Seacology is a nonprofit charitable organization headquartered in Berkeley, California that focuses on preserving island ecosystems and cultures around the world. Founded in 1991, it began with the work of ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox, who researched tropical plants and their medicinal value in the village of Falealupo in Samoa during the mid-1980s.
Seacology helps protect island habitats and assist local communities by offering villages a unique deal: if they agree to create a forest or marine reserve, we’ll provide funds for something the village needs, like a schoolhouse or health clinic.
Since 1991, we’ve worked with over 200 villages on 149 islands in 51 countries, helping to protect nearly 2 million acres of some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems.
The extinction crisis facing ecosystems around the world is most threatening on islands, where over half of all animal extinctions in the past 500 years have occurred. From coral reefs to mangrove forests, the world’s islands house a multitude of unique habitats and wildlife.
At the same time, island communities are under increased pressure to boost economic development even at the cost of environmental damage. As many of the world’s most vulnerable islands are also among the smallest, these ecological gems are often overlooked.
Our win-win approach tackles both environmental threats and humanitarian challenges, creating marine and terrestrial reserves on islands while improving the quality of life for the surrounding community.
We find solutions by asking islanders to identify a communal need Seacology can provide, such as a school or a fresh water delivery system. In exchange, the village agrees to protect a nearby marine or terrestrial area.
At Seacology, we believe that environmental issues are human issues, too. By providing a benefit – be it a health center, a school, or a water system – in exchange for the creation of a nature reserve, we ensure the reserve works in everyone’s interests.
Many rural islanders rely on their natural resources for their livelihoods, and when park restrictions conflict with these needs, then these restrictions are routinely ignored.
Community-wide agreements address these issues to find a solution that works for everyone’s interests. Excluding examples:
Restricting fishing in Jamaica’s Oracabessa Bay results in more fish in adjacent areas.
Distributing alternative cooking equipment around Panama’s Escudo de Veraguas island means villagers won’t need to cut down mangroves (home to the critically endangered pygmy sloth) to use as fuel.
Funding a new school in Samoa’s Falealupo means village leaders won’t need to sell logging rights in order to pay for better education for their kids.
How we work
We operate with a small staff out of an office in Berkeley, California and rely on a network of part-time field representatives around the world. These field representatives work directly with island communities and local NGOs to oversee Seacology projects and to seek out new project opportunities.
Because each island village we work with has different needs and circumstances, each project we do is different.
In consultation with staff, our field representatives negotiate the terms of the agreement with villages – what will be protected, and what they need in return. Once a tentative agreement is set, the project is submitted to our Board of Directors for approval for funding.