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Project details

Start date: July 2016
Status: finished
Duration: 7 weeks
Country: Saba Island, the Caribbean
Coordinator: Madelon Eelderink

Sustainable Development Goals

PAR Report

Other related readings

Save our Sharks

A PAR on the ways in which local stakeholders can together improve marine ecosystem health and help save sharks around Saba island.


Project team


The ‘Save our Sharks’ project of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance aimed to save sharks from extinction, for which they needed help of local stakeholders, especially local Saban fishermen. The fishermen however had no interest in saving sharks. Instead, since the past two decades they were worried about the plummeting redfish stocks, their primary source of income (together with lobster). Through PAR, fishermen found and developed an indirect way to save sharks that perfectly fit their interest.  

PAR Design


To facilitate local stakeholders of the Saban marine ecosystem in co-creating and realizing initiatives that directly and/or indirectly help saving sharks from extinction.


In seven weeks, Saban fishermen discovered and developed a way to solve the issue of plummeting redfish stocks. They developed their own law, an agreement for a closed season for redfish. As sharks’ lives depend on a healthy marine ecosystem and since redfish belongs to their diets, through this initiative fishermen indirectly help save sharks in a way that suits their personal needs and perspectives. A direct way to save sharks is a clause they put on their agreement to throw back living sharks they find in their traps. An extra economic incentive to improve living circumstances for sharks is to fish for (marketable) the invasive lionfish using lionfish-specific traps, which are currently being tested. See below the fishermen’s agreement.

Fishermen Agreement and signatures


Local nature organization Saba Conservation Foundation measured improvement of fish catches after the closed season. Also fishermen have noticed better fish catches: “after the closed season fishing was good!” However, more factors than only the PAR could have influenced this outcome. Whether redfish populations and shark populations have indeed increased thanks to this PAR is hard to measure as they migrate.

Fishermen claim to feel heard during the PAR process as opposed to -in their words- “having laws pushed down our throats”. They also expressed pride of what they had achieved, establishing their own official law:

“For twenty years we’ve been struggling to find a solution and to come to an agreement. Nobody has ever accomplished this, not even the experts. Now we have done it ourselves in just seven weeks!”

It has also impacted restaurants, as the facebook message of a local cook indicates (in Dutch):

Sabaanse kok reactie

The agreement is developed in a way that fishermen can adapt and use it each time they think it is necessary.


PAO boek 2e druk

Read the full story of this Challenge in our handbook Participatory Action Research (in Dutch).

Project images