Human Journey

Montserrat Turns its Focus Toward Ocean Conservation

When you land on Montserrat, your passport gets stamped with a shamrock. That is the first sign that the island has a bit of magic. The air is warm, but the people are warmer. This video introduces some of the faces and vistas of this wondrous place, the second island where the Waitt Institute has launched its Blue Halo Initiative (see press release).


Montserrat may be best known for its active volcano, but has just celebrated five years since its last eruption, is actively rebuilding, and is now embracing a future of ocean conservation. Under the banner of Blue Halo Montserrat, the Government of Montserrat and its citizens are collaborating with the Waitt Institute to envision, design, and realize a sustainable ocean future.

We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the island’s government, had our first steering committee meeting with a diverse group of stakeholders, and were hosted by the Governor at a lovely reception.

MOU signing with Montserrat Premier, Hon. Donaldson Romeo.
MOU signing with Montserrat Premier, Hon. Donaldson Romeo.

We chose Montserrat as a partner because the government has a strong will for redesigning ocean management, the community sees the need for more sustainable measures to be put in place, and the small size of the population (~5,900 people) means the we can develop a detailed understanding of the priorities and concerns of the community.

Furthermore, Montserratians are incredibly resilient, actively rebuilding after the volcanic eruptions that destroyed their capital city and led approximately 2/3 of the population to emigrate. Those remaining on Montserrat are thinking about what they want their island to look like in the future, and with the new Blue Halo Initiative there, the island is capitalizing upon a golden opportunity to include the ocean in that vision.

Montserratian fisher selling the day's catch.
Montserratian fisher selling the day’s catch.

For now, I’ll stop there and let a few of the Montserratians who have been most deeply involved in this partnership to-date share their thoughts on the Blue Halo Initiative and the importance of sustainable management of their ocean:

Local fisherman Carlton O’Garro: “Montserrat is on the move and is rising to the challenge to improve the governance and management of the ocean.”

Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Land, Housing and the Environment Claude Hogan: “Conserving ocean resources is a priority for our Government working in the interest of our citizens, and the support of the Waitt Institute will enable us to realize this.”

Chief Fisheries Officer Alwyn Ponteen: “Partnering with the Waitt Institute will support Montserrat in developing the skills and resources necessary to ensure that our ocean remain healthy and productive for future generations.”

BH Montserrat - Romeo Director of Agriculture Melissa O’Garro: “The Ministry of Agriculture welcomes this timely partnership with the Waitt Institute and looks forward to collaborating with the Institute and our stakeholders to develop a thriving sustainable fishery while ensuring our ocean remain pristine into the future.”

Premier Donaldson Romeo: “We recognize that it is in our benefit to work hard for healthy oceans in order to sustain our vital fish stocks, the marine life and biodiversity, and of course the livelihoods of our communities.”

To follow along as Blue Halo Montserrat progresses, you can find Waitt Institute on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And please share your favorite stories about the magic of Montserrat in the comments below.

Montserrat map - Blue Halo Initiative


Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for ocean conservation strategies grounded in social justice. She teaches at New York University as an adjunct professor, and was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science. As executive director of the Waitt Institute, Ayana co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative and led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort. Previously, she worked on ocean policy at the EPA and NOAA, and was recently a TED resident and Aspen Institute fellow. She envisions and works toward a healthy ocean that supports food security, economies, and cultures. Find her @ayanaeliza.

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