Press Release

Rare to Bolster Local Efforts Combatting Overfishing Along the Mesoamerican Reef

September 5, 2018

(ARLINGTON, VA) Rare announced plans today to connect Fish Forever, its coastal fisheries program, to ongoing, locally-led efforts to combat overfishing in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR). Fish Forever is designed to revitalize coastal marine habitats by empowering communities with control over their fisheries, inspiring them to manage local waters more sustainably, and providing a successful community-focused model for nations and the world.

Stretching over 1,100 km, from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the northern coast of Honduras, the MAR is the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere. The livelihood of over two million people across the region depend directly on the health of the reef. Yet overfishing continues to jeopardize these livelihoods and communities across the region.

Watch Bright Spots, our film series produced in partnership with the Summit Foundation highlighting these grassroots initiatives to fight overfishing.

Rare will partner with local governments, fisher associations, fisher groups and other local organizations in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico to catalyze and connect grassroots initiatives that can protect the reef system and improve livelihoods for fishers and their communities—leveraging this momentum into a movement for national and regional adoption of local, community-based coastal fisheries management.

Rare’s Fish Forever work in the MAR will include:

  • Building the enabling policy environment and governance framework to support management at local levels and empower coastal fishing communities to participate in decision-making;
  • Inspiring communities to adopt a Managed Access with Reserves approach, which provides exclusive access to local fishers and establishes fully protected “no-take” reserves where fishing is off-limits, and network them together to maximize ecological and social benefits;
  • Providing local leaders and key stakeholders with tools, capacity and technical support to lead behavior adoption campaigns for community-led conservation and sustainable fishing practices;
  • Deploying tools to facilitate better data-collection for decision making and effective management;
  • Building ‘financial inclusion’ to enable fisher households to retain and build wealth which also incentivizes sustainable fishing practices.

“Overfishing jeopardizes millions of livelihoods that depend on the Mesoamerican Reef,” said Brett Jenks, President and CEO of Rare. “The good news is there are bright spots—examples across the region of grassroots efforts to stop overfishing and secure community buy-in for more sustainable practices. We plan to build on the great work already being done and empower more communities to protect the health of the reef, the livelihoods of fishers, and food and economic security across the region.”

“We know that the Fish Forever works, both in terms of regenerating marine life and building hope and trust in communities,” said Dr. Steve Box, Senior Vice President of Fish Forever. “Combining it with the grassroots momentum that is already building in communities across the region will provide a potent force for positive change in communities and countries that depend on this vital natural resource.”

Earlier this year, Rare released a review of its Fish Forever program, which focused on identifying biological, social and policy results of Rare’s work with local communities. The report, “Stemming the Tide of Coastal Overfishing: Fish Forever Program Results 2012-2017,”examined five years’ worth of data from more than 250 communities in three countries—Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines—and synthesized data from 2,400 in-water surveys of coral reefs, 15,000 individual and household surveys, and the landing record from nearly 56,000 fishing trips.

Launched in 2012, the Fish Forever approach is centered on a “Managed Access with Reserves,” where local fishers receive exclusive access to local waters and a no-take reserve is established within the managed access area so fish and other marine life can recover. Rare works with local partners to build community support for the approach through Pride campaigns that use insights from behavioral science and tactics from social marketing to promote the adoption of sustainable practices.


A 4-star Charity Navigator-ranked NGO, Rare is a global leader in the use of behavior change to achieve conservation and development goals. Rare inspires people to take pride in the natural resources that make their communities unique, while also introducing practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. Rare has trained more than 400 community leaders and government employees in 56 countries in campaign planning and social marketing, equipping them to deliver community-based solutions based on natural and social science, while leveraging policy and market forces to accelerate positive environmental change. Rare then works to scale that impact to help deliver the same kind of change elsewhere. To learn more about Rare, please visit and follow us on Twitter: @rare_org.