February 2016 (9:4)

Issue PDF archive:

Dear MEAM subscribers,

Starting with this issue, MEAM will pair some of its articles with live online events – chats and webinars – to provide additional opportunities for interactive discussion and knowledge sharing on critical topics. MEAM will work with OpenChannels.org and the EBM Tools Network to host these events.

And as a reminder, you can learn more about and subscribe for the new e-mail discussion list for ocean planners - the Ocean Planning Community listserv – at https://www.openchannels.org/community/ocean-planning-community.

Best wishes for your work,

Sarah Carr

MEAM Editor

meam [at] openchannels.org

To some in conservation and resource management, marketing can seem like a bad word, connoting gimmickry, manipulation, consumerism, or overconsumption. But marketing is inherently about getting people to change their behavior, whether it is buying a product, recycling, or supporting a new approach to management.

Marketing techniques, honed by the commercial sector, bring together elements of psychology, sociology, economics, and graphic design. They help marketers: 1) understand people and how they make decisions, 2) build relationships with them, 3) create awareness of products/issues, 4) ensure audiences understand the relevance of those products/issues to their lives, and 5) rigorously analyze performance to continually improve techniques.

Conservation and management efforts can benefit from marketing because effective conservation and management are also about getting people – resource users, resource managers, consumers, local citizens, politicians, etc. – to change their behavior. In some cases, the desired changes are ending human behaviors/activities with negative environmental impacts such as poaching. In others, it is encouraging positive behaviors such as purchasing sustainably sourced seafood. For ocean planning and marine EBM, convincing skeptical or disinterested stakeholders to participate collaboratively in ocean planning processes is a particular challenge.

To learn more about what EBM and MSP practitioners can, and should, learn from marketing to make their processes more effective, MEAM spoke with three conservation marketing experts – Diogo Veríssimo, Nicole Lampe, and Kristian Teleki.

Diogo Veríssimo is a David H. Smith Research Fellow with Rare and Georgia State University focusing on improving conservation outreach. Nicole Lampe is a vice president at Resource Media, a nonprofit public relations firm that helps develop and execute smart communications strategies for the environment and public health. Kristian Teleki is director of global engagement with the Global Ocean Commission, a high level initiative that developed recommendations to end overfishing and habitat and biodiversity loss in the ocean and improve high seas governance. He was formerly a vice president at SeaWeb, a non-profit organization that uses social marketing research and ocean science to increase awareness of critical ocean issues.

  • Connect with Diogo by e-mail at vdiogo [at] gsu.edu or on Twitter at @verissimodiogo and learn more about his work at www.diogoverissimo.com.
  • Connect with Nicole by e-mail at nicole [at] resource-media.org or on Twitter at @nicole_amber and learn more about her work at http://www.resource-media.org/nicole-lampe.
  • Connect with Kristian by e-mail at kristian.teleki [at] globaloceancommission.org or on Twitter at @kristianteleki and learn more about his work at http://www.globaloceancommission.org.

MEAM: What are some of the biggest lessons ocean planners and managers can learn from the marketing world to improve EBM and MSP outcomes?

Veríssimo: The biggest benefit that marketing offers EBM and MSP processes is helping them ensure that the target groups they aim to engage are placed at the center of all outreach messages, activities, and campaigns. It is common for conservation and management actions to be framed around the values of those conducting or sponsoring them rather than around the values of the groups that are most affected or most central to success.

Marketing at its core is about identifying which groups are fundamental for the change you are hoping to see, how they relate to the issue at hand, and what is the exchange of benefits that you are proposing. It is generally pretty easy to describe what you want others to do, but it is harder to explain in a meaningful way what others have to gain by engaging in this new behavior. This is where marketing research comes into play. To be able to get your message across, you need to really understand your target audience and be able to see the issue through their values and within their social and cultural context.

Lampe: The first rule of strategic communications is to meet people where they are. For ocean planning efforts, this means connecting with people around their relationship to the resource. Is it a source of jobs for the community? Is local seafood important to the region? Are there beloved coastal areas that will be addressed in the plan?

Next, it’s helpful to identify the problem(s) your work is designed to address in terms that will be familiar to your audience. What are the specific threats, and how will they impact people’s lives (especially their plates and pocketbooks)? Finally, explain how EBM will help solve that problem and invite people to get involved.

The basic formula for a “message” looks like this:

Value + Problem or Threats + Solution + Call to Action

For example, in our work with ocean advocates on MPA planning in Southern California, we started by talking about the ocean as integral to the local lifestyle. Coastal hotspots like La Jolla and Malibu are popular with residents and visitors alike, supporting a multi-million dollar tourism and recreation economy in addition to thriving fisheries. We described how climate change, coastal development, and increased demand for fresh seafood are threatening beloved coastal areas. We explained how MPAs – or “underwater parks,” as we called them to make the connection to terrestrial parks that already enjoy broad support – help buffer against these threats, allowing sea life to recover and thrive. Finally, we noted that the state was seeking input from ocean users and relying on local expertise to ensure the system of protected areas served everyone’s needs, and we listed opportunities get involved.

Teleki: Social marketing is not a new idea. In the 1970s, professional marketers realized that the principles that were being used to sell products to consumers could also be used to sell ideas, attitudes, and behaviors. For the EBM and MSP communities, social marketing provides a tool to show how putting EBM into practice can benefit society. The basic principle of consumer marketing — that is, benefit vs. cost — applies to social marketing as well. If the benefits of the policy or behavior change outweigh the costs, it is likely to be adopted.

A simple phrase that I learned in my first few days at SeaWeb, and one I wish someone had whispered in my ear many years before that, is “Start where your audience is, not where you want them to be.” This for me is the ‘elevator pitch’ and basis for any social marketing effort. Today, for anyone who will listen, I call this ‘step zero’ of a project and strongly advocate for it to be built into project design and budgeting. I look back at a number of projects I was involved with in the past and had I better understood the principles of social marketing, I would have managed them differently and might have achieved more positive and successful outcomes in a shorter amount of time.

Your objective should be to bring your stakeholder groups with you on the ‘project journey’ to the outcomes for which you have planned. Find out what they know and understand and listen carefully to what they have to say. Then design your project with them as active participants, not bystanders. This may seem obvious, but I have seen countless examples of ocean managers who have an objective and want to hit the ground running. They make assumptions about what their stakeholders know and run into obstacle after obstacle, slowing the projects and wasting valuable resources. Getting to know your audience and walking a mile in their shoes will pay dividends in reaching successful outcomes more quickly.

MEAM: What are your main marketing tips for ocean planners and managers?



  • Think about who your target audience is. An intervention never targets everyone in a community in the same way. To target everyone is to target no one. Prioritizing interventions among groups will make your strategy clearer and more likely to succeed.
  • Use market research as a way to know your target audience. Personal experience and interactions are likely to be strongly biased, and well-designed surveys, focus groups, or interviews can greatly improve your understanding of your target audience.
  • Be rigorous when it comes to evaluating your efforts. Knowing if a given activity or campaign has succeeded is the only way to constantly improve.


  • Don’t use terms such as social marketing, social media, advertising, or public relations as if they all mean the same thing. Although definitions vary, few would argue any of these are synonyms! Here is a short glossary:
    • Marketing is the overall process of communicating and delivering products to a target audience through a mix of product, price, place, and promotion
    • Social marketing is a process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate, and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviors that benefit society as well as the target audience
    • Social media are more personal and interactive forms of message delivery than are traditional mass media. From a conceptual perspective, these electronic systems are similar to print, broadcast, and outdoor media such as billboards and posters
    • Advertising is a means of communicating to a target audience using mostly paid media such as television, radio, the Internet, and print publications
    • Public relations is a communication method used by businesses to convey a positive image to a target audience and other members of the public.


  1. Lead with shared values. You are likely targeting people who love or rely on the ocean, so acknowledge their interest in its long-term health and invite them to help steward it.
  2. Use plain English. Spell acronyms out. Avoid jargon and scientific terms. Instead of using a phrase like Ecosystem-Based Management or getting mired in explaining the process, talk about the results.
  3. Localize. People care most about what is happening right in their backyard, so focus on local problems and solutions even if the planning effort covers a broader geography.
  4. Call out beloved places and critters by name.
  5. Identify the problem or threats, but focus on solutions and benefits to communities. We want to inspire hope and action, not despair.


  1. Constantly remind yourself (throughout both planning and implementation) to “Start where you audience is, not where you want them to be.” This is the guiding principle of social marketing and should be your litmus test for how to proceed. Your stakeholders must recognize for themselves that there is a problem or an issue that they need to overcome or address. They must also see that the benefits of change outweigh the costs. If neither of these things happen, you are likely setting yourself up for failure.
  2. Seek authoritative and credible voices that are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do. Have fishermen talk about fishing and surfers talk about the ocean. Passionate advocates can accelerate change among their peers, excite the media, and influence politicians and policy.
  3. Remember your social marketing objective is not to influence the behavior of the masses. This is far too costly and virtually impossible to accomplish. Rather you want to build support for the change you are trying to achieve by enabling society’s (or your stakeholders’) ‘gatekeepers’ and opinion leaders to advocate for that change.

MEAM: Do you have any examples of how these actions have helped ocean planning or marine EBM projects in the past?

Veríssimo: I am currently involved in Fish Forever, a project which aims to use social marketing as a tool to empower local communities to manage their coastal fisheries in a sustainable way. Fish Forever uses the implementation of Territorial Use Rights for Fishing (TURF) reserves as a key management tool and is currently being implemented in five countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Mozambique, and Belize. To my knowledge, this is the first time that social marketing has been used at such a global scale in the realm of marine conservation, although Rare, one of the project partners, has been using social marketing to promote marine conservation for more than a decade.

Lampe: In the case of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, effective community outreach and organizing resulted in tremendous public engagement. California had tens of thousands of people attend meetings or submit comments during the planning period, and many stakeholder groups remain engaged in MPA monitoring and education and stewardship programs through a series of Coastal Collaboratives.

Teleki: SeaWeb provides a number of useful EBM tools and resources related to social marketing. Of particular note is ‘Trade-Off’, a board game that lets you play the role of different coastal stakeholders – natural resource managers, commercial fishers, scientists, developers, elected officials, and others – who negotiate uses and activities in a coastal community. During the game, a coastal management plan takes shape, and the stakeholders gain an understanding of the compatibility and potential conflicts of multiple-use objectives.

Learn more about how conservation marketing can help your work

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net

Marine conservationists have long bemoaned the lack of attention to the field. It is assumed that if only we could reach everyone and make them care, they would do the right thing and ocean health would get better. So the mantra and raison d’etre of environmental NGOs that campaign for oceans – and where a lot of donor dollars end up – has become ‘Get the message out, and all will be right.’ But marketing conservation is not simple, and this tool requires careful consideration for a couple of reasons.

Messaging alone doesn’t work

First of all, messaging through advertising alone does not necessarily achieve one of the principal aims of marketing, that is, getting people to change their behavior. I recently heard the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids”, citing a study about young people and what can be done to get them to make intelligent and rational choices, even if that meant foregoing immediate satisfaction for longer-term gains. The story was about food choices and healthy eating, not EBM, but the findings are broadly applicable. It turns out that messaging can work – but it takes a long time, sometimes generations, for the message to lead to a change in behavior. However if that behavior change is incentivized, good choices are made immediately.

Let’s look at flagship species in this new light. The sea turtle is a favored flagship, and much of the recent news on sea turtles has been good. In the US, some green sea turtles populations have gone from Endangered to Threatened status, and elsewhere in the world, other sea turtle populations are also recovering (although not all are doing so). Did these population rebounds come about purely because NGOs sank a lot of money into telling the sea turtle story? Was it solely because showing images of female turtles coming ashore to nest, fighting all the odds, is a proven way to get people to protect them? Did the collective perception that turtles are wonderful animals that have been around for 60 million years and deserve to be around for many more put an end to the killing of turtles for meat, eggs, and tortoiseshell?

Well, no – not really. In addition to marketing the wonder of sea turtles (and the wonder of NGOs committed to saving sea turtles), conservationists and managers came up with incentives to get people to stop killing them and taking their eggs. These incentives reward people for protecting turtles or punish them for harming turtles (such as imposing fines when turtles are caught as by-catch in trawl fisheries).

I recently visited the tiny fishing village El Ñuro in northern Peru where the benefits of incentivizing sea turtle conservation are readily apparent. In this town in the middle of nowhere, light years away from the cosmopolitan capital Lima, villagers have created Paraiso Natural de las Tortugas – a natural ‘amusement park’ made from a converted fishing pier frequented by sea turtles. The day I visited, throngs of visitors were there swimming with the turtles, having paid the entrance fee, gone through the information kiosk, and bought turtle bracelets (not of tortoiseshell) and t-shirts. Residents and fishers from a wide area have realized the worth of using by-catch reduction gear, keeping plastic bags out of local waters, and stopping the take of adult turtles and turtle eggs for food to protect local turtle populations. Messaging alone would probably not have changed townspeople’s attitudes about turtles – but demonstrating how turtles could be more valuable alive than dead has led to their protection.

Target the right audiences

A separate issue with conservation marketing is whether messaging and marketing to promote EBM and ocean conservation reach the right audiences – the people who can effect change. If consumers drive an ocean use, they can indeed make a difference in how they consume and are therefore the right audience. This is why consumer choice campaigns revolving around sustainable seafood can lead to good conservation outcomes.

But most environmental NGO marketing and messaging is aimed at donors and supporters, not social groups whose behavior needs to change. Take those charming flagship species. Groups like WWF peddle what they do in the currency of saving charismatic species such as pandas, tigers, and elephants. The people being barraged with direct mail are not the people whose behavior needs to change to save these species. Rather the NGOs use flagships to amass funds to do conservation work. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the marketing can get out of control when monster fundraising machines need to reach more and more people to generate the funds needed to adequately advertise the good qualities of the NGO – and smaller and smaller slices of the funding go to actually doing conservation.

And the desire to promote the institutions that do conservation may be why conservation marketing rarely brings up the thorniest issues in marine management. Protecting the habitat of marine invertebrates that support entire ecosystems gets little attention – because talking about what lives in the mud isn’t sexy. Eutrophication and toxic pollution are two of the greatest threats to ocean health, but campaigning to clean up dirty coastal waters also isn’t sexy. Marketing focused on these things could indeed reach a target audience who could make a difference – the tourists who drive coastal development that in turn drives habitat loss and coastal residents who could be convinced not to douse their lawns in fertilizers and pesticides. But these people are being spared the message.

Bad news does sell – as long as it is a story told by a charismatic species with big soulful eyes. But we need to take our marketing of the oceans message beyond that – we need to be courageous and creative and start marketing to the right people about the right issues. And part and parcel with telling our stories, we need to create incentives for people to use the oceans sustainably so that we’re not just raising awareness about the right thing to do, we’re getting people to do it.

By Gregg Verutes

Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools and methods for facilitating EBM and MSP processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network (www.ebmtools.org), a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

Ocean planning requires balancing numerous competing uses such as recreation and commercial fisheries, tourism, and renewable and nonrenewable energy production. With careful planning, we can continue to engage in these and other coastal and ocean uses while protecting the natural capital that sustains these benefits.

To help meet the demand for information on how human actions affect ecosystems and the benefits that ecosystems provide to people, the Natural Capital Project (NatCap) developed the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) toolkit. One of the earliest uses of InVEST to inform coastal planning and management was a collaboration with the national government of Belize.

Putting Science into Practice in Coastal Belize

In Belize, there are numerous competing uses for the coastal zone, such as transportation vessels interfering with marine recreation activities and offshore oil exploration near critical habitat and nesting sites. While legislation passed in 1998 mandated multi-sectoral planning, a lack of information and tools and limited local capacity stalled the development of an integrated management plan. In 2010, Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMAI) partnered with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and NatCap to answer the question, “Where should we site coastal and ocean uses to reduce risk to marine ecosystems and enhance benefits they provide to people?” CZMAI served as policy lead and the convening body for stakeholders for the process; WWF served as project facilitator and science-policy bridge; and NatCap led the science and tool development.

To start answering this question, we used a risk assessment tool in InVEST to assess how threats to marine ecosystems posed by humans and other factors can modify ecosystem condition and function. After that, NatCap and CZMAI applied a suite of other models within InVEST to map and measure key ecosystem services – annual production of spiny lobster, tourism and recreation, and coastal protection in this case – and changes in value under different management scenarios (described in detail in Arkema et al. 2015).

  • To explore how the spiny lobster fishery would respond to changes in lobster habitat (i.e., seagrass, mangrove, and coral reefs) and fishing pressure, we modeled the population as nine regional, linked subpopulations (one per planning region, Figs. S2 and S14 in supporting information of Arkema et al. 2015) connected by lobster movement from juvenile habitat (mangroves and seagrass) to adult habitat (seagrass and coral reefs).​
  • To explore changes to tourism and recreation, we estimated the spatial distribution of tourism now and under the three future scenarios by modeling the relationship between visitation, human activities, and marine habitats (Fig. S16 in supporting information of Arkema et al. 2015). Tourism-related expenditures were computed by multiplying the visitation rate by estimates of tourists’ daily expenses from the Belize Tourism Board.
  • To explore changes to coastal protection, we estimated the area of land protected and the monetary value of erosion reduction in terms of avoided damages to property. Shoreline erosion and wave attenuation were modeled in the presence and absence of coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds (Fig. S17 and Refs. 9 and10 in supporting information of Arkema et al. 2015).

These InVEST tools were tested and refined throughout this Belize partnership. In particular, we used feedback from the process to improve the underlying science of each tool and design novel ways to synthesize and visualize information so it made sense to policy makers.

One important outcome of the Belize project is an “Informed Management” zoning scheme that blends development and conservation goals. This plan considers the needs of multiple sectors and stakeholders, advances the management and conservation of coastal and marine environments, and explicitly accounts for nature’s benefits to people. It is currently under review by the Belize National Assembly, and lessons from this planning process are being applied in new geographies around the world.

A webinar on the use of InVEST for coastal zone management and marine spatial planning in Belize led by the Natural Capital Project and Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority will be held on Tuesday, June 7, at 1 pm US EDT/10 am PDT/6 pm UTC. You can register for the webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4148382978668819457.

[Gregg Verutes leads NatCap's Training Program, which aims to empower partners and collaborators through in-person and online offerings. Gregg enjoys building tools that help communicate sustainability science using stories, maps, and interactive design technology. He also advises GIS analyses for marine planning processes in North America and the Caribbean, Vietnam, and the Galápagos. He can be contacted at gverutes [at] stanford.edu.]

Wetlands and seagrass restoration can now earn carbon credits

The Verified Carbon Standard, which sets guidelines for carbon accounting, has approved the Methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration (VM0033). The methodology provides procedures for calculating, reporting, and verifying greenhouse gas reductions for tidal wetland restoration projects anywhere in the world. This methodology will allow salt marsh, seagrass, mangrove, and other tidal wetland restoration projects – such as removing tidal barriers, improving water quality to increase seagrass habitat, and re-introducing native plant communities – to earn carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market, generating new sources of funding. Learn more about the new standard at https://www.estuaries.org/restoration-methodology-approval. A free webinar on the new standard will be held on February 25. Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6157987866865665538.

Researchers refute overestimates of global value of ecosystem services

A team of economists has published a short communication in the journal Marine Policy refuting recent estimates of the global value of ecosystem services (as high as $145 trillion/year in 2007 USD). Pendleton and colleagues reject estimates of the per area value of coral reefs ($352,249/ha) and coastal wetlands (as high as $193,843/ha for tidal marshes and mangroves) as gross overestimates because outlier value estimates were used. The article is available for free at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X15003620

Report offers framework for resolving commercial fishing-offshore wind conflicts

A new report “Options for Cooperation between Commercial Fishing and Offshore Wind Energy Industries” released by SeaPlan compiles best practices for addressing potential use conflicts and fostering cooperation between the commercial fishing and offshore wind energy industries. The best practices are based on a review of the literature, informal interviews with practitioners from Europe and the US, and SeaPlan’s experience working on the Block Island Wind Farm (Rhode Island, US) and related projects. The report identifies five main categories of potential concerns and tools and practices for addressing them. It is available here.

Case studies and lessons learned for engaging communities in offshore wind shared

The Island Institute has released a new report, “Engaging Communities in Offshore Wind: Case Studies and Lessons Learned from New England Islands.” The report describes best practices for designing community engagement processes and how these best practices were implemented in New England islands. The report is available at http://www.islandinstitute.org/sites/default/files/EngagingCommunitiesOffshoreWind_2015_web.pdf.

Fisheries and aquaculture vulnerability assessment steps proposed

A new publication from FAO provides an overview of vulnerability assessment concepts and methodologies, how these methodologies have been applied to fisheries and aquaculture, and illustrative examples of their application. Steps for assessing vulnerability in the fisheries and aquaculture sector are proposed to support climate change specialists working with communities dependent on fisheries and aquaculture, and fisheries and aquaculture practitioners wishing to incorporate adaptation planning into their work. Download the document at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5109e.pdf.

Editor’s Note: From the Archives calls attention to past MEAM articles whose perspectives and insight remain relevant.

Highlights from the integrated land-sea management article and related Tundi’s Take include:

  • Developing a way to coordinate upstream and downstream conservation in Fiji
  • Working with upstream farmers in Monterey Bay, California, USA
  • Improving water quality in catchments in Queensland, Australia
  • Maintaining mangrove health in Marsimas Nacionales, Mexico.

Read the article and related Tundi's Take.