The SEA Institute is founded on the concept that by sharing the wonders of and benefits from marine life, people will be inspired to protect it and will be deeply committed to coastal and marine conservation through science-based approaches. Innovative scientific approaches will be adopted to mainly address environmental/ecological, socio-cultural and technological concerns that will help enhance community’s mitigation and adaptation efforts. In this regard, SEA aims to advance marine conservation and scientific literacy by developing a network of citizen scientists through various activities such as hands-on research, virtual and structured learning experiences, mentoring approach, and co-management of critical habitats, adopt a marine protected area (MPA), among others. SEA will provide flexibility for adaptive practices to address underlying socioeconomic factors affecting conservation efforts and may compensate for limited or missing scientific data. It is vital to make the scientific data emerging from decades of research on the VIP translated into educational and training materials and integrating these scientific data with the partners’ planning and management processes. Most important is a conceptual shift from conservation planning undertaken as a project, to planning undertaken as a process, with dedicated financial and human resources committed to long-term engagement. In this regard, a marine conservation agreement embodying the roles of each party including benefits/incentives and penalties will be embedded in all partnerships. It will have the following components which are interlinked to each other:
a. Community Conservation Center. A physical facility hosted by a partner provided in the project site that will offer resources, training and micro-grants for partner communities to develop innovative community-based conservation projects which will provide them the unique ability to make connections between science-based conservation actions and a healthy marine ecosystem using the best scientific data and indigenous knowledge available.
b. Ecotourism and Marine Camp. An income generating center that aims to organize packaged ecotours and Lakbay-Aral, Structured Learning Experiences, etc. in the co-managed MPAs. Modules and Payment for Ecosystem Services will be designed for each target market. This is a unique opportunity to leverage partners’ resources in ecotourism while providing a management and real-life working model and develop next generation of ecotourism professionals.
c. Centralized Digital Clearinghouse and Information, Education and Communcation (IEC) Hub. An online knowledge hub for sharing scientific research results in the VIP for free. It will produce IEC materials on conservation in bilingual such as video and photo production on biodiversity and conservation in the VIP; production of educational workbook/comic book; and Field Guide identifying common types of species in the VIP.
d. Marine Science Education and Research Station. A facility that will host a museum, multi-media facility and library allowing students, teachers, professionals, and communities to participate in onsite programs and community research about marine ecosystems and conservation actions in an authentic setting. It will be hosted by an academic partner within the site. Marine explorations and expeditions will fall under this Center.
e. Corporate Sustainability Center. A venue for companies to be partners in the conservation of the VIP. It will provide information and training to commercial and industrial enterprises that are seeking models on “green” practices. It can provide novel opportunities to study how firms can help in sustainable development, research, education, conservation and diverse habitats that can simultaneously yield revenue to local communities and secure long-term environmental health of the area.