Marine Biodiversity in MexicoLike all U.N. members, Mexico is subject to an annual Sustainable Development Goal Report report. This year, Mexico ranks 69th out of 193 countries with a score of 70.44 out of a possible 100. Significant challenges remain in 16 of Mexico’s 17 sustainable development goals (no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, etc). Mexico holds its highest rating in SDG 14: Life Below Water. This goal aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marines resources for sustainable development.” While SDG 14 is positive for Mexico, the U.N. report states that “challenges remain” and details the trend as “moderately improving” but at a level insufficient to reach the ultimate goal. Listed below are the five indicators for progress toward achieving SDG 14 and protecting marine biodiversity in Mexico.

Protected Marine Areas

According to the U.N., Mexico continues to improve its protection of key marine biodiversity areas. The country is currently on track to achieve this critical component in the overall fight for protecting life below water. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works in partnership with other NGOs and the Mexican government to protect marine biodiversity. TNC’s main concern is the 700-mile long Mesoamerican Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. With encouragement from TNC and other NGOs, the Mexican government now designates about 25% of its marine areas as protected areas (MPAs). This includes the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, which encompasses 34 million acres and is home to hundreds of aquatic species. MPAs and coral reef conservation are crucial measures for protecting marine biodiversity in Mexico.

Ocean Health Index: Clean Waters Score

Significant challenges remain in maintaining clean waters. Mexico has a score of 64.43 for keeping “chemicals, excessive nutrients (eutrophication), human pathogens and trash” out of its waters. The Mexican organization Villa Duendes has taken a unique approach toward encouraging people to clean up their local waters. They offer free nights in their sustainable domes for anyone who brings five garbage bags of plastic from Mexican beaches/waters. Villa Duendes also operates the Mar Amor Project, which partners with local fishing companies, environmental foundations, governments and communities to collect plastic waste from the ocean and upcycle it for re-use.

Fish Caught from Overexploited Stocks

The SDG report declares this indicator to be in a better position than the clean waters score, but the score is decreasing as of the latest calculation. The most recent estimate finds that almost 35% of fish caught in Mexican waters are from species that are overexploited or collapsed. The ocean conservation organization Oceana criticizes mishandling by Mexico’s National Fisheries Institute and alleges corruption. Oceana warns that sharks, red snapper, bluefin tuna, grouper and octopus are endangered due to continued overfishing. Less marine biodiversity in Mexico could not only cripple aquatic ecosystems but also local economies reliant on fishing.

Fish Caught by Trawling

Trawling is a fishing method in which fishermen drag nets along the seafloor to catch a species of fish en masse. This technique does incredible damage to marine habitats, particularly coral reefs. It also compounds problems related to overfishing by indiscriminately trapping whatever species happens to be in the net’s path. These bycatch (unwanted fish that are inadvertently netted) are often thrown back dead or dying into the ocean. Fortunately, the SDG’s latest estimates put Mexico on track to effectively eliminate trawling, although challenges do remain.

Marine Biodiversity Threats in Imports

This indicator determines whether or not marine biodiversity in Mexico is being harmed by mass importation. Developed nations with the capacity to import a variety of marine goods generally receive poor scores in this category. For example, seafood-loving Japan is one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to overfishing. Japan’s now depleted fish stocks are nowhere near enough to satisfy the insatiable seafood appetite of its people. Thus, Japan has to import huge quantities of fish, resulting in a low score for marine biodiversity threats embodied in imports. When it comes to imports that threaten marine biodiversity in Mexico, the nation is currently at a level of sustainable development. This indicator is a major boost to Mexico’s SDG 14 score.

The Mexican government recognizes the threat to its oceans and is taking steps in conjunction with NGOs, fisheries and local communities to protect marine life. While Mexico has much work to do, its efforts to protect its oceans and life below water are admirable. Clean waters are one of the areas where Mexico has the most work to do toward achieving SDG 14. However, if the Mexican people can follow the example they set in protecting key marine biodiversity sites, then there is real hope that the country can continue on its path to SDG 14. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Villa Duendes and Oceana are among the catalysts striving to protect the oceans and its inhabitants.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Lotus flowers are used to make lotus face masks in Cambodia to address PPE waste and a high face mask demand. Several activists and actors have raised alarm over the potentially devastating effects that personal protective equipment (PPE) can have in terms of increasing pollution around the world. There have been reports of PPE waste collecting on coasts around the world. Plastic pollution negatively impacts ocean health and, for maritime nations, this could translate to economic losses and the loss of livelihoods for those working within the ocean economy. One study by Plastics Hub found that if every person living in the UK utilized a single-use face mask for every day of 2020, it would contribute an additional 66,000 tons of plastic waste. It is unclear how much of this waste could end up in marine environments, but with 150 million tonnes already circulating the earth’s water, there is a pressing urgency to address the unsustainability of single-use face masks to fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, an eco-friendly designer in Cambodia created lotus face masks to address this PPE waste.

Is There a Way to Combat PPE Pollution?

Cambodia is not exempt from the negative impacts that pollution can have on marine environments. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identifies Cambodia as being highly dependent on its aquatic resources for both food security and the livelihoods of the Cambodian people.  In 2013, Cambodia averaged 700,000 tons of fishing and aquaculture production.  At a conference on maritime issues in Cambodia in 2015, hosted by the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, speakers highlighted the risk pollution poses to the economic livelihoods of those who depend on the marine economy.  The FAO has also spoken about the degradation of the marine habitat in the country due to pollution. Photographer Niamh Peren described one scene of coastal pollution in Sihanouk, Cambodia as “mountains and mountains of plastic.”

Pollution in the marine environment is a global problem. Due to the nature of the ocean’s currents, marine plastic pollution does not respect national boundaries and one country’s actions will not be enough to address the problem alone. However, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, is implementing an innovative solution to tackling plastic pollution, while simultaneously diversifying the economy in Cambodia and alleviating poverty rates in the country.

Turning Unwanted Lotus Stems into Organic Fabric

Delaval’s lotus face masks are made utilizing ancestral techniques of producing lotus fiber from lotus stems, which are commonly regarded as waste within the country. The entire process of creating sustainable lotus face masks is entirely eco-friendly, as well as biodegradable.  The fabric produced using lotus fibers is remarkably efficient at filtration and, according to Delaval, is a superior fabric due to its light texture and breathability. The eco-textile company Samatoa, which Delaval manages, produces lotus masks that meet the standards of both the United States’ CDC and France’s Association Francaise de Normalization, making them an effective alternative to plastic single-use face masks.

Samatoa also values the tenets of fair trade and has made a positive impact on the livelihoods of poor Cambodians in the Battambang province. The company has provided employment that empowered thirty Cambodia women to be financially independent and provide for their families. According to Samatoa, the wages earned by company workers are twice what they would receive from other textile work in the country. Additionally, the company ensures that workers have access to a number of benefits, including trade union rights, paid leave and health insurance.

Impact of Lotus Face Masks

Delaval’s innovative solution to plastic pollution produced from single-use face masks gained international attention. The company he manages, Samatoa, is striving to increase production and capacity to improve the lives of an additional 500 women. Samatoa also provides educational opportunities to lotus farmers on sustainable farming practices, further improving the lives of the Cambodian people. Deval’s lotus face masks provide a sustainable solution to the problem of PPE waste while simultaneously providing economic development to rural communities in Cambodia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Pixabay

Blue Economy
With over 70% of the world covered by the ocean, economists across the world are working to discover ways to integrate its varied resources into the world economy. One of the newest and most innovative visions of the future of the marine economy is termed the “Blue Economy.” This vision states that the responsible use and stewardship of the world’s maritime resources can be used as a tool for unprecedented economic growth, the fight against world poverty and the sustainability of the ocean environment. The strategic and sustainable use of the oceans has incredible growth potential and is also appearing to be a key factor in the development of small island nations.

Growth Potential

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has projected that by 2030, the ocean economy will double from 2010 levels, adding $3 trillion to the global economy.  The World Bank has already invested $3.67 billion USD in its Blue Economy program, underscoring the universal acceptance of its potential. Today, fisheries contribute $270 billion USD  to the global economy, and with more sustainable fishing practices in place, their contribution to the global GDP will only continue to grow. Eighty percent of global trade currently operates via ocean transport and, according to the World Bank, the volume of seaborne trade is expected to quadruple by 2050.

One country that is currently experiencing the results of the Blue Economy is Bangladesh. Bangladesh has large growth potential in the maritime arena given that, according to the World Bank, it has recently gained international clearance to use the resources of a 121,110 square kilometer marine area “equivalent to more than 80 percent of the country’s total land area”.  The highest growth sectors of the new Bangladeshi Blue Economy are fisheries, shipbuilding, offshore renewable energy, shipping and tourism.  The World Bank projects that further key investments in the Blue Economy could produce a “ten-fold increase” in the production of aquaculture in Bangladesh. The prospect of job creation and economic transformation for the country’s poorest coastal populations is promising.

Includes the World’s Poor

Some of the world’s poorest countries have broad access to ocean resources: thus, the integration of the Blue Economy could provide economic benefits for countries and individuals as well as greater food security and improved health. By reducing pollution in the oceans, more people could be able to find work in the booming aquaculture economy. Governments’ efforts to maintain sustainability has the potential to increase their transparency and stability, leading to better resources for their citizens. Rising ocean levels disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries; however, the blue economy will work to stem these changes.

Evidence of the inclusivity of the Blue Economy comes from the West African nation of the Gambia. In 2012, an organization of female oyster harvesters gained exclusive rights from the Gambian government to a key fishery. Due to the high quality of the local natural resources, the price of oysters harvested in this area doubled. As a result, nearly 400 women in the organization gained access to microloans and financial literacy programs able to aid in their fight against poverty.

Future Focused

The Blue Economy has a focus on sustainable technologies. Offshore renewable energy would provide small developing island and coastal nations with many high demand jobs in addition to energy benefits. Offshore renewable energy is more reliable than land-based technologies and does not have the same adverse effects on the environment that fossil fuels do. Offshore renewable energy is taking off across the globe, and if the world’s poorest countries are included in its growth, it could lead to developmental benefits for those nations.

The Blue Economy is a vision for the future that maximizes sustainability, production and anti-poverty mechanisms. Since many of the world’s poorest countries have a lot of access to ocean resources, aquaculture could provide them with new economic possibilities. With rising ocean levels, which have a greater effect on poorer countries, the Blue Economy could stem those changes and hold the key to a more prosperous future.

Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty
Since the 1970s scare, the state of the earth, specifically in regards to climate change, has been a hot topic of conversation in the scientific community. The degradation of farmlands, dangerous weather patterns and the gradual deconstruction of global ecosystems are becoming more apparent. With a growing cause for concern, scientists, corporations and individuals have come to understand that a change must occur.

On the other hand, alleviating global poverty is a pressing issue also. The world could dramatically reduce international poverty with longterm investment and adequate programming. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine where to allocate resources. Despite this conundrum, three companies have proven that resource allocation might not have to be a choice if they become sustainable companies reducing poverty. The Plastic Bank, Chr. Hansen and M-KOPA have dramatically improved the lives of impoverished and/or food insecure individuals while maintaining a corporate focus towards alleviating global sustainability issues.

3 Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty

  1. Plastic Bank: The Plastic Bank is a Canadian company that started in 2013 with the goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean. Impoverished and overpopulated areas with little to no waste management systems are primary sources of ocean plastic build-up. The organization works with local residents in Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and soon Brazil to mitigate plastic waste by mobilizing locals. It accomplishes this by imploring the citizens to collect and deposit plastic buildup in exchange for credits that they can use to buy necessities such as food, medicine and cleaning products. Not only does this reduce individual waste production, but it improves the lives of those who partake in the exchange and those around them. Plastic Bank has committed itself to the implementation of activities to educate these communities about ecological health and the science of sustainability in addition to trading labor for goods.
  2. Chr. Hansen: Chr. Hansen began in 1873 as a single pharmaceutical factory and has grown into a global force in food production and sustainability. In 2019, Corporate Knights acknowledged the Denmark-based company as the world’s most sustainable company. The organization continues to pursue these sustainability goals through the improvement of natural food longevity agents and reducing dairy waste. Further, the company floods investment into alleviating food insecurity with a primary focus on the second U.N. Sustainable Development goal. To accomplish such a goal, the company works with local agencies and/or other civil society organizations to support local, small-scale dairies in developing countries.  Chr. Hansen also devotes attention to the dairy market in Northern Africa where camels are more common than cows. Through this work, the company is investing in research about processing for preservation to decrease camel milk waste and giving local residents affordable access to these products.
  3. M-KOPA Solar: M-Kopa Solar is a Kenya-based company that has implemented solar power to over 750,000 homes and businesses in the region. Not only does the company provide clean energy, but these highly efficient systems also provide low-cost energy to the user. M-KOPA provides rural and off-grid individuals with the comfort of electricity that would otherwise be fiscally or physically inaccessible. Not only do the consumers benefit from the energy but there is also potential to profit from the sale of that power to others. Providing this energy permits consumers to focus less on how to afford power and gives them autonomy. M-Kopa is one of the few African-based sustainable companies reducing poverty within the residing country. This organization is working to expand its reach further through Kenya and into other regions.

These companies have proven that resource allocation is not a choice. These three sustainable companies reducing poverty have done so through corporate missions and societal impact initiatives.

Kayla Brown
Photo: Unsplash

Oil Spills Are Contaminating the World's Water Sources

Oil spills happen all over the world. These oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources and destroying marine life. Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that more than 1 million gallons of oil contaminate the oceans. These oil spills cost the world important natural resources. Oil spills can happen in many ways. Some are accidental spills while mining the oil from the Earth; others happen due to oil rig malfunctions, attacked tankers or drowned tankers. The containment and clean-up of these spills can cost millions even billions of dollars.

Top 6 Major Oil Spills

The top six major oil spills in the world as of early 2019 are:

  1. The 1991 Gulf War Oil Spill resulted in 240 million gallons of oil spilled.
  2. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill (also considered the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill) resulted in an estimated 53,000 barrels of oil spilled into the ocean every day for 3 months.
  3. The 1979 Ixtoc 1 Oil Well Spill resulted in 140 million gallons of oil spilled.
  4. The 1979 Atlantic Empress Oil Spill spilled 88.3 million gallons of oil.
  5. The 1983 Nowruz Field Platform Oil Spill spilled 80 million gallons of oil.
  6. The 1991 ABT Summer Oil Spill resulted in 51 million gallons of oil spilled.

 Just these oil spills alone have caused many lost lives and damage to marine life and the ecosystem on which humanity depends. When marine life is attacked, it has an effect on world populations. Oil spills kill thousands of marine life species when they occur. While cleaning the oil spills does save some, it is not before the damage has been done. Humans partly rely on marine life to survive.

Poverty and Water Contamination

Oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources because it makes water unconsumable. It contaminates parts of the ocean and can seep into the clean water supply that humans and other species need in order to survive. It can seep into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water naturally connected to the ocean. While developed countries have access to clean water by manufacturing companies, many underdeveloped countries do not. Poverty ridden countries tend to suffer the most when water is contaminated due to lack of access to water bottles or barrels to collect rainwater.

Furthermore, the World Wildlife Fund posits that approximately three billion people around the world rely on seafood as their only source of protein. Oil spills continue to impact an already suffering ecosystem. Around 85 percent of marine fish stocks have already been either fully exploited or overfished. Add these two factors together and the marine life that poverty-ridden countries rely on begins to decrease and an already struggling country begins to fall even more.

ISCO Is Trying to Clean Up the Oceans

The International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) is a nonprofit NGO that was established in 1984 and has members in over 45 countries. ISCO has helped clean up multiple oil spills including Exxon Valdez in 1989, the Gulf War Oil Spill in 1991, Lebanon Oil Spill in 2006 and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill in 2010.

Along with the aiding of cleaning up oil spills, ISCO also helps to raise co-operation and preparedness worldwide, promoting technological development and making knowledge on spill control available for all organizations when needed. Some recommended safety tips on preventing spills include regular inspections of containers including both piping and mechanical properties, proper loading and unloading procedures and proper training.

Why and how oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources are important for society to take notice in because it costs hundreds to millions of dollars to clean up but will already have done damage towards contaminating water sources and damaging marine life ecosystems which affects poverty-ridden countries. Many oil spills can be avoided if more action towards taking safer steps to obtaining and transporting oil is taken. By increasing the safety of these actions, oil spills can begin to stop contaminating water sources.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Unsplash

single-use plastics

In December of 2018, Peru‘s Congress passed a national law to significantly discourage and limit the use of plastics. The law was discussed for nearly a year prior to a unanimous vote in support of it. Over the past several years, plastic accumulating in and contaminating water sources has become a global crisis. With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface quickly becoming polluted, Peru‘s efforts to do their part in eliminating single-use plastics is a momentous stepping stone in cleaning up the planet.

Peru’s Response

The issue with single-use plastics is that they are virtually everywhere. Their easy accessibility has created nothing short of a man-made disaster. However, companies around the world are coming up with more sustainable options in hopes of remedying the issue and easing the country’s transition away from plastic.

Peru’s Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz explains that they intend to transition to “reusable, biodegradable plastic or others whose degradation does not generate contamination by microplastics.” Peru‘s law regulates the consumption of single-use plastics by drastically reducing the production of disposables. Therefore, inevitably forcing consumers to seek out alternatives to plastic, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment.

The Devastating Affect on Wildlife

Fish consume an average of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal damage and death. This means that larger marine mammals and human seafood eaters who consume the affected fish can become very ill. The South American country is home to 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline is known for its delicacy ceviche. The Environmental Ministry spearheaded the campaign “I don’t want this in my ceviche” in order to get more people on board with reusable bags.

This issue spreads far wider than the ocean; it affects each ecosystem that it comes into contact with. This is not limited to sealife. Birds often ingest or get caught in the plastic. Ingested plastic doesn’t break down in the birds’ stomachs and can lead to death. In addition to ingestion, marine mammals often become entangled large pieces of plastic. In fact, at least 700 species get entangled in plastic waste, some of which are already endangered.

Long-Term Plans

The Environment Ministry estimates that Peru uses 947,000 tons of plastic each year with 75 percent of it being discarded into landfills and only 0.3 percent being recycled properly. With this law, Peru is doing away with common disposable items, such as plastic straws, foam packaging and plastic tableware. It is anticipating getting rid of plastic bags entirely within three years by placing a tax on them. It will also ensure that plastic bottles are at least 15 percent recyclable within the next three years.

Additionally, the country plans to place a limit on the number of plastic products being distributed as well as imported and exported within the country. The Peruvian government also banned tourists from bringing single-use plastics into 76 of the country’s cultural sites, including the historic site and tourist destination, Machu Picchu.

This initiative is just the beginning of a larger movement to undo the damage that humans have done to the plant over generations. Hopefully, other nations across the globe will acknowledge Peru’s efforts and also be inspired to eliminate single-use plastics.

—Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Pixabay

Plastic For ChangeUsually, the highest rates of plastic waste are correlated with areas highest in poverty. In fact, 80 percent of ocean plastic comes from areas of high poverty. What if there was a way to use plastic for change to clean up the ocean, and in doing so, lift people out of poverty?

Solutions to the Plastic Problem

This is the very motivation behind the Plastic Bank. Founded in 2013 by David Katz and Shaun Frankson, Plastic Bank is a nonprofit that pays people in poverty-stricken areas to pick up ocean trash. The organization pays these individuals a digital income in order to monitor corruption and ensure accuracy. Plastic Bank also throws in benefits including school tuition, cooking oil and more for people in these countries.

So far the organization has completed one major project in the Philippines, employing fishermen for $2.50 an hour (nearly double the average wage in the Philippines) who were able to remove three tons of waste as a result. Plastic Bank is working in Haiti and Indonesia to do projects of the same, or greater, magnitude.

Further Impact of Plastic Bank

Not only is this method far cheaper and more effective than government-run programs, but it is also teaching local communities who are often most directly affected by pollution, the importance of recycling and the proper way to go about it. In many countries like the Philippines or Haiti, survival trumps recycling etiquette, and therefore trash accumulates in the streets and waters. This contaminates the water sources, creating large numbers of people without access to clean drinking water. In Haiti, 75 percent of the population lacks access to this basic necessity.

Plastic Bank is transforming the way plastic is seen. The organization wants to help people realize the value of plastic and how we can use plastic for change. By educating individuals about the uses of plastic, they learn to view it as precious — a kind of currency almost.

Plastic Bank uses the recycled plastic to make what they dub, “social plastic,” plastic that other companies can use knowing they have helped people out of life in extreme poverty. Companies like Dell are using plastic in pellet form to make products such as computers and other electronics.

Going Above and Beyond

Other organizations have headed up similar efforts, including The Bounty Network, which recently completed a clean-up project in the Philippines, specifically in Manila Bay. Working with Filipino locals, the organization cleaned up nearly three tons of trash. Project participants were paid in both cryptocurrency and knowledge — having learned about the importance of caring for the earth.

This new trend of cleaning oceans by empowering disenfranchised people to make a difference is a win-win solution. With a steady income, people in countries like Haiti and the Philippines can overcome poverty, and with clean oceans, they can have safer, healthier environments that could even become good sources of food.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Wikimedia

Environmental conservation is an often-forgotten aspect of reducing global poverty and providing sustainable income for coastal communities. Conserving the ocean has become an even more pressing issue now because of overfishing. However, one company is putting this at the forefront of their work. Rare’s Fish Forever campaign is working to end the unprecedented endangerment of our coastal waters and protect the families who depend on them.

What Is Rare’s Fish Forever?

Founded in 1995 by Brett Jenks, Rare is an organization with a focus on conservation as a means to protect the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure that the wetlands, forests and oceans they depend on continue to thrive. Fish Forever is a campaign that targets coastal revitalization and conserving biodiversity along coastlines through bottom-up solutions. Jenks says, “The aim isn’t to teach a community to fish; it’s to help ensure they can fish forever.” Ensuring a future for these coastal communities relies on sustainable fishing practices.

Rare’s Fish Forever campaign uses community-led initiatives to provide solutions to issues like overfishing and coastal mismanagement because it empowers local populations and incentivizes future compliance with new regulations. These local people work with all levels of their government to come up with solutions that fit their unique situation. Active in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Belize and Mozambique, Rare’s Fish Forever acts as a guide for communities while also providing tools the improve the data needed for these countries to make informed decisions.

Fish Forever in Mozambique

Mozambique is an African country with more than 1,500 miles of coastline, sustaining millions of people. Half of the population lives on the coastline in fishing communities. In fact, the economy is largely dependent on fisheries, particularly small-scale or artisan fisheries. Almost 85 percent of all fish caught in Mozambique are done so on a small-scale. Communities such as those in the Nampula, Sofala, Inhambane, Maputa and Cabo Delgado regions are good candidates for Rare’s Fish Forever solutions because they are home to most of the small-scale fisherman.

The country’s coastline is very diverse, second only to the Coral Triangle. However, due to climate change and unregulated fishing, the size of the fish catches has declined. In the last 25 years, small-scale catch sizes have declined 30 percent, and it is continuing to decline. Additionally, fisherman asserted that some species of fish had all-together disappeared. Climate change would only worsen these issues, so Rare’s Fish Forever worked with communities to come up with solutions to this threat. Together with Rare’s Fish Forever program, communities came up with four broad solutions to revitalize coastlines, protect biodiversity and ensuring sizeable fish catches for families.

  1. First, they decided to adopt government frameworks to better regulate fishing behaviors and make fishing more sustainable.
  2. Then, they built and strengthened community-based management of coastal fisheries.
  3. Thirdly, communities established fishing areas with managed access – places where fishing was prohibited or limited – and provided social and economic benefits to communities who abided by these rules.
  4. Lastly, they made environmental conservation more of the social norm through education and marketing campaigns.

All in all, Mozambique is on its way to recovery. With more than 100 organizations and institutions supporting Rare’s Fish Forever program, the country’s coastal waters and fishing communities are in good hands. That means a higher chance of conserving the ocean.

Rare’s Fish Forever in the Philippines

Coastal communities in the Philippines face the same sorts of issues as those in Mozambique. Looc Bay is a beautiful location that is home to many communities and attracts its fair share of tourists. Unfortunately, a combination of overfishing by local fisherman and environmental degradation from irresponsible tourism have caused a significant decline in the fish populations. This has only been accelerated by climate change.

The communities in the area have always been wary of external intervention. Their greatest worry when initially approached by Rare’s Fish Forever program was that coastal management would restrict fishing to a point that families could no longer sustain themselves through small-scale fishing. This distrust was fortunately misplaced.

Today, more than 4.4 square miles of coastal waters have been declared as Managed Access Areas and sanctuaries. These protected critical habitats require exclusive clearance, which is only granted to fisherman who comply with sustainable practices. To date, more than 800 fishermen have been granted exclusive access area, meaning that they are also faithful practitioners of sustainable fishing.

Jose Ambrocio, the Looc Municipal Councilor and chairperson of the Agricultural and Environmental Committee, has noted that “With Rare’s Fish Forever program, we are working to balance the economic needs of the people and the need to conserve the resources for the future generation.”

By challenging communities to develop their own solutions, Rare’s Fish Forever program is sustainable and empowering. Through this program, and programs like it, more sustainable fishing practices can be put into place, thus working towards a better future by conserving the ocean.

Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty
There are an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and about 80 percent of that plastic comes from countries that can be considered as countries with extreme poverty. Individuals struggling to feed their families and send their children to school do not have time to worry about recycling and are often unaware of the effects of pollution on their surrounding environment. To address this issue, David Katz founded the Plastic Bank, a company that is using ocean plastic to end poverty.

The Plastic Bank- Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty

The Plastic Bank aims to combine social and environmental impact by creating value out of plastic waste. Communities suffering from poverty usually do not have effective waste management programs and therefore any plastic products used by local families end up polluting the surrounding environment. By working with impoverished communities, the Plastic Bank helps set up stores in which the accepted currency is post-consumer plastics. This enables individuals to collect plastics and exchange them for money, goods and services.

This program has proven to be very successful in Haiti. A number of stores have been founded in which locals can bring used plastics to be weighed and checked for quality and then traded in for credit. The stores that are created and operated by locals offer various products and services, from food and water to school tuition and medical insurance to cell phone minutes and high-efficiency stoves.

Cooperation with Other Companies

In addition to offering a means of steady income, this credit system allows individuals to set up a savings account. Impoverished communities often rely on cash transactions and are therefore at a greater risk of corruption and theft. To solve this, the Plastic Bank teamed up with IBM to employ blockchain technology, removing money from the equation completely.

The Plastic Bank then sells the plastics collected to socially and environmentally conscious companies around the world. Brands like Marks and Spencer and Henkel use recycled plastic in their manufacturing. As a consumer, everyone can support poverty-reduction efforts and the environment by buying products made with these recycled plastics.

Innovative Solutions

The Plastic Bank is continuing to expand its operations and is testing out other innovative solutions by using ocean plastics to end poverty, such as a bottle-deposit program in Vancouver in which all of the money collected from recycled plastics is sent to poor communities around the world. Another idea is to match churches in big cities with those in impoverished nations. For example, a church in London asking its members to bring in plastics and then, with the help of the Plastic Bank, sending the proceeds to a church in Cairo that is able to assist the members of its community suffering from poverty.

The Plastic Bank has formed a system in which plastic waste is given a value, offering individuals a means of income while incentivizing anti-pollution efforts. Not only is this program using ocean plastics to end poverty and to create jobs for locals living in poverty, but it also creates stores in which goods and services most needed by the community are available. As they continue to grow and implement new ideas, the Plastic Bank is supporting those suffering from poverty around the world while tackling a global pollution issue.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Google

Saving Coral Reefs
Coral reefs cover only 0.1 percent of Earth’s surface but sustain around 1 billion people worldwide and 25 percent of all marine life. This impact alone is a major factor as to why saving coral reefs is an imperative mission, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Coral reefs protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms particularly in the Philippines, the Caribbean and Australia.

In addition, coral reefs also provide habitats for marine organisms, help with nutrient recycling and create a healthier environment to breathe in and do agriculture. They also provide environmentally-friendly fishing for human consumption while increasing marine job opportunities and tourism. For example, Fiji relies on the Great Sea Reef, the third largest in the world, for all of its food security and income for a population with over 250,000 people living on the poverty line.

Yet, the United Nations has reported that 70 percent of Earth’s coral reefs are threatened —  20 percent are already destroyed, 24 percent are at high risk of collapse and an additional 26 percent are at risk due to long-term threats. Acts such as coral bleaching, sale of live coral, plastic and chemical pollution and unregulated water activities and fishing contribute to dramatic reef loss. Coral reefs are vital for the environment, food and income globally.

NGO and Government Initiatives

Greater levels of protection are implemented by governments and NGOs. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has created a future protection plan that involves the need to reduce marine pollution, regulate the harvesting of fish and end overfishing, unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices to restore fish stocks. Proper fishing can even provide secure food aid based on fish and shellfish to hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty.

The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) in conjunction with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 created a document titled, “The Future We Want.” This proposal emphasizes the importance of economic relief for the poor living coastal to reefs. The document outlines economic means to build “green-economic” societies that do not harshly deteriorate coral reefs and educate the poor. The ICRI also places importance on aid and public-private business partnerships as essential to saving coral reefs and reducing poverty.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that widespread coral bleaching has reduced dramatically as of 2018. The non-profit, Coral Reef Alliance (CRI), has also provided reef community infrastructure projects and scholarships for reef education to students in Fiji since 2005.

CRI encouraged the Honduras government to declare two areas as Sites of Wildlife Importance: Cordelia Banks in Roatán and Tela Bay. This denotation offers a greater level of protection and regulation, reduces fishing pressure and enables coral reefs to thrive. In collaboration with the Puakō community and universities in Hawai’i, CRI conducted dye tracer studies to track the movement of wastewater to oceans in an effort for saving coral reefs.

How To Protect Coral Reefs

Coral reefs do not just rely on government and NGO projects for aid. The ICRI has declared 2018 the International Year of the Reef and has partnered with Green Fins and the Reef-World Foundation to make sustainable diving practices the norm. The following list denotes five ways to protect coral reefs.  

  1. Always wear a life jacket and practice buoyancy prior to diving to not accidentally harm marine life.
  2. Use reef-friendly sunscreen. A report by the ICRI addresses toxics in UV products. Sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredients do not contribute to coral bleaching nor harm fish.
  3. Do not leave unwanted fishing nets or plastic into the water, as that only adds to suffocation of organisms and pollution.
  4. Build a coral reef.
  5. Contact representatives by call, email or in person. Demand action to pass legislation to protect coral reefs, stop ocean pollution and expand marine protected areas.

Saving coral reefs prevents poverty traps from occurring. A poverty trap is a situation where poor communities are forced to degrade resources of coral reefs in order to make ends meet. In Madagascar and Papua New Guinea, the populations living in poverty rely on government protection of coral reefs for food to prevent a poverty trap. With the right environmental, economic and social initiatives, reefs can be sustained to save marine life and the world’s poor.

– Areina Ismail
Photo: Flickr