Restoring Fish Nurseries in Marinas

The idea is to restore the function of coastal areas as fish shelters and nurseries.

Photo of Jina Talj
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Jina Talj

Initiative's representative date of birth

29 September 1985

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Lebanon

Headquarters location: city

Jounieh

Where are you making a difference?

Pilot is in Amshit (a coastal town north of Byblos). The plan is to replicate the project over all 44 marinas along the Lebanese coastline.

Website or social media url(s)

https://www.diariesoftheocean.org/ https://www.facebook.com/diariesoftheocean/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5-M7sZOU0GwV_JtWfu5_GQ

Date Started

January/2020

Project Stage

  • Start-up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €10k - €50k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

During my grad studies in marine biology, I learned about how destructive our marinas and ports are to fish. The combination of pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and illegal fishing practices, climate change and biological invasions are pushing our native fisheries to brink of collapse, and unless we do something quickly to mitigate for these losses, we will lose so much of our coastal biodiversity and all the ecosystem services it provides. I came across some marine scientists in France doing amazing work to restore the function of coastal ecosystems following anthropological disturbance, and I was inspired to do similar work in Lebanon, because their success rate is very high.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Building marinas without consideration to the natural habitat and the life it harbors is a big issue in Lebanon. We do not realize how much biodiversity and ecosystem services we are losing until it is too late, because no baseline studies are done before the construction and no monitoring is being done during or after the construction. And marinas are always popping up along the Lebanese coastline. This problem should be addressed urgently if we are to preserve what remains of our fisheries.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Most of our native fisheries come to the coastline for reproduction, and the juvenile fish shelter and feed near the coastline until they are big enough to move further offshore. Marinas built haphazardly destroy these grounds and disrupt the life cycle of fish making it difficult for them to grow and proliferate. Restoring these shelter and nursery habitats has been the subject of so much research in past years, and scientists all around the Mediterranean basin are implementing different techniques for restoring these functions in coastal habitats. The most successful technique has been a very straightforward method utilized in many ports and marinas around the Med Sea. We at Diaries of the Ocean did our research and met with experts who have been implementing this method, and after evaluating several sites in Lebanon, we customized the method as per our needs and decided to start a pilot project in a marina north of Beirut (in the coastal town of Amshit). We assessed the biodiversity in the marina, and then deployed 12 cages with oyster shells under the jetties of the marina. These cages will be used for education, research, ecotourism, as well as for restoring the ecosystem.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Our idea is not new, it has been tested time and time again by scientists around the world. It works, it's effective and successful if done properly. In Diaries of the Ocean, there is a group of marine biologists and ecologists who have done the required desktop research and field research, and met with experts in the field to discuss with them ways to make the methodology relevant to Lebanon. We know that this will work, but soon enough we will know how well it will work. We will have numbers and graphs to demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique, and how it can be improved before moving on to other marinas.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

As mentioned above, this idea will involve education, research and ecotourism. Here's how: We will collaborate with schools to show students how coastal ecosystems work. We will collaborate with universities, and we already started doing that, to foster Master students doing their thesis on marine ecology or biology. They will do their work on population and community dynamics inside and around our cages, invasive species development in and around our cages, and socio-economic studies of our project on human coastal communities. Research will be done and published on our methodology and how it effects fish life cycles, as well as socio-economic studies relating to native and invasive fisheries and their effects on fishermen. Coastal communities can create an ecotourism market around the cage sites and sell diving trips, snorkeling trips, educational trips, and other such activities.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We have so far engaged fishermen in the coastal town of Amshit where we implemented the pilot project. We have also engaged the municipality of Amshit, the port authority in Amshit, school of Amshit, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, and University of Balamand. The fishermen, municipality and port authority were engaged with us in several discussions around the project and how we suspect it will affect their community, the fishermen were asked to refrain from fishing in the area even when they find that the fish are aggregating around the cages and oyster shells. The municipality and port authority are monitoring the fishermen's activity. The school students - all ages - were invited to the deployment of the cages. We explained to them all about the project. The University has been involved since the beginning with research and development of the project. Grad students from the university are doing their research on the project.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We started in the marina of Amshit because it checked all of the criteria for a successful intervention. We will monitor the project for one year, evaluate the progress and fix any bugs before replicating in other marinas. The idea is to cover all 44 marinas along the Lebanese coastline by the end of the decade. This would entail engaging schools and universities all along the coastline, all municipalities and relevant authorities, fishermen communities and other coastal communities. In parallel, we will be working on policy reform in that any new marina that is to be built should go through a proper assessment and take into consideration the natural habitat it would be replacing.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

As mentioned above, one of the strongest assets of this project its educational component. Students will be engaged for many years to come in education and research around the project. Other values created by the project would be the restoration of native fisheries, and hence a better economic cycle for the fishermen; and a new source of income for coastal communities where the project exists through ecotourism opportunities.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The project is expected to cost up to USD15,000 per year. This money would cover the cost of cages and oyster shells, diving and boat trips, maintenance, social media and videos. The team is constantly applying for funds, and I - Jina Talj, the founder and director of Diaries of the Ocean - usually cover any extra expenses.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We are a team of 16 people: 1 film maker 1 communications officer 1 lawyer 1 vet 3 landscape architects and the rest are biologists and ecologists (marine and otherwise). Most of the team are divers. All are volunteers, but very dedicated and reliable. As the project grows and we find funders and donors to sponsor the NGO's operations, most of the team will be compensated for their time, and at least the marine biologists will be employed full time.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

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