People and the Sea

34 Project reviews of People and the Sea

Project Details

'Community Driven Marine Conservation' - working alongside the people of Malapascua in preserving their natural environment.


The Philippines is one of the world’s most biologically rich countries, forming part of the renowned ‘Coral Triangle’ – an area that has been recognised as the global centre of marine biodiversity. With over 7,100 this beautiful archipelago is home to some stunning white beaches, pristine coral reefs, and abundant marine life - indeed, the Philippines has been labelled ‘the centre of the centre of marine shore fish diversity in the world.

Malapascua is famous in the diving world as it is one of the rare places where Thresher Sharks (Alopias pelagicus) can be seen regularly while scuba diving. The presence of these sharks has driven a rapid development of the dive tourism and provides significant income for the inhabitants of Malapascua. 

However, after numerous visits to this beautiful island we began to see for ourselves the threats posed to the marine environment by increasing tourism alongside unsustainable local fishing practices as well as broader climatic events. These stunning environments are struggling to cope under all these pressures. 

People and the Sea was created out of a passion for the marine environment, and a desire to see it conserved for future generations while still offering a sustainable livelihood to the communities who are so reliant on it. Working not only on Malapascua, but also in the wider region, the focus of our operations is to support the local community and relevant stakeholders in developing locally inspired methods of conserving their marine environment. 

Our Values

Community takes a central role in our expeditions – ‘ownership’ is critical. This means that the people of Malapascua must believe in any attempt to manage their seas. They must understand the benefits, they must see and feel the benefits, and they must feel that the decisions that are taken in relation their marine environment are their decisions.

Marine conservation can mean many different things to many different people. It means the collection of data to better understand the marine environment and the threats it faces. It means using science to analyse and apply this data to work out possible plans of action. It means finding ways to share information with all stakeholders at all levels, in a way that is accessible to them. It definitely means education – for people of all ages – both especially the younger generations. 

But perhaps less obvious, marine conservation has to be about improving the lives of coastal communities as these people are ultimately the guardians of their environment. Efforts to the improve the welfare and living standards of local communities are critical, as in doing so, you give the people that rely most on the sea the ability to focus on its well-being, rather than just their own.  

This holistic, integrated approach to marine conservation is a core value of the work of People and the Sea. Alongside our marine biophysical survey programme, we have developed a range of community focused initiatives alongside. It is our belief that these are entirely complimentary and necessary in any concerted attempt to achieve meaningful, compelling marine conservation. 


It should be remembered that the issues surrounding the sustainable management of marine resources are often complex, with a number of conflicting interests involved. The solutions are rarely easy, and even more rarely are they quickly arrived at. This long-term outlook is a key consideration as we move forward. It is critical that any projects that we establish, can be seen through to the end, no matter how long that may be. 

From the very start of People and the Sea we have always taken care to ensure that we can provide longevity in the support we offer the local community. Conservation projects can all too often suffer from the constraints of ‘short term project funding’ that sees good work started, but not always carried through to its conclusion. This can mean that communities are motivated, engaged and ready to take positive action, only to see the support and guidance they need removed at the time it was needed most. 
 We are committed to providing the long-term support that is necessary.

The main focus of the project is on
NPO Status
Yes, registered non-profit organization
Foundation Year
Contact Person
Ian Mills
Spoken Languages

Social Impact

We want to develop compelling, results-driven marine conservation that sees the needs of the often marginalised coastal communities placed at the heart of the decision making process. We want to support these communities in having a voice, engaging in the decisions that affect their livelihoods and empowering them to take control of their environment and its management. 

In recognition of the pressures that coastal marine habitats are under in the Philippines (and that means seagrass and mangroves as well as coral reefs), there are efforts at national, regional and local levels to create and maintain protected areas – a tool that is often used in both terrestrial and marine conservation. These efforts are critical and we fully support their implementation. What can often be lacking is the logistics and expertise to collect information upon which management decisions can be based. 

To date, we have established a marine habitat monitoring programme, the data from which is passed on to local government offices and stakeholders to allow them to take informed decisions concerning sustainable coastal resource management. Critical in this process in the efforts we make to ensure that local peoples association, and fisher-folk groups are brought into any discussion. 

We have actively sought out new and innovative ways of conveying what is often technical information to these sections of the local community. Failure to do this would leave them unable to have meaningful input in the process. This provides a perfect example of the supporting role that we can play in partnership with the local government offices and stakeholders to support them in efforts to sustainably manage their marine resources. 

We recognise that marine conservation means much more than the collection and dissemination of robust data. This alone will not translate to meaningful results in the longer term. We believe that a more holistic approach is necessary - one that will address other pressing social issues that have an indirect, yet significant impact on the welfare of the marine environment. 

Chief among these is to work to raise the living standards of coastal communities, who are often among the most deprived. Alternative methods of supplementing their income, can help move away from a dependence on detrimental fishing practices. More than that, the resulting increase in living standards can act as a real catalyst for change, giving people more time and freedom to turn their attention to issues bigger than their day-to-day welfare. 

Over the past two years we have established a number of 'alternative livelihood' programmes that aim to provide supplemental income to local households. In addition to the obvious financial benefits, the programme empowers these households, encouraging them to develop 

entrepreneurial and forward-thinking outlooks, as well as developing role model behaviours within their local communities - all values that we are keen promote. 

Empowerment begins with education. This means education for people of all ages - but most importantly the younger generations. People cannot be expected to care about their environment if they have only a poor understanding of why it is so important to them. We have put in place a number of initiatives that develop peoples understanding of the marine world. 

Even though the Philippines is a nation of over 7000 islands, it is often the case people know surprisingly little about the sea, even though they have such a close relationship to it. With education comes the ability to make decisions and take action.  

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