Jamaica Placeholder



Name: Oracabessa Foundation

Country: Jamaica

Year of establishment: 1997

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Legally recognized non-profit status, Community enterprise or business


The goal of the two-phase project was to preserve the marine ecosystem in the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary and to increase biodiversity and species population, including that of turtles and coral populations. In the short term, the sanctuary sought to create a no-fishing zone protecting the Bay’s critical breeding areas and fish habitat. In the long-term, the project sought to reverse the decline of biodiversity in the Oracabessa Bay. To fulfill this aim, the project set the following objectives including (1) increasing the number of sea turtles and healthy coral, (2) improve surveillance and monitoring of fish, turtle, and coral populations within the sanctuary; (3) strengthening community capacity to manage its marine resources; and (4) improving livelihoods through increased local benefits from marine resources. Community outreach and capacity building activities provided the foundation for the project. Three workshops were conducted - 24 participants learned fisheries management, coral and turtle conservation, marine composting, and the importance of national and international policies for sustainable fish stock. The training was provided by various partners including the St. Mary’s Fisherman’s, Seascape Caribbean - scientific and technical expertise in coral reforestation, trained the certified PADI Scuba divers in coral gardening techniques and the University of the West Indies (UWI) provided training in fisheries management and assessments on the estuarine area.




Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Pollution prevention / clean up / Awareness and education






The initiative contributed favorably to the maintenance and conservation of various ecosystems including four reef systems, two sea grass areas, two mangrove areas, one turtle nesting beach, one estuarine area and one breeding lagoon. This initiative resulted in: increased coral production by expanding three coral garden nurseries with 4,000 pieces with a further 8000 pieces to be planted. Two local spear-fishermen trained and certified as coral gardeners.

By 2013, coral cover increased by 153% up from 91%, fish density by 272%, fish size by 16%, fish biomass by 564% and algae reduced by 43% since 2011. With the purchase of a patrol boat, the group now has better surveillance and monitoring capacity of the protected area. Seven “No fishing” signs and buoys clearly demarcate the sanctuary.

The Hawksbill turtle population has recovered where nesting has increased from 14,000 hatchlings to over 22,000 in 2015.


The sustainability and success of the OBFS is built on the community members’ opportunity to support their livelihoods through the sanctuary. Approximately 35 people have been able to directly improve their livelihoods through the project.
The nutrient-rich debris collected from the beaches is repurposed as potting compost and soil for local markets, creating a new revenue stream, especially for the two turtle nesting area composters that have been employed by OBFS. Three coral gardeners were employed and also earn additional income by providing tour services around the coral gardens. Sea turtle nesting has resulted in a source of income for the OBFS foundation as guests from the Golden Eye Resort pay a small fee to view sea turtle nesting and release. In addition, eleven community members are being employed by OBFS, of whom six run a household with 4 or more dependents.


While the group has seen tremendous results and made a tangible environmental and economic impact in Oracabessa Bay, its most important contribution may come beyond its boundaries at the policy and national levels. Prior to the group's success, it remained an open question whether or not community-based marine protection could work at all in Jamaica. The sanctuaries that were established were little more than “paper parks” than anything. Oracabessa has changed that. Now, fishers along the North Coast are asking that Sanctuaries be established in their areas. The Ministry under which Agriculture and Fisheries fall, made the announcement (while on a site visit to Oracabessa Bay) that they are working to establish four more sanctuaries in Jamaica based largely on the results they have seen.

Showing that community-based marine resource management can work in Jamaica may be the most important legacy of the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary.


This initiative is now one of the priorities for the Jamaican Government, already, the group is working closely with donors (including the GEF SGP) to replicate across other sanctuaries. Following a Memorandum of Agreement between the Oracabessa Foundation & Fisheries, OBFS was one of the nine sanctuaries established on May 17, 2010. Consequently, OBFS has been granted power under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Establishment of Authority (NRCA) to protect fish populations that live and breed within the parameters of the sanctuary. Based on its outstanding work, the Oracabessa group was invited to a stakeholder consultation on Jamaica’s National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans.

With financial support from other donors, the group is now supporting other sanctuary sites to empower fishers, create partnerships and establish other fish sanctuaries.


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