“I want everyone to know what is happening to the corals, because they always talk about the trees, but this is our marine forest, and we also have to take care of it,” says Maitén Moore Arenas, 14, one of the most active divers and also youngest of the group.
“This is the place that saw me grow up, that’s why it means a lot to me to be able to help the corals, give them back that life they had, so that many others can play here like I did,” says Pete Stephens Brown, 20 years old also from the team.
Both are members of the “Community Center for Diving and Ambassadors of the Sea” of Costa Rica, a pioneering initiative in the region that seeks “to know, care for and recreate maritime culture”, explains its founder María Suárez Toro, an active diver at 73 years of age.
Diving with purpose
“Our motto is “diving with purpose,” Suárez Toro tells. “We want to develop opportunities for young people in the area to interact with the sea, which their grandparents and grandmothers took care of, to know and preserve it with today’s technologies,” she adds. Thus, young divers combine diving learning activities, sports and recreation at sea, with study and training on topics such as identification, monitoring and restoration of corals.
“I always went to the sea, before or after school, I saw the fish and the coral reefs, and I drew them,” says Maitén Moore Arenas, born and raised in Puerto Viejo, a town that is home to the Center. “But now, since I have been at the Center, I have known the scientific names of all of them, and I also know how to differentiate whether they are healthy or not”, she shares with enthusiasm.
“They taught me how to plant corals, how to help them and how to clean them”, details, meanwhile, proudly, the young Pete Stephens Brown, also a native of the area. “It is a very nice experience for me to be part of this project”, he adds .
The relevance of the initiative
And this is precisely another of the axes of entrepreneurship: its social value, the prospects for the future and integration that it offers its members, in an area of natural wealth that contrasts with poverty, limited opportunities and the penetration of organized crime and drug trafficking.
“The Center is located in one of the most economically impoverished cantons (Talamanca, in the Limón province) in the country, being the richest in biodiversity and culture,” says Suárez Toro, the entrepreneur’s soul mate.
“Climate change, pollution of the seas by centuries of banana farms presence on its coasts, sedimentation, the presence of invasive lionfish and plastic garbage are some of the intensified negative impact factors in the area,” he lists.
National and international recognition
Within this framework, the national and international recognition of entrepreneurship has not been long in coming. “We support this initiative because it is an excellent investment for the future of Costa Rica, betting on its youth, the conservation of nature and the leadership that new generations must necessarily assume to ensure a possible future,” says Alejandro Rossi, Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Panama.
“The message provided by the more than 30 young people trained around Ambassadors of the Sea, is that each and every one of us has the potential to generate change, if there is will, work and training for action” , adds the manager.
Of course, these are not isolated actions more or less voluntarist. “From the point of view of causes, the restoration of ocean ecosystems requires taking priority action on the discharge of liquid and solid waste into our seas”, analyzes Rossi.
“If we do not reduce current discharge levels, life in our oceans will continue to decline alarmingly and, as a consequence, our life outside the oceans will also be at risk,” he stresses.
In fact, UNOPS and the public company Acueductos y Alcantarillados have been developing a new sanitary sewer system and a wastewater treatment plant on site since last year, which will reduce the sources of pollution on the reef. And the Ambassadors of the Sea will continue tirelessly with their task: for them and for those who will come.