I am THRILLED to share that our marine debris prevention project at the Vermilion Sea Institute in Bahia de los Angeles was funded by NOAA: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration!
I am a co-PI on the NOAA Marine Debris Prevention Grant “Aventureros Averting Plastics for a Better Baja” with the Vermilion Sea Institute in Bahia de los Angeles, Baja Mexico. This project, driven by youth leadership, will take significant steps toward preventing debris from entering the Bahía de los Ángeles Biosphere Reserve in the Gulf of California. The youth, who participate in an environmental education and action program through Vermilion Sea Institute called Aventureros, will be the drivers for each aspect of the project. The purpose of this approach, both in the program generally and in this project, is to develop a generation of environmental change makers on the Baja Peninsula and to ensure that the community of Bahía de los Ángeles, Mexico is well-prepared to prevent marine debris for decades to come.
The town of Bahía de los Ángeles is located within Baja California, Mexico, along the Gulf of California. While the local population of Bahía de los Ángeles is relatively small, this rural fishing town experiences consistent heavy tourism due to its year round warm weather and designation as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Marine World Heritage Site. The town’s waters are home to whale sharks, sea turtles, and numerous other keystone organisms. This influx of people, the need for more sustainable waste prevention and disposal options, and an increase in recent extreme weather events has resulted in significant quantities of waste in the water, on local beaches and wetlands. Increased marine debris ultimately impacts the marine ecosystem and human community subsistence and wellbeing.
The project first approaches the marine debris issue by cleaning the community through conducting monthly beach debris surveys, community beach cleans, compacting trash to prevent dispersal across the landscape, and diverting plastics to be ground, pressed and up-cycled into forms that can be used for sustainable construction projects. Second, the project seeks to address one source of debris, takeout containers from local restaurants. This initiative will engage with community members and businesses through recruiting and subsidizing restaurants to use low-impact takeout containers. Third, through education (both formal and informal) the project will seek input and direction from the Aventureros on the importance of marine debris and how the community should approach the issue. Finally, the project aims to empower youth to be stewards of their community and environment. The Aventureros will lead beach surveys and cleans, speak to restaurants about sustainable take-out containers, and help guide their own education based on the needs they have identified within their community.
Each of the activities listed above will be planned, advertised, and implemented by Aventureros youth, with appropriate support from Vermilion Sea Institute staff and adult volunteers. With marine ecosystems around the world being intrinsically linked, the health of the Gulf of California inevitably affects nutrient cycling, populations of large migratory predators (ie, transient orcas, sharks or larger fish), behavioral patterns of mid-to-small-sized species avoiding migratory predators, and the general stability of marine food webs.
Residents of Bahía de los Ángeles are already familiar with the mission and passion of the Aventureros youth, and this project promises to raise the youth into the unquestioned environmental influencers for this town and critically important marine ecosystem.
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