I was born near the Ocean and I loved it from the beginning. When I planned to study Marine Biology, I never thought that I could be doing what I’m doing now. I wanted to work in the ocean and work with it, that was my dream. However, when I studied Biology at the university I started to love every living organism. Life is so amazing!
With everything I learned and saw at school, I started paying more attention to the processes of and impacts on all natural resources, which gave me the idea of doing something more to help with conservation. I worked in a National Protected Area in Cozumel, where I learned from and had the opportunity to work together with the government in conservation. This led me to monitor reefs, to work with divers, volunteers and companies. I began seeing the different views everyone has of the reefs, the ocean, and the benefits they receive. What I also saw was that almost nobody knew how to help. They were not aware that all the benefits we took from our oceans had a impact on the ecosystem and we weren’t giving something back.
Together with my partner Miguel Garcia, we founded Oceanus, A.C. where we could bring all of our ideas to reality and put into action our need to “do something more” for the reef; to implement a solution. We started trying restoration techniques together with the support of Elvira Carvajal in the National Park of Veracruz. We started coral nurseries in Veracruz and after awhile we saw that everything worked great. We then decided to engage the local communities and to expand our work to the Caribbean. Our work started working on a small scale.
Just when you think nobody is noticing your work, I found this wonderful initiative: the Mesoamerican Leadership Program. After my fellowship with the MAR Leadership Program I have learned how to expand our ideas, to show the world what we are doing and get financing to make all our ideas real. Through the program I received training to write proposals, budgets, learned how to link with donors and how to develop presentations, as well as skills in in conflict resolution. I even learned more about myself as the program pushes you to take advantage of every skill you have and get out there to get projects done.
Céline Cousteau and the CauseCentric team visited the project in the National Park of Xcalak! It was a great experience for me and I am really thankful that the MAR Leadership Program and Contiki Holidays made this possible. Having a person like Céline visit our nurseries, listen to our plans, and take part of the activities of the project, planting corals amongst other things, was simply amazing! It was so inspiring! She now has a new coral planted named after her son. We are receiving more of her support through the videos that are coming out. Thanks for that CauseCentric Productions!
After the MAR program many people, donors, government, and partners have gotten to known about our Oceanus projects. I now have a network of fellows that I know I could count on if I needed their support. I have contacts with experts to receive tutoring or to share ideas and experiences with. And I am especially proud of what we are doing, proving that we can give something back to the reef.
Every day we work on this project, but as corals grow very slow, sometimes we don´t see the change. They are like children. We might not notice the change, until someone else come to visit and says: “Wow! What a difference”. We just have to turn our heads and see what we forget for a while…that we are protecting life and giving corals an opportunity to live…because life is what is really important…
More information about our work can be found at www.oceanus.org.mx, images and updates of the Xcalak project on our Facebook page: Oceanus A.C. Similar efforts are starting all over the Mesoamerican Reef where last year we started a Coral Reef Restoration Network between Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras to share experiences and combine efforts.
We would like to thank to all the people that have been involved with the projects in the different protected areas: Oceanus staff, volunteers, and participants but specially thank you to Elvira Carvajal, Miguel Roman, Israel Lopez, Armando Fernandez, Claudia LeClerq, Jesus Reyes, Edgar Samos, Maricarmen Garcia, Jorge Gómez, Wady Hadaad, Omar Ortiz, Maria José González, Diego Lirman, Alejandro Granados, Cptn. Marcelo González, Captn. Luis Sanchez, Captn Pepe, Moises, Alexis, Omar and Marcos. Thank you to all the fishermen in the marine protected areas that have been involved in restoration activities and to all our donors that believe in our ideas and are giving us the opportunity to work restoring the reef: CONANP (Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano, Arrecifes de Xcalak, Arrecife Alacranes, Arrecife de Puerto Morelos, Reserva de la Biosfera Sian ka’an y Banco Chinchorro), Acuario de Veracruz, ScubaVer, MARFUND, Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz, COBI, The Packard Foundation, FMCN, Fam. Alderman, Fairmont Mayakobá, Contiki Holdays, Mundo Submarino Buceo Veracruz, Hotel Margarita del Sol and Mahahual Dive Centre.
Watch CauseCentric Production’s short film, “Rehabilitating Reefs – Planting Coral: MesoAmerican Reef Leadership Program – Part Two”, which highlights Gabriela’s work!
For detailed information on Gaby’s work please download this PDF.