OctoPINTS first year!

Our OctoPINTS project has officially been running for one whole year! This is a summary of our activities and milestones for the first project year June 2019-June 2020.

OctoPINTS background

The OctoPINTS project is based on the belief that the intersection between participatory empirical research and agent-based modeling is a useful way to understand critical aspects of sustainability in small-scale fisheries. In collaboration with researchers from Sweden (Emilie Lindkvist, Liz Drury O’Neill, Tim Daw, Maja Schlüter), Kenya (Andrew Wamukota), Tanzania (Rosemarie Mwaipopo) and the local NGO MWAMBAO in Zanzibar (Represented by Lorna Slade) we took our first small steps in Stockholm during a few sunny spring days before the official start of the project.

Throughout the year we have combined face-to-face workshops and online meetings to progress on our project and its key activities, such as fieldwork, workshop, conference sessions, and designing the agent-based model. We have had in-depth discussions to refine our research questions, aims, goals and developed a theory of change for the project. This document summarizes the key activities and outputs that we have accomplished so far within OctoPINTS.

Overarching Project Aims

  1. Untangle what defines success of Octopus closures for different stakeholders in Zanzibar and across the WIO.
  2. Identify the mechanisms leading to successful outcomes in Zanzibar and across the WIO
  3. Reveal the trade-offs between short- and long-term outcomes and between different social groups within fishing communities in Zanzibar.
  4. Understand fishers and fish workers perceptions of closures in Zanzibar in different points in time and how that affects fishers’ motivations and actions.

We take a gendered perspective, thus include gender, and gender processes, in our understanding of success, mechanisms and trade-offs as well as in the models we develop.


OctoPINTS kick-off Workshop (April 2019)


Co-developing our research questions by clustering individual research questions, walk and talk in Bergianska botanical gardens, and flower watching in Kungsträdgården.

Just after Easter we met in Stockholm to continue to develop the ideas and research questions that we together wanted to explore during these next three years. We had the opportunity to learn from Rose about gendered research, Andrew about Octopus value chains, Lorna about their thinking and development of closure models in the local context of Zanzibar, from Maja and Emilie about agent-based modeling and social-ecological systems thinking, and from Tim and Liz about their earlier experiences from small-scale fisheries in East Africa. To make sure that all participants wishes and expectations were incorporated into OctoPINTS we redesigned our research questions. We let each participant formulate their personal questions on post-its to refine a new set of questions within the broader scope of our project. These questions directly informed our fieldwork and workshops later on in the year. During the course of the project different emphasis will be given to different questions.

 Co-developed research questions

  1. Which factors influence the closure model design, compliance and outcomes under different conditions? Such as community relations, neighbours & migrant fishers, history of conservation, tourism, national policies, power relations and roles (by gender, age, class/wealth), enforcement agencies or NGOs.
  2. How does the closure model design process influence compliance and outcomes? For example, with respect to participation, equity, agency, communication and information sharing, design of closure.
  3. How do different fishery actors perceive the process and outcomes? AND How are different social groups affected by the closures?
  4. How do outcome dynamics reinforce or change factors and future process?
    • How do perceptions of process and outcomes affect relationships between fishery actors?
    • How do process and outcomes affect agency and capacity?
    • How do process and outcomes affect institutional dynamics?

In subsequent discussions we also developed our common theory of change as a way to uncover our different understanding and visions of our project, from the different activities we will undertake, the outputs we will produce, the outcomes and impacts we strive for.

Figure_ Theory of change (5)

Figure 1: OctoPINTS theory of change. Impacts: we hope to contribute one small piece of the puzzle in this direction. Outcomes: local effects within Zanzibar/Pemba, knowledge outcomes, and methodological outcomes. Outputs are project deliverables. Purple = empirical domain. Pink=Academic domain. Blue=influences both empirical and academic domain.

Outputs from the Kick-off and our follow up discussions during the first months

  • Refined operational model of MWAMBAO closure model by Lorna.
  • Project directive document including refined goals, aims, objectives, and research questions.
  • Project stakeholder list.
  • Draft MoU within our team and between OctoPINTS and MWAMBAO
  • OctoPINTS theory of change
  • Blog (Lindkvist, 2019a)

April 2019 Start-up workshop for grantees of our research program


Closing panel of the workshop with both Rose and Lorna sharing their knowledge and reflections on the workshop.

Immediately after the OctoPINTS inception workshop Emilie Lindkvist, Liz Drury O’Neill, Tim Daw and María Mancilla organized a workshop for all grantees of ”Sustainability and resilience – Tackling consequences of climate and environmental changes”, which all of the OctoPINTS team had the opportunity to participate in. We had two days of in-depth discussions on north–south collaborations with around 50 participants from the project and representatives from the funders; The Swedish Research Council and SIDA. We have summarized our insights and workshop material in the report “Challenges and Solutions for Fair and Productive International Collaborative Research Projects” (Drury O’Neill et al., 2020).


July 2019 Special Session at WIOMSA


Poster from our WIOMSA session.

In preparation with the whole OctoPINTS team and Tanguy Nicholas from Flora & Fauna International we held a full day workshop in conjunction with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) symposium at the University of Mauritius, Mauritius. With stakeholders representing the whole WIO region we had a well visited workshop to explore three topics as a part of our first and second aim:

Objective 1 – Investigate how success in Octopus closures was defined by different participants, and why successful outcomes are achieved across different cases.

We found that academics and practitioners identified similar outcomes as constituting success in closures. The factors raised by participants related to Economic success included improved incomes, economic conditions and trade opportunities. Ecological success included increases in stocks, individual sizes, and catch per unit effort of target species, as well as positive impacts on other marine organisms. Social success related to acceptance of management by local communities, reduced conflict, and improved governance capacity.

Objective 2 – Explore commonalities and context specific factors across different cases, thinking about mechanisms – i.e. trying to get at common factors and processes across the cases in different situations of the closure model planning and implementation.

We discussed the importance of exchange visits, gender analysis and capacity building for women’s associations, prior to closure implementation as well as location and timing of closures (patrolling practicalities, reef productivity), cultural, biological and market dynamics, engagement with traders to minimize poaching and collectively to increase their bargaining power. During implementation the enforcement, neighboring fishers and post the opening distributions of benefits, attracting “outsiders”.

Objective 3 – Together summarize the most urgent research and management questions for octopus management are in the region.

The questions we identified spanned from social to ecological, from detailed planning issues to how to include women in the decision-making processes (from the community level up to the national level), and what is really defining success of closures.


  • Workshop Report (Lindkvist et al., 2019) with first answers to our research questions from people representing closures around the whole WIO region.
  • Blog  (Lindkvist, 2019b)

Oct-Nov 2019 Fieldwork, Zanzibar


Liz organizing a photo elicitation dialogue.

After meticulous planning we finally set in motion our first fieldwork trip. Our aim was to collect the views and opinions of all the different types of people that are or were involved in, or affected by closures. We were aiming for a grounded understanding how different groups of people view the “success” of closures. We also wanted to unpack what people directly involved see as success and how they feel they have been affected by this fishery intervention process over time- from its introduction to where they are today.

Octopus Closures as part of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) toolbox have been deemed a success by different academic groups, social enterprises or practitioners, so one important aim for us during the field season was to use a gender lens, thus embracing intersectionality and the diversity in types and identities of people, to know how the many different stakeholder groups felt they were impacted and their willingness to adopt or repeat the process.

Liz, Fatma from MWAMBAO, and Shariff (independent enumerator) visited 3 sites. In each site they carried out three types of dialogues with each stakeholder group. They met with village leaders and the fishing committee, octopus fisherwomen, octopus fishermen of different types (divers and/or footfishers), octopus tradermen and octopus traderwomen. They also divided the groups by age when possible and met all the groups separately. The method combined Story circles (session 1), photo elicitation (session 2), and finally a focus group discussion (session 3). We will share the results from this first round over the next year.


  • Qualitative and quantitative field data from sites and experts
  • Blog (Drury O’Neill, 2019)

Nov 2019 Workshop #2, & Field trip Zanzibar


Liz presenting initial reflections from the field together with Fatma.

Finally we in the OctoPINTS team met with our MWAMBAO and Blue Ventures (BV) collaborators at the end of the rainy season in Zanzibar. This was an exciting workshop that brought together the wide experience of MWAMBAO and Blue Ventures in supporting Octopus Closures and community development in Zanzibar with the conceptual and modeling approaches of the Stockholm team and the academic expertise on East African societies and fisheries of Rosemarie (Rose) Mwaipopo and Andrew Wamukota.

To kick off Tim started us with a high-energy opening playing a fishery game for us to get a chance to know one another. After a short reflection on the game (which is in itself a type of fishery ‘model’) we launched into breakout groups to discuss the focus of the modeling effort in OctoPINTS, and exploring the key social-ecological dynamics of Octopus Closures. Although the OctoPINTS project is focused on temporary octopus closures, for NGOs working on the ground, the long-term aim is to develop the capacity of coastal communities and their local institutions to self-organize and implement sustainable development initiatives. This capacity needs to be reflected in our conceptual model and is in any case, a critical determinant of how Octopus Closures play out. We also discussed the modeling approach, sharing insights into the agent-based modeling methodology and how the project aims to build understanding through reciprocal relationship between empirical field research, expert knowledge and iterations of agent-based modeling. Rose also led an insightful discussion of the role of gender relations in environmental governance in coastal Tanzania and Andrew fed back on the WIOMSA special session outcomes. Liz and Fatma shared initial reflections on fieldwork for the team and our MWAMBAO colleagues to discuss. We also had a visit from Andrew Gordon, Marine Stewardship Council, and the Southwest Indian Ocean Octopus Project (SWIOCeph).

We also embarked on a fieldtrip to Kizimkazi where we participated in Octopus hunting, observed local octopus trade, as well as having a unique meeting with the SFC (Shehia Fisheries Committee; a local management committee) to better know their struggles and positive experiences of the closures they have implemented.

The workshop and fieldtrip gave the non-Zanzibari team members much deeper familiarity with the system, allowed us to build a common understanding, and friendships across the team and sharing our perspectives on the road-map for the OctoPINTS project. MWAMBAO served as exemplary facilitators, and give us such a rewarding meeting and participating with so much commitment.


  • Co-develop a conceptual model of the closure divided into pre, during and post closure processes combining a SES perspective and knowledge of MWAMBAO & BV (Report from WS shared between participants only)
  • Blog, refined conceptual closure model with focus on processes (Daw, 2019)

The Agent-based Model

The modeling permeates our research by inspiring the way we ask our research questions, and is embedded in our fieldwork, workshops and our special session at WIOMSA. Each of the events so far has led to a better understanding of the entities and activities to include in the modeling component of OctoPINTS which is detailed in Figure 2. Each of the processes or activities are further detailed in our modeling documents.


Figure 2. Conceptual draft model. The top row represents the entities in the model. Under each entity you can see which activity they are involved in. The activities are color coded as follows; activities in yellow occur continuously, purple activities occur during closing, blue activities occur during opening, red happens before or after a closure implementation and opening.


We have engaged in different outreach activities. Emilie and Liz presented the OctoPINTS project to Swedbio and their director Henrik Brundin and Hanna Wetterstrand who is leading Swedbio’s marine related work. Emilie presented OctoPINTS to the MAREA research project in Mexico, and to the CauSES research project where the OctoPINTS case may be part of the ongoing work on causality in social-ecological systems research. We also presented the project to the SES-LINK research group at Stockholm Resilience Centre to introduce the project but also to get feedback on our fieldwork plans. We have been active on twitter to share links to our blogs and reports. MWAMBAO has featured selected OctoPINTS events on their website, as well as the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s news section on their website, face book and twitter.

We have regular conversation with Blue Ventures (BV), a key actor on Octopus closures in the WIO. BV have also been participating in our workshops on Zanzibar and Mauritius. We also have had conversations with other key actors in the WIO region and broader, such as Shauna Maharajan and Morena Mills at the Alliance for Conservation Evidence and Sustainability (ACES).


During the year we have had two master students working with us. Michael Bohlin from Stockholm Resilience Centre investigated the demand for Octopus from Zanzibari hotels. He quantified the scale of the demand as well as looking at hotels’ preferences for fresh vs frozen, and size. He did his fieldwork around Unguja and was supervised by OctoPINTS’ Tim Daw, Liz Drury O’Neill, and Lorna Slade. Link to thesis Link to thesis (Bohlin, 2020).

Visiting Stockholm Resilience Centre was master student Clara Larissa Wreissnegger from Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, Germany. She made a thorough investigation on how to build ecological models of small-scale fisheries with medium complexity and used OctoPINTS as a case to test her findings. She was co-supervised by Emilie Lindkvist. Link to thesis (Wreissnegger, 2020).

The Coming Year

June 2020 – June 2021 we aim to have a first version of the agent-based model, where our work so far will come together to detail model processes, hypothesis, and observed structural patterns that the model can be validated against. When Liz is back from parental leave (late 2020), she will lead and start writing up the fieldwork results together with a core subgroup of OctoPINTS. We will plan the next round of fieldwork and around mid 2021 in conjunction we will also have our annual OctoPINTS workshop (corona permitting). We hope to involve a master student from the University of Dar es Salaam Development Studies through Rose. In the fall of 2020, we plan to start on our first joint publication, potentially focused around our results from our Special Session at WIOMSA. Due to time constraints MWAMBAO will be less involved in the coming year.


Bohlin, M., 2020.Tourism and marine resource conservation tentacle in tentacle? Zanzibari hotels as biosphere stewards in support of octopus closures (Master’s Thesis). Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

Daw, T.M., 2019. OctoPINTS website. OctoPINTS workshop #2, Zanzibar.

Drury O’Neill, E., 2019. OctoPINTS website. Fieldwork part 1 – Reflections from the field.

Drury O’Neill, E., Daw, T.M., Mancilla García, M., Lindkvist, E., 2020. Challenges and solutions for fair and productive international collaborative research projects (Workshop Report). Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

Lindkvist, E., 2019a. OctoPINTS website. OctoPINTS kicks off @SRC. 

Lindkvist, E., 2019b. OctoPINTS website. Reporting back: Octopus Closure session @WIOMSA 2019.

Lindkvist, E., 2019c. OctoPINTS: Octopus & People In Novel Transdisciplinary Simulations. (the website)

Lindkvist, E., Drury O’Neill, L., Wamukota, A., Nicolas, T., 2019. Gathering Experiences of Octopus Closures in the WIO region: Towards a synthesis of actors, interactions and outcomes. Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.

Lindkvist, E., Wijermans, N., Daw, T.M., Gonzalez-Mon, B., Giron-Nava, A., Johnson, A.F., van Putten, I., Basurto, X., Schlüter, M., 2020. Navigating Complexities: Agent-Based Modeling to Support Research, Governance, and Management in Small-Scale Fisheries.Frontiers in Marine Science 6, 733.

Wreissnegger, C.L., 2020. How to formalise complex population dynamics for a stylised ecological model of small-scale fisheries?(Masters Thesis). Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg.

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