Monday, November 27, 2006

New James Bond flick brings Blue Ventures alum to the big screen

The new James Bond flick, Casino Royale, brings 007 to Madagascar for his first mission, and a former Blue Ventures staff member to the big screen.

Eric Jaona, a Malagasy national and former translator with Blue Ventures, provided background voices to several scenes in the spy thriller.

Early in the film, Bond is sent to Madagascar to track down terrorist spies. At one point, he chases the villain through a market where locals yell and cheer as they wager on a fight between a cobra and a mongoose.

Jaona was brought in to provide an authentic Malagasy voice for the scene. Jaona, who lives in London, didn’t travel all the way to Madagascar for the film, but recorded the background voice in a London sound studio.

“We first watched all the scenes and then we recorded the voices, working from a script,” Jaona said. “My friends say they can hear my voice in the film, but there are a lot of people talking during the scene.”

The film unfortunately does not show any of Madagascar’s beautiful natural areas – instead Bond is seen running through a market and a construction site – but Jaona said he is glad the film is bringing new attention to the island nation.

“Even in Madagascar, they have put together a marketing campaign around the film,” he said. “They say Madagascar is the island of James Bond.”

Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, and is home to some of the world’s most biologically diverse marine habitats.

These habitats, however, are facing growing threats as populations increase along coastal areas and more and more fishing companies discover the richness of Madagascar’s waters.

Blue Ventures is working with local communities to protect these threatened resources and develop alternative livelihoods to destructive fishing practices. It’s a mission worthy of James Bond.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wish you were here?-Report from the site doctor

It has been 2 months now since I arrived on site and started my new role as the expedition medic- or “Raduku” as the Malagasy folks call me, but there isn’t a day that goes by without my having to remind myself at some point how lucky I am to be here.

The scenery is stunning, and I wake up every day to the gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore and the sound of goats getting up to mischief under my cabin. Before or after breakfast we dive, and mealtimes are generally spent discussing the “viz,” what new discoveries have been made to science and always guaranteed some air space is the weather!

The climate here is generally described as “hot,” “very hot” or just “too darn hot” The sea is usually said to be “calm” “excellent for diving” and “great for swimming,” the afternoon breeze both “welcome” and “refreshing.”

When there’s spare time its great to spend it in your hammock learning all about algae, corals and fishes, this “study time” is required to pass all the exams (computer and in-water) prior to conducting any science at sea. So once the exams are out of the way this “hammock time” once again becomes your own, and then its up to you to choose how to spend it. Some of my favourite past times have included-relaxing and doing absolutely nothing just staring out to sea, reading a novel, going for a dip in the turquoise waters, playing with the Vezo children, preparing my English lesson or doing some octopus data entry (Whoopee!)

Today I shall be taking a walk into the village where I can buy some nuts for the staff meeting making sure that I stop along the way to play with the children on the beach. Maybe I will go beyond the village up to the Northern beaches where the foundations are being prepared to build the Eco lodge and see how our project is coming along.

It is very interesting knowing that you are playing a part in the day to day activities that contribute to the development of a Marine Protected Area and it is exciting to see how the long term vision for environmental tourism in this area is being developed. I am proud to say that I am a part of it- I highly recommend that you are too.

Yvette (Medical Officer)

New experiences

After one bus ride, three plane flights, and five car trips I finally made it to Chez Antione at 1am to be greeted by a couple of volunteers; I had to wait till breakfast the following morning to meet the rest of the Volunteers and staff. At breakfast I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that an old friend from school was there. Its funny how small the world is.With breakfast and the swim test behind me I started to get settled in my new home in the sun. I have to thank all the staff and volunteers for making me feel at home and teaching me about the local culture. Before I really got to say hello and do my compulsory tai-be as a new member of staff, the volunteers were gone and interphase had begun.For me this is when I got to spend time to get to know the Coco beach staff, local village characters and I also managed to visit the surrounding area and islands. Ten windy days later the site was bubbling with renewed activity as a fresh group of volunteers arrived. The next couple of days involved several briefings and the compulsory swim test. With the volunteers itching to get wet I got started with scuba tune-ups, openwater, and advanced courses. I am happy to say that now two weeks later all volunteers are at least PADI Advanced Openwater divers and a few are already benthic enabled!!So four weeks in Madagascar, six bags of peanuts and a gallon of galleuke later, I am still here, happy and excited about my future here in Andavadoaka.

Pierre –Dive Manager

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blue Ventures wins 'Highly Commended' Honours in the Enterprising Young Brits Award

Blue Ventures Founder and Director of Science Alasdair Harris yesterday received the “Highly Commended” award from the Enterprising Young Brits competition which recognizes young entrepreneurs who have turned their ideas into successful businesses.
Harris, who was selected from more than 1,000 entries across the UK, won the award for social and environmental ventures that combine the principles of a successful business with an emphasis on social and community benefits.
“This award is not only an honour for Blue Ventures, but more importantly it shows that environmental conservation can make for good business,” Harris said. “I hope this award will encourage more businesses to participate in the conservation of our natural resources and other socially-minded activities.”
Harris in 2003 co-founded Blue Ventures which brings paying volunteers to Madagascar and trains them in scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation. All revenue raised through the expeditions is channelled directly back into the conservation of threatened coral reefs and other marine resources that local communities rely upon for survival.
Chancellor Gordon Brown Chancellor greeted the winners and handed out the awards during yesterday’s ceremonies that were part of Enterprise Week, a national celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Along with the Highly Commended award, Harris and Blue Ventures have been featured in a new film that will be shown across the UK highlighting social entrepreneurship. The film, which will debut on Downing Street on Thursday 16 November, is part of the Government’s new Social Enterprise Action Plan. That plan sets out the next chapter in the Government’s continuing support for social enterprises, helping to create the conditions to enable them to thrive.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vote for your favorite entrepreneur

Blue Ventures' own Alasdair Harris, director of science and co-founder, has been nominated for the "Enterprising Young Brits" award, a national and highly prestigious competition that recognizes young entrepreneurs who have turned their ideas into reality. Alasdair and Blue Ventures have been nominated under the category of Social and Environmental enterprise.

Along with the formal competition, the Enterprising Young Brits judges have also launched a "People's Choice" award where anyone can vote for their favourite nominee.

The People's Choice competition will bring national and international attention to the winner, along with critical financial support.

You can cast your vote until noon, Tuesday 14 November, by clicking here and visiting the Enterprising Young Brits website.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blue Ventures Honoured by Responsible Tourism Awards for Work with Volunteers in Madagascar

Blue Ventures was honoured yesterday by the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards for its work with volunteers to protect threatened marine habitats in Madagascar.

During ceremonies at the Excel Conference Centre in London, Blue Ventures was Highly Commended in the category for Best Volunteering Organisation.

“With the growing debate over tourism and its impact on the environment, the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards are an important reminder that people can enjoy their holidays in ways that benefit both people and nature,” said Richard Nimmo, managing director of Blue Ventures. “Blue Ventures believes tourism can be a powerful conservation tool, providing incentives to keep natural resources healthy and productive.”

The First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards are the largest of their kind and recognize tourism organisations that respect and benefit local people and places. Blue Ventures was chosen from among 1200 nominations.

Blue Ventures brings more than 100 paying volunteers to Madagascar each year, training them in SCUBA diving, scientific research and on-the-ground conservation. Their work protects threatened coral reefs and other marine habitats that local communities rely upon for survival.

The First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards are sponsored by, The Times and Geographical Magazine.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blue Ventures launches new shark monitoring programme

Blue Ventures today announced the launch of a new project that will monitor and protect threatened populations of shark.

The three-year project, funded in part by the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Project Aware Foundation, will monitor the number and species of sharks killed each year by fishermen in southwest Madagascar and develop conservation plans to prevent destructive overfishing practices.

“Sharks populations around Madagascar are in rapid decline,” said Stephanie Pédron, marine biologist for Blue Ventures. “Their disappearance would have devastating impacts on marine habitats and the local communities that rely upon those habitats for survival.” Pédron is leading the shark monitoring project with Blue Ventures director of science Alasdair Harris and marine biologist Volanirina Ramahery.

Because fishing is the primary source of income for communities in the region, Blue Ventures will collaborate closely with village leaders to develop management plans for shark conservation and sustainable fishing practices.

Thousands of sharks are caught each year in Madagascar, and local fishermen are beginning to report declines in shark populations. A collapse of the shark industry would threaten the economic stability of the region and pose a critical threat to the broader marine ecosystem.

There is growing concern that shark stocks are being depleted around the world and numerous international resolutions have been enacted calling for greater research into the status and threats of sharks globally.

Little research has ever been conducted to determine the full extent of shark fishing in southwest Madagascar and the rate at which populations are declining. This project will gather the data needed to determine what type of management plans are needed to keep shark populations healthy and local fisheries productive for generations to come.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tiptheplanet - tips to benefit you and the planet

A website which caught our eye, and is very much in the Blue Ventures ethos - They have advice on energy saving, transport, shopping, finance, hobbies - all with a green twist. About them--

At present, there is no resource that allows people to conclusively determine how best to act in their day-to-day lives. Tips are scattered across various media and often differ in opinion, or contain bias and inaccuracy. The aim is to create a website that brings this advice together for wider discussion. Think of the incredible benefit a 'green Wikipedia' could have in helping to educate society - updated and maintained by people like yourself.

Anyone can edit this site, and early contributions will help the site to grow at this crucial stage.