About Us

Introducing Marine Conservation without Borders:

Promoting Marine Conservation, Education, and Sustainability

Robby Thigpen’s interest in marine conservation began when working in South Carolina as a commercial fisherman in the early 1980s. His career brought him ashore and around the world through the 1990s, and in the mid-2000s he returned to the sea when he began formally studying marine biology, ecology, and anthropology. It was during this time that I first met Robby. He contacted me as he was preparing to endeavor on his first of many projects focused on fisheries in the Caribbean. Numerous phone calls and correspondence helped to frame-up one of early projects, an internship studying the lobster fisheries in Belize, with financial support from a Gilman International Scholarship and institutional support from the Northern Fishermen’s Cooperative Society. I did not know at the time that a foundation was being laid for a long term relationship toward marine conservation shaped by locally appropriate content and locally relevant voices

From these early conversations with me and a few other marine scientists, Robby has built an extensive network of professionals with experience and interest in marine ecosystems and fisheries in the Caribbean and beyond. About five years into this journey he proposed the idea that is the genesis of this volume and the basis of a series of other related resources to promote marine conservation in communities and classrooms around the world. The ideas was simple, but his subtle twist was just the right blend of conservation, anthropology, linguistics, and marine science…show why conservation is important by using examples from environments familiar to the people (mostly fishing people and their children) in the countries you want to target and relate the message through the voices of scientists, professionals, and fishing people from these countries and in the languages they speak. Locally appropriate, locally relevant, locally meaningful.

To help tell this story, Robby tapped into his growing network from around the world. The result was a deep and broad array of volunteers whose contributions helped shape this project, including: anthropologists, artists, biologists, educators, fishers, fishing cooperatives, fishery professionals, geologists, linguists, marine scientists, photographers, and resource managers. This interdisciplinary mixture led to the founding of Marine Conservation without Borders, a non-profit organization focused on developing a series of educational resources. We aim to deliver content that is a blended balance of scientific accuracy, conservationist values, and local relevancy for fishing communities – designed to build foundations for sustainability. Our goal is to instill the values and behaviors of conservation to promote lasting fishing livelihoods and marine ecosystems. To this end, Marine Conservation without Borders provides sound and relevant conservation education shaped for use by local audiences.

This project’s collaborators share a passion for understanding and protecting fisheries species and the ecosystems in which they live and migrate. Equally, we are concerned with supporting the livelihoods and lifeways of the people who depend on these marine resources and environments. We aim to demonstrate this by tempering the knowledge and practice of marine science with an equally strong commitment to make clear the goals of why one would endeavor on this path to promoting sustainability. Why do we need to understand and change fishing and other behaviors in the marine ecosystem? To ensure resources are made available for future generations to earn their livelihoods from them. This is accomplished by conceiving of and prioritizing goals for sustainability of marine ecosystems with fishing communities and people’s livelihoods as a singular objective. How communities derive their livelihoods may change, but supporting communities to build sustainable economic, social, and environmental platforms on which to base their livelihoods is fundamental. We build toward this goal by delivering conservation education resources in packages accessible to readers, young and old, in the marine communities on which we focus.

This initial collection of books relates lessons and messages of conservation as “Treasures of the Caribbean”. This inaugural project of Marine Conservation without Borders is a unique multi-language, multi-cultural marine science educational resource. Apart from positive impacts derived from instilling the values and behaviors important to promote marine conservation and sustainability, this project aims to promote cultural and language preservation. The target audience for this series of linguistically relevant books is the greater Caribbean basin, written in locally appropriate languages from across the region. Each edition in this series presents a “home” country voice and each volume is available in a locally translated and relevant language. These communities have rich histories and traditions, but as is common in rural, sometimes marginalized, segments of modern national states these languages and histories are infrequently recorded in writing. One powerful contribution of this series is in adding to, and in some cases beginning, the production of marine science and conservation educational material in the languages and for the communities where little or none of this type of printed material has existed. Of particular note are versions for Belize and Honduras that feature Kriol, Mopán, Kekchí, Garifuna and Miskitu, respectively, among the first and few scientific-based educational publications in these languages.

At Marine Conservation without Borders, our priority is in making marine science concepts and principles of conservation relevant and accessible to the people who use and derive livelihoods from the marine environment. This work makes it real for local folks by delivering scientific messages in local languages using both local and scientific taxonomic descriptions. We are looking beyond the national borders laid across these shared resources, considering the broader ecosystems in their whole, both within nations and between them. By tailoring each edition with recognizable local voices and offering editions in languages spoken by target audiences, we are moving toward overcoming cultural and linguistic boundaries, increasing the likelihood of our conservation message to take hold across communities throughout the Caribbean region. The generous contributions of our collaborators will undoubtedly return equally significant and valuable results for the people and marine ecologies in the Caribbean and around the world.

Thomas Dean King, PhD

Marine Conservation without Borders