Keepers of the sea: women wisdom for science

Blue boat
Photo credits: Gustavo Figueiredo

Dreams command life. In Ocean Alive we dream about reforesting the sea.


Imagine a future where the major challenges of our time, such as biodiversity loss and climate change, were overcome by working with people and with nature. This future is possible.

To rebuild our ocean we need to restore the marine and coastal key habitats. We need to bring these to the spotlight. In Portugal, in the Sado estuary (50 Km south of Lisbon) this is already happening.

The seagrass meadows are one of these key habitats. The women from the local fishing communities where seagrass meadows still persist have a unique traditional and ecological knowledge about this habitat. The role of Ocean Alive is to engage women as Keepers of the Sea towards the restoration of seagrass meadows.

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The Keepers of the Sea are women of the Sado river’s fishing community who work with Ocean Alive to protect and restore seagrass meadows. As of today, there are 18 Keepers of the Sea. They have an important role catalyzing behaviour changes in their peers of the fishing community. These changes are necessary to eliminate 3 identified threats to seagrass meadows that are associated with the fishing community’s behaviours: litter from shellfishing activities, the docking of anchors on the seagrass meadows and destructive fishing.

By reducing negative impacts on seagrasses, a better economic revenue for their families is expected: 100% of the fish and shellfish species with commercial interest to this community (e.g. cuttlefish, seabream, seabass and octopus) depend upon seagrass beds as a nursery ground in the early lifecycle stages, providing sheltered refugees and food sources for the juveniles.

Keepers of the Sea participate in all of Ocean Alive’s activities. Ocean Alive created new occupational and professional roles tailored to these women’s expertise and life experiences. These activities value their wisdom and provide a complimentary income to their fishing activity. These fisherwomen are the sea guides of our education program, awareness-raising agents of the Shellfishing WITHOUT Litter campaign and monitors of the seagrass meadows in scientific projects.

In this virtual exhibition prepared for the JRC’s Portuguese Semester you will be guided through the Keepers of the Sea project. You will learn about the new roles the women from the fishing community have now on their communities for seagrass meadows conservation. How their wisdom is contributing to science. Keepers of the sea are local leaders for behaviour changes and are inspiring all of us to build a future where seagrass meadows can no longer be ignored.