Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning


With the help of our NGO and government partners, SFG develops and deploys management interventions to improve the biological and economic performance of fisheries worldwide. The benefits of such conservation interventions are often uncertain, sometimes occurring several years after the intervention is put in place. SFG is addressing this issue of uncertainty by developing models that forecast the environmental, economic, and social outcomes expected to result from these interventions. By monitoring how fisheries respond to interventions relative to our forecasts, we are able to learn something about them, and improve their design over time. Furthermore, the reliable information generated by our forecasts can serve as a guiding framework for philanthropic foundations that want to make smarter investment decisions and maximize their positive impact. 

Marine Conservation Impact Evaluation: Fish Forever  

Are communities better off? Leveraging perceptions data in the impact evaluation of small-scale fisheries interventions

Using both objective and perceived measures of success across diverse stakeholder objectives, we are evaluating the performance of a global rollout of small-scale fisheries management interventions. Effective impact evaluation is critical to understanding how well interventions work so they can be improved and scaled over time. These evaluations typically focus on objective measures of ecological impact and exclude perceived measures of socioeconomic impact. But unlike community perceptions, which may respond to interventions quickly and ultimately drive long-term conservation behavior, ecological responses are not always apparent over short time scales. Over the past several years, an initiative called Fish Forever has implemented behavior change campaigns in 41 sites across Brazil, Indonesia, and the Philippines in order to establish TURF-Reserves (community-based territorial use rights for fishing areas coupled with no-take marine reserves). The goal of the program is to improve ecological, economic, and social conditions for these fishing communities. To evaluate the program, a set of common ecological, economic, and social indicators was collected before and after the campaigns across intervention sites and at a subset of matched control sites. These indicators include objective ecological indicators collected through underwater visual surveys, as well as subjective indicators of behavior change and perceived socioeconomic well-being. We are currently analyzing these data in order to measure the program’s success in meeting diverse management objectives, and to glean broader lessons learned for monitoring and evaluation of marine conservation and small-scale fisheries interventions.

Forecasting the Impacts of the Vibrant Oceans Initiative

SFG is developing an innovative approach to forecasting the impacts of marine conservation interventions. Diverse stakeholder groups, including philanthropic foundations, investment groups, NGOs, and local governments, all have a vested interest in knowing the likely impacts of the management interventions they are applying to fisheries in unique ecological, economic, and political contexts. One way to evaluate a proposed management intervention is by forecasting the outcomes it is likely to produce, such as increases in fisher profits, catches, and fish abundance in the water. Forecasts of future benefits can be useful in guiding strategic planning, securing investments, promoting interest and support in a project, and informing the design of more effective interventions. Although there is always uncertainty in forecasting future conditions, SFG is using state-of-the-art techniques to provide NGO’s, investors, and managers with valuable information that can improve the design and outcomes of conservation interventions in fisheries around the world.
Underpinning SFG's fisheries forecasting efforts is a world class bioeconomic modeling framework. This framework allows researchers to synthesize various pieces of information on a fishery, even a data-limited fishery, and then forecast the likely outcomes of proposed management interventions. The framework was first launched in a 2016 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For this research project, SFG and a large group of collaborators developed a database on the current status of over 4,700 fisheries around the world, representing 78% of global reported catch. Using this database and our bioeconomic model, we were able to forecast the likely impacts of fishery reform at a global scale. Our forecasts indicate that if sound management interventions were applied to all fisheries within the dataset, global fisheries could generate annual increases in excess of 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, $53 billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass in the water relative to a business-as-usual scenario.
Most recently, SFG has been using this framework in a collaborative multi-stakeholder process to assess the effects of diverse management interventions on a specific set of fisheries. Building on the technical backbone of the bioeconomic model, we have developed a structured process for engaging with partners and local scientists to (1) improve the data and assumptions going into the model, and (2) refine and interpret the results coming out of the model. We have tailored our forecasts for specific countries and management interventions using the best available data and local knowledge, and we are currently conducting analyses on interventions in Chile, Philippines, Brazil.