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The Ocean Guardians of Mozambique

When asked to picture the ocean, some people may conjure up images from a recent holiday, of warm tropical waters concealing a treasure trove of marine life against colourful reef backdrops.Others might imagine mysterious arctic waters, of ice-bergs floating like sugar cubes on the surface.Our oceans are incredibly diverse, and whilst many people admire their beauty and mystery, most neglect to consider how vital they are to our lives.

Our relationship with the oceans has become increasingly abusive and overly-dependent. Earth’s waters have become our garbage bins, and rising temperatures have wreaked havoc on the vulnerable ecosystems beneath the surface. We cannot see the true consequences of our actions; coral bleaching and crashing population levels of marine life are out of sight and out of mind.

The Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) envisions “a world where marine life and humans can thrive together” and have created education and conservation programmes to help make this a reality. The Foundation is tackling this global problem at its roots, using a collaborative strategy which is informed by local voices, business expertise, and development agencies alike. Educating and empowering young people is a central tenet of the organisation, particularly in their Ocean Guardians project in Mozambique:

 For the people of Mozambique, situated on the Southeast coast of Africa, the ocean is at the heart of  culture and economy.

In fact, their surrounding waters “contain more than 121 different species of sharks and rays”. The biodiversity of Mozambique is unique, and is vital for local fishing industries and attracting tourists from across the world. The money generated from the ocean is fundamental for both national economic growth and local community development.

However, MMF has discovered “a decline of 98% in manta ray sighting and 88% in whale shark sightings” since 2003. Since coastal communities of this beautiful nation are often the first to experience the consequences of declining ocean health, MMF have embarked on a mission to create a new generation of Ocean Guardians through combined education and conservation projects in Mozambique.

Despite the importance of the ocean to everyday life, many Mozambicans do not know how to swim. Sarah Bishop, Director of Education at MMF, explains that local people were often reluctant to learn about the ocean because they were afraid of it. By combining swimming lessons with marine conservation, in programmes “run by the community for the community”, Bishop explains that the Foundation is creating a generation of environmentally aware individuals, conservationists, and marine biologists. This local approach is likely to create a ripple-effect across the nation, leading to sustainable development in the future.So far, over 1,900 Mozambicans have learned about marine conservation and 430 have learned to swim. Not only does the Foundation run basic lessons, they have also organised weekly beach clean-ups and ocean safaris in order to engage the community in fun and unique ways.

The project has been very successful so far. In fact, an Ocean Guardian earned first place in the Mozambican National Swimming Championship in 2016. Hundreds of Mozambicans have learned to swim, local instructors have been employed by the project, and several young people have gone on to work in the ecotourism industry itself.

To expand their project, reach many more communities, and educate this new generation of conservationists, MMF needs some help. The organization has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support this project, in the hope that public support will help them reach their goal of 10,000 USD.

If this project continues to thrive and expand, it will have a positive impact on the national economy, local communities, and the global environmental crisis – not to mention increasing access to swimming lessons is saving the lives of many young Mozambicans.

By inspiring young generations now, love and concern for the ocean is sure to have a ripple-effect across future generations, ensuring positive long-term impacts.

Check out their GoFundMe page here.

Photos, video and information courtesy of the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Project Conservation.

Originally published on The National Student – http://www.thenationalstudent.com/Travel/2018-05-10/how_you_can_support_the_ocean_guardians_of_mozambique.html

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