Blue Pioneers Accelerator Funds Experimental Projects by Our Fellows

August 17, 2023 

SPIN and MexiFish won $25,000 grant each to pilot their solutions in paving a pathway to collective behavioral changes for a sustainable future. The two projects were peer reviewed and selected by more than sixty fellows from all over the world in this year's Blue Pioneers Accelerator in Santa Cruz, California. 

SPIN (Sustainable Production of Indigenous Nori)

Nori are red seaweeds that are wild-harvested mainly by women in Southeast Asia. Women harvesters often risk their lives in collecting nori, and these seaweeds are then processed crudely before they are sold in local markets. In the Philippines, nori is locally known as gamét and considered as black gold for its relatively high cash value. The prized commodity consumed as food with high nutritional value and used as medicine is. Nori is part of the diet and cultural identity of Filipinos in northern Philippines and is celebrated annually in the Gamet Festival

Local nori stocks in the northern Philippines are currently threatened with depletion, prompting the need to regulate harvest,  which may cause hardship in local livelihood, triggering community pushback against the regulation. It's a recurring vicious cycle, a typical wicked problem. On the other hand, locals have limited knowledge of post-harvest processing, product development, and untapped market opportunities, which may help improve their livelihood while potentially alleviating the negative impacts of unsustainable harvest to local nori stocks. 

SPIN wants to develop consumer demand for sustainably harvested nori while simultaneously empowering nori harvester communities to co-develop strategies and co-manage sustainable nori harvesting and market development, to break the present sticky equilibrium and shape a sustainable human-nature ecosystem.

SPIN will spend the grant money to engage in stakeholder consultations, co-develop management strategies with them, and facilitate a sustainable nori certification program and supply chain development, in order to prime a sustainable nori marketplace. Their work will also be receiving support from the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

SPIN is powered by a strong and capable team consisting of Wilfred J.E. Santiañez ‘23, a seaweed scientist and Flora Belinario ‘21 and Allan Apelo ‘21, community partnership specialists, in the Philippines, Try Hutomo ‘23, a food & sustainability scientist in Japan, and Mariska Sukmajaya ‘21, a sustainable finance specialist in Indonesia.

MexiFish to transition small-scale Mexican fisheries to a circular economy

Like the Filipino women laboring on nori to live, economically disadvantaged small-scale fishers in Mexico are disenfranchised and disconnected from marine conservation management, rendering perennial conservation efforts ineffective. 

MexiFish believes co-management of local marine conservation areas with a triple bottom line framework is the right intervention to set the contesting stakeholders on a transition pathway to achieve ecological and economic benefits simultaneously. The core of the intervention is a traceability system stacked with triple impact (social, environmental, and financial) assessment and blockchain technology, designed to facilitate an emerging interactive marketplace that will instill responsible market behavior and community reinvestment.

MexiFish aims to develop the triple impact framework by mapping current local fishing practices, identifying potential cross-sector partners, and establishing sustainability certification criteria in year one. They will also do stakeholder mapping and outreach and education before building a traceability system and interactive platform as a prototypical marketplace to kickstart a sustainable circular blue economy.

MexiFish's excellent team consists of Noemi Espinosa-Andrade ‘23, a fisheries bio-economy scientist and consultant in Mexico, Rebecca Bird ‘23, National Marine Protection Program Lead in New Zealand, Lawrence Li ‘23, a community development specialist at Natural Resources Defense Council China, Kelvin So ‘23, an ocean conservation manager at WWF-Hong Kong, Ivan Martinez-Tovar ‘20, a fisheries scientist at Ocean Outcomes in the U.S.,  and Daniel Ruiz de Garibay ‘21, a political scientist and circular economy specialist in Malaysia. 

July 15, 2022

Top SeaCrate won $50,000 grant piloting a business model to connect small fishers directly with seafood consumers who care about health, conservation, and effective altruism. 

SANTA CRUZ, CA—The Blue Pioneers Accelerator Program (BPP Accelerator) awarded a $50,000 grant to one Collaborative Experiment project through its 2021 BPP Accelerator program.

What Top SeaCrate ( sees in the communities in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro, Philippines, is that the below-poverty livelihoods of fishers are directly linked to the twin problems of low catch volume and illegal and unregulated fishing, which are exacerbated by marine resource overexploitation and climate change (stronger typhoons and more acidic ocean). Their solution to the complex web of environmental and social problems is to connect local fishers directly with consumers who prize naturally and ethically sourced fresh seafoods. 

The BPP Accelerator grant has supported the experiments the team developed during the program in order to enhance Top SeaCrate's value propositions to disintermediate the bulk of the existing supply chain participants, including primary fish buyers, fish brokers, wholesalers, retailers, and secondary retailers.  The team has collaborated with government agencies to upskill local fishers on seafood safety, building the three-way trust among fishers, government, and consumers.   

March 22, 2021

Two projects on sustainable aquaculture and ocean youth outreach are awarded a total of $50,000 through a participatory grantmaking process.

SANTA CRUZ, CA—The Blue Pioneers Accelerator Program (BPP Accelerator) has awarded grants to two marine conservation projects through its 2020 BPP Accelerator grant.

The Triple-Impact Sea Cucumber Aquaculture team won $37,000 to undertake a viability assessment of community-centric sea cucumber aquaculture farming in the Bahamas. This assessment seeks to uncover the most sustainable marine resource management techniques that enhance the biodiversity of the Marine Protected Areas and enable strong governance and profitable livelihoods in local fishing communities.


“Starting from this project, we hope to scale community-centric sea cucumber aquaculture throughout the world to bring fishing communities to participate in the global Blue Economy while protecting thousands of hectares of threatened Marine Protected Areas,” says Timothy Klückow, the technical director at Full Circle Aquaculture. Full Circle Aquaculture is a social enterprise that works to make marine protection profitable for coastal fishing communities. 


© Tim Kluckow 2018. Sea cucumbers are one of the few high-value fishery resources accessible to women foot fishers.

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The Ocean Changemaker Showcase team was awarded $13,000 to produce multimedia content featuring the Blue Pioneers and their projects for social media and for a dedicated exhibition at the Youth Panel of the United Nations Biodiversity Convention in Kunming, China, this fall.


“We hope that highlighting the Blue Pioneers and sharing their stories on such a high-profile UN event can inspire more youth and changemakers to join the movement to protect our oceans,” said project lead Songqiao Yao, the Founder and CEO of WildBound, an organization based in China that educates the next generation of earth citizens through education, advocacy, and public communication.