I grew up on a farm but wanted to escape! An early passion for the ocean led to me studying marine science. But working as an analyst at the OECD early in my career taught me the importance of economics. Now conservationists think I’m a capitalist, and business people think I’m an activist! Inhabiting this slightly uncomfortable space, bridging worlds, and creating systemic solutions is what BlueSeeds is all about.

Following an analysis of marine protected area funding in the Mediterranean that found a financing gap of €700 million a year, entrepreneur Thomas Binet started BlueSeeds in 2018. Its aim was simple – diversify marine conservation financing. And since, this young, creative, innovative group has fast become a mover and shaker, empowering marine conservationists through better financing and practical solutions.

Incubation and enterprise

One of BlueSeeds’ flagship projects is the Blue Local Incubator. First set up in 2019 on Lastovo island in Croatia, in partnership with WWF Adria, it promotes the creation of local microenterprise connected to marine conservation, helping local people become active stakeholders in the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity.

“In Lastovo, the main challenges were engaging fishers in marine resource management and a lack of understanding about the MPA amongst local people. Through creating a business incubator, we were able to nurture local entrepreneurial spirit, generate local employment and income, and transform local attitudes towards the park.”

Built on core ‘blue economy’ principles – offering social and economic benefits, protecting marine ecosystems, and promoting clean technology, renewable energy, and circularity – BlueSeeds are now replicating the Incubator approach in other sites to attract further investment and scale local solutions for positive impact.

Delivering on these, and developed with and for mooring zone managers, Blue Mooring is another disruptive BlueSeeds project. Offering a web-based service, and working like an Airbnb for marine protected areas, it allows boaters to book mooring online while enabling park managers to communicate park rules, and collect mooring fees and visitor data without having to visit each mooring site individually, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Empowering marine conservation

“While our initial focus was on solving the financing gap, we realised that how funding is spent makes a huge difference to overall effectiveness. It was a big insight, so we also started looking at how organisational development, partnerships, and innovation can improve impact.”

Acting as intermediaries, facilitators, strategists, trainers, technical assistants, and more, the BlueSeeds team helps conservation partners strengthen connection and collaboration with stakeholders and accelerate change. Listening deeply to understand what they are doing, adapting to each partner’s needs, and then finding ways to involve local people, decision-makers, and donors, is at the heart of the group’s ethos.

(c) BlueSeeds

Conservationists tend to be very passionate and knowledgeable but often benefit from support with things like financial planning and using digital tools. That’s where carefully applying approaches and insights from the worlds of business and tech can really help – by professionalising an organisation and making the most of its talent and experience.

Thinking outside the blue box

Based in Bordeaux, BlueSeeds work remotely, keeping costs down for conservation partners by pooling resources and support across projects that share common challenges and opportunities. With skills in economics, marine biology, finance, project management, law, international relations, and education, the multidisciplinary team together applies a systemic approach to conservation.

“We can’t meet the challenges we face if we keep doing the same things. We’re creating a new way of doing conservation that’s anchored in social enterprise – bridging financial, technical and innovation gaps, and sowing the seeds of new approaches in the Mediterranean. I’m very grateful to my team for engaging in such a difficult mission. They all bring tremendous conviction, energy, and dynamism.”

How is Thomas and his team contributing to MAVA's mission?

Thomas and the BlueSeeds team are contributing to our work on developing innovative and sustainable finance mechanisms. They are doing this within the frame of our action plan on reducing fishing impacts and pressures on marine habitats and species. They are also working on reducing water abstraction in coastal wetlands, following the same approach as described in this article.

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