picture says a thousand words, then video says….well, you do the math.

Despite being dependent on marine resources for sustenance and livelihood, many coastal residents don't ever see the state of the underwater habitat on which those resources depend.  All they know is that the fish, shellfish and other marine species that are coming up out of the water are smaller and scarcer than in times past.
The story of a colleague I met through the Locally-Managed Marine Area Network — a group of practitioners working on community-based marine management efforts throughout the Indo-Pacific — offers a particularly good example of the power of video to inform people’s understanding and even change minds.

In order to move much-needed conservation efforts forward in their village to address dwindling fisheries, my colleague’s local community group bought cameras and took pictures and video of the reefs to show people what was happening below the surface.  They were prescient enough to take photos and videos of their marine areas before and after setting up their marine protected areas.

When they showed the before-and-after video footage on a big screen at a village meeting, villagers’ eyes widened in astonishment at the positive changes that had taken place in the MPAs over a relatively short period of time.  Some elders cried.  Even people who had previously been naysayers of the marine protected areas came on board, convinced of the no-take zones’ value after seeing evidence of improved conditions.  The more they saw, the more they wanted to be involved and to help with the management efforts.

Video can work both to document negative changes (namely to persuade people that action needs to be taken) and to record positive changes to demonstrate that efforts are working.  Video not only provides an archive of site conditions, but is a valuable tool that touches people emotionally, which in turn inspires action.

With the increased prevalence and ease of today's technology, video can and should be used to inspire and improve marine conservation and management efforts at various scales across the globe. In my upcoming blog posts, I will provide tips on how to get started with video and how to use it effectively as a science and communication tool.

Toni Parras specializes in helping organizations improve their efforts through sound communication and evaluation; exploring innovative approaches to creating awareness, influencing behavior and evaluating efforts; and incorporating information design, photography, video and storytelling into marine management, conservation and education efforts.  Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect upon any bodies with which she may be associated.
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