So what does ReefWatch Marine Conservation stand for?
If you are here on this page, you probably love the ocean. You probably care deeply about protecting it. Most likely, you’ve spent a little time by the sea and you are concerned about some of the impacts our species is having on the watery ones that inhabit the ocean. I’m sure you agree with the slogan ‘Save Our Seas’. But what does this mean, to save our seas? How do we go about it? As an organization dedicated to, as our name suggests, marine conservation, we spend rather a lot of time thinking about this question. We’re constantly looking at different approaches to conservation, evaluating them, questioning them and therefore forming our own unique approach. Defining our priorities when it comes to protecting our oceans, coastlines and coastal communities.
‘Marine conservation’ is a huge endeavour and we are by no means the only organization in the world working towards this lofty goal. Approaches towards the goal are almost as varied as the the ocean environment itself! Very broadly, organizations that focus on protecting the sea can be divided into three groups. Those that focus on spaces (campaigning to establish marine national parks and protected areas), those that focus on species (Sea Turtles, whales, sharks and other charismatic marine life) and those that focus on science (researching coral reefs, effects of climate change or ecosystem resilience for instance). The organization’s focus defines its approach.
So what does ReefWatch Marine Conservation stand for?
Less than spaces or species or science, our focus is to transform our country’s interaction with the sea. Our aim as conservationists is to be conduits – between India’s ocean and her people.
To connect Indians from different backgrounds to the ocean in a meaningful way. To help them fall in love with it and create the drive to want to protect it. We hope to create a strong culture of connect with the ocean especially in coastal towns and cities in India. Our commitment is to do this with people from varied backgrounds – different economic strata, ages and professions. Beyond just a connection we aim for people to understand more about the essential ecosystem services the ocean provides and the potential impacts to our lives if these systems break down. This connect is essential to change everyday behavior patterns that negatively impact the ocean as well as to create a public mandate that drives policy change.
To create avenues through which it is easier for individuals – for you – to affect positive, sustainable change. Beyond creating a passion to conserve, we also want to build easy ways for people to do so. In this way the desire amongst people to give back to the ocean will result in positive steps that actually improve the marine environment. Once more, we are working on ways for people from different economic backgrounds to pull together to do what they can.
To use this movement driven from the individual level to create a public mandate through which we can affect policy change and adaptive, intelligent management of our ocean resources.
When it comes to inspiration, the ocean does most of our work for us! We do not believe it is possible for a person to truly experience the sea and not be inspired by it, not treasure its beauty and its importance. Our approach here is to have projects and campaigns that bring more and more people to the ocean and to structure that interaction so they can get the most out of it. Apart from direct experience, we try to widen our circle of people through second-hand experiences – through bringing out the stunning beauty and life of India’s ocean through photographs, videos, exhibitions and so on.
We take an inclusive approach to conservation. We do not believe you have to be a marine biologist to study the ocean or an activist to protect it. We do not believe in knowledge being locked up in ivory towers (or expensive scientific journals), but rather in communicating issues, communicating results and opening the doors to solutions. We believe professionals from many fields can contribute to marine conservation – from electricians to engineers, from librarians to lawyers, from finance gurus to photographers, from divers to designers, from surfers to software writers. That their varied experiences and expertise can come together to form a multidisciplinary response to conservation issues. Our approach is to create platforms where these varied people can interact with conservation problems and create integrated and effective responses to them.
We believe that achieving our aims require collaborations with like-minded organizations and companies in India. We take a collaborative approach to raising awareness, raise funding for projects, as well as create solutions.
Understanding our conservation philosophy and approach helps to contextualize our individual projects.
We’d like to leave you with a dream we have. A dream of how a future India will interact with her ocean. Our readers in Mumbai will resonate with this best, but change the place names to whichever city you live in as you read this passage, then close your eyes and picture it.
“A young couple is out running on the beach. On one side there is the massive arch of road called Marine Drive. On the other is a glitteringly blue sea, reflecting the soft orange light of the morning sun. In the distance they see the silhouettes of small fishing boats heading out to sea. Their lines will be carefully designed so they do not trap turtles and sharks, but only large fish with healthy growth rates. Closer by there is a lone man on a paddleboard. He starts each day on the water, clearing his mind with breathing exercises before work at Nariman Point. Sometimes, as his eyes skim the surface, the water is clear enough for him to spot stingrays, baby eels and bright crabs. On the weekend, many families relax on the city’s different beaches. They build sandcastles, and the mammas don’t fret that the children will scoop up a hand full of poop or that their bare feet will be pierced by a shard of broken glass. Suddenly a girl squeals. Everyone drops what they are doing, and looks startled in her direction. She is pointing out to the waves. For a moment there is confusion. Then two dolphins soar out of the water and belly flop back in, as if competing for the bigger splash. The only person who missed this spectacle was, like the dolphins, riding the surf herself. The citizens of this Bombay love the ocean. They recognize that in every drop of water they drink, in every breath of air, they are inextricably connected and deeply dependent on the ocean. They also work, eat, sleep, travel, love, get married, have kids and grow up. The only difference between them and us, is that their relationship with their surroundings is a two way street. One that enriches them and that they in turn, protect fiercely”
Do you dream this dream with us?