Crowdfunding Marine Reserves: Inspirations from a Squid and a Wise Man

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Four Arrows in between the ladies and the rest of the Green Coconut Crew.

LoaTree is a proud sponsor of the Aldebaran and the Green Coconut Run’s journey. For the next few months, we’ll be blogging about their adventures down the Californian, Mexican and South American coasts. The following are excerpts from a recent blog post from the Aldebaran and it’s crew. 

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Just as we were enjoying our latest culinary invention, a “chili-mango-ahi roll,” we saw Four Arrows, aka Don Jacobs, paddling out to Aldebaran. It’s not every day that we see a 70 year old man paddling out to our sailboat, thin frame and sinewy muscles bronzed from sunshine.

Four Arrows is no ordinary man, however. He is a Native American of the Lakota tradition, a university professor and author of books covering dozens of topics. His expertise ranges from riding wild stallions, applied hypnotherapy, and his academic focus, curriculum for balanced education. He lives here in Chamela Bay, partly because it is the best place for him to battle his 7ry old lymphoma cancer. After being given just 2 yrs to live, he’s beating the cancer on a rigorous diet of coconut water, sunshine, organic whole foods, and a lot of exercise.

We had contacted Four Arrows to learn about his latest achievement: how he is setting up a grassroots marine reserve with Kickstarter funds for a local fishing cooperative, just south in a town called Arroyo Seco.

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The younger fishermen were naturally very skeptical. But the older fishermen started telling stories of how the fish used to be bigger and closer to shore.  Nowadays they had to go offshore many miles to find sizable fish, which is dangerous with their single outboard pangas. By the end of the meeting they raised their hands and voted to consider the idea further.

They flew in a fisherman from Cabo Pulmo, a famous protected area in southern Baja, to tell the Arroyo Seco fisherman about the experience of creating a marine reserve: “It has transformed our lives,” said the fisherman from Cabo Pulmo.

The fisherman continued: “The fish have come back, because the big fish in the reserve have millions of babies more than the small fish. We also have new opportunities in tourism, which is great for our children – more options for work keeps them around.” Having heard the testimonial, the Arroyo Seco cooperative approved the idea! Now they just needed the $26,000 for biological and social assessments, required for a National Marine Area designation.

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Four Arrows took on the fundraising task […]. This innocent act – of connecting our love of eating seafood with the protection of the ocean – was an unplanned stroke of brilliance.

Here was the missing link key which helped us define our own voyage.

As we had begun the Green Coconut Run, a sailing voyage from California to New Zealand, our dream was to enjoy the wild beauty of the ocean: surfing and diving in remote places. As young professionals in environmental and health fields we also wanted to visit marine reserves and help support them – somehow.

Here in Chamela Bay, enjoying ahi sushi and listening to Four Arrows, we realized that if we can connect appreciation of the ocean – through surfing, fishing, diving and sailing- to efforts like this community led marine reserve, we can help preserve the ocean.

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Cooperativa de Arroyo Seco voting in favor of the proposed marine reserve.

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The “Los Frailes” rock formations in the proposed Arroyo Seco marine reserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Will our grand kids be able to enjoy seafood as we do? Scientists say that pollution and overfishing may cause the collapse of many fisheries by mid century. One of the most important solutions suggested is to expand the small network of marine protected areas, which currently cover less than 1% of coastal areas. Marine reserves give fish safe havens in which to breed and grow to full size and fecundity.

When we consider the ocean a ‘resource,’ we will continue to abuse it. When we consider the ocean a ‘relation’ – the fish and corals as our brothers and sisters – then we love and protect it.

Most existing reserves have been designated by governments in complex bureaucratic affairs. It is no wonder their creation has been slow. In comparison, the proposed Arroyo Seco marine reserve, measuring 16 square km and including a complete mangrove area, was developed in nine months with the support of local community. Official designation is expected in under a year with less than $35,000 invested.

This is the power of the Grassroots reserve effort: it is community led, it is relatively small and attainable, it is crowd-funded, and it is fast.

The science behind protected areas is well documented, and says that reserves are beneficial for both ecology and fisherman. A network of small marine reserves, located in important habitats every 50 miles, would make a vast improvement to fisheries and the ocean’s health.

The capstone to improve our relationship with the ocean will be to shift our attitude. Four Arrows put it eloquently:

“When we consider the ocean a ‘resource,’ we will continue to abuse it. When we consider the ocean a ‘relation’ – the fish and corals as our brothers and sisters – then we love and protect it.”

We have been moved by many moments on this voyage, only the latest [being] the most brilliant display of bioluminescence, snorkeling through a galaxy of tiny stars. Two days later, we found a “magic log” in the middle of the ocean with dozens of turtles, small sharks, and schools of fish.

These experiences make it easy to see what Four Arrows is talking about. But even on a mundane beach, looking out at the horizon of the vast ocean, who doesn’t catch a glimpse of this awesome power and beauty?

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Sunset in Chamela Bay, mainland Mexico.

Raising anchor and continuing our voyage south, we contemplated our fishing poles with new eyes – ever grateful for the offerings from the sea. We also contemplated our tasks ahead: to dodge hurricanes and lightning as we sail to Panama in the storm season; to find (and share) amazing experiences that move us; and in so doing, do our part to promote a growing network of marine protected areas. Because now we know that it is possible.

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Catch the full story here.

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Want to contribute to the Green Coconut Run,  jump on the boat, or sponsor their efforts?  Visit www.GreenCoconutRun.com or hashtag #GreenCoconutRun. Ahoy!!

All content and photos courtesy of  Aldebaran Green Coconut Run.

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