"Sea" the Change

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"Sea" the Change: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Engaging local communities in Crete

GraciaHeraklion, Gracia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Creating robust social processes that empower communities to manage their human and natural resources towards a sustainable local economy.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if communities had enough knowledge, tools and support to manage their marine environment, tourism related activities and fish stocks?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Although awareness on marine environmental problems has now been improved on a citizen level, some local communities are still opposing to "green" projects. Inadequate information on existing sustainable solutions, mistrust of local authorities, NGOs, scientific institutions, investors and absence of democratic processes able to make commonly respected decisions, are the main obstacles.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We introduce a science-based but stakeholder-driven approach to designing MPAs. The key is to identify all concerned groups (fishermen, active citizens organizations, local authorities, diving centers, tourism sector representatives etc), involve them from the very beginning in public consultation and clarify that they are the ones to have the responsibility for and the last word on the issue. Actions in at least 4 communities in Crete will include: ●Knowledge transfer events concerning marine environmental problems and MPAs’ benefits to local economy ●Educational workshops on participatory methods for decision making processes ●Collaborative environmental management workshops for fundraising and MPA planning.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

There are many inspiring success stories around the globe making us even more confident that community engagement is crucial for MPAs: ●G. Stone (oceanographer) who became the main person to trust and count on by the Republic of Kiribati in order to create an enormous protected area in the middle of the Pacific, mainly because he was the only scientist to share his findings with the local community ●Paso Pacifico’s marine research projects that educate and empower citizens to achieve sustainable fisheries in Nicaragua ●C. Klein’s study stating that an MPA design proposal conducted by fishermen was more efficient than the ones designed by other stakeholder groups at representing biodiversity and minimizing impact to the fishing industry.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Surveys through questionnaires and interviews held before and after the participatory process will confirm the strengthening of the social fabric and provide critical data on the project’s measurable expected effects: ●Increase of local population’s knowledge, responsibility and familiarisation with marine conservation issues (MPAs’ benefits, sustainability, related legislation, key steps to protect coastal ecosystems etc) ●Advanced political sensitivity (citizens trained in collaborative decision making processes) ●Deepening of trust and cooperation between community members, reduction of conflicts and social rivalries ●Empowerment of active citizens groups in defending coastal sustainability ●Public opinion transformation regarding the community’s willingness to embrace and support an MPA ●Effective social control on overfishing issues and decline in illegal fishing cases.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Social enterprises will be formed in areas with strong social commitment, aiming at the realization and management of an MPA. They will deepen participatory procedures focusing on the synthesis of: 1) An economic plan, concerning funding opportunities at local, national and international level. 2) A realization plan concerning implementation and management phases of the MPA. “Sea” the Change group together with an experts network will deliver all technical know-how and necessary support. The whole process will be set up so it can easily be applied in similar case studies.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Sponsorships and fundraising are initially not desirable in order to prevent any prejudice against our initiative, but will be crucial for pilot study composition and MPA’s integration. We intend to seek finance from regional public authorities, local tourism sector, EU programs and scientific institutions. Concerning the MPA’s operating expenses, they will be sustained by revenue generation from low-intensity sea-park activities.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Most relevant projects deal with public acceptance using a top-down approach, applying participatory methods where an MPA is already installed. Our competitive advantage is a bottom-up process that incorporates community’s feedback without any predetermined decisions. Moreover, since scientists propose networks of small MPA’s rather than just a large one, initiatives similar to our project held by NGOs, oceanographic centers, universities, local authorities or other stakeholders, are not considered as competitors, but as allies in the direction of sustainable coastal community development.

Founding Story

While working on a coastal zone management project in Elefsina, one of the most intensely industrialised regions of Greece, Alekos -our team’s instigator- had to deal with citizens demanding honest solutions on complex problems in their area. He found it really hard to interact with locals, mainly because of their high distrust of any institution, until he started patiently listening to what they had to propose. It was a pleasant surprise to see public opinion changing in a few months: systematic cooperation on a sincere and equivalent basis ended up with Alekos receiving hospitality invitations instead of people’s initial disapproval and realizing that sharing responsibility is a key to sustainable environmental solutions in a community!


Alekos Pantazis, Environmental Engineer, Msc in Marine Technology and Science, skilled in MPAs, participatory processes and adult education. Nikos Nikiforakis, Environmental Engineer, skilled in project management and environmental legislation. Manolis Ntoumas, Electronics Engineer, Msc in Marine Technology and Science. Skilled in environmental monitoring and marine engineering.
About You
5 Privet Kindergartens
About You
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Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

5 Privet Kindergartens

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, CR, Heraklion

Country where this project is creating social impact

, CR

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Businesses, Regional government, Other.

Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

Alekos Pantazis' latest related partnerships:

From May to July 2008 Alekos was member of the field research trip “Planning of a network of marine reserves in the area of Cyclades, Aegean” organized by Dr. Sylvain Giakoumi (Research fellow, University of Queensland and HCMR).
His main tasks were underwater field observations and measurements (fish counts, rugosity) across the coastline of 17 Cyclades islands, interviewing fishermen and recording their problems and their opinion on Marine Protected Areas.
The aforementioned research trip was organized by the University of Aegean, Department of Sea Sciences.

From January 2008 to September 2008 Alekos was working on the evaluation of a methodology for the planning of marine reserve networks in Cyclades, held by the National Centre of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of environment energy & climate change.

From October 2007 to January 2008 Alekos was member of the EU project BEACHMED-e "Strategic management of beach protection for sustainable development of Mediterranean coastal zones" working for the Foundation for Research and Technology (Heraklion) on the conduction of two coastal engineering studies in Crete (Rethymno and Kokkinos Pirgos).

From November 2010 to May 2011, Alekos was interacting with local authorities and organizations (Municipality of Rethymno, fishermen association, Geneeral Chemical State Laboratory and more) as an educator and coordinator of the "Citizen's of Rethymno Ecological Footprint" educational research project.

Nikos Nikiforakis’ latest related Partnerships:

Nikos has been working as an independent contractor for the Environmental Department of the Urban Planning Service (Prefecture of Chania - Crete) for 3 years (May 2008 to November 2009 and December 2005 to May 2007). Dealing with legal authorization of various projects and activities was critical to familiarizing with the complexity of environmental legislation.