Young Floridians are riding the wave of ocean restoration

Devastating headlines about the global climate crisis pop up almost every day. More recently, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization reported that greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, temperature and ocean acidification set new records in 2021.

But new reasons for hope also appear almost every day. As Founder and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA), home to the world’s first Ocean Solutions Accelerator, I have seen hundreds of ocean ecopreneurs and local leaders create solutions that impact the ocean. right now – not in the distant future.

We have also built the world’s largest network of young ocean leaders, in 165 countries. Together they are restoring critical marine ecosystems, inventing sustainable alternatives to plastics, creating millions of metric tons of sustainable proteins, and developing new technologies to better understand and protect the ocean. The next generation is acutely aware that the battle to sustain, restore and heal our planet will be won or lost in their lifetime.

Growing up on the Ecuadorian coast, I witnessed the direct link between our climate crisis and the health of the oceans. Unbeknownst to many, the ocean is responsible for 70% of Earth’s climate regulation. It produces more than half of our oxygen and stores 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. It is our greatest protection against climate change.

In May, ocean ecopreneurs and global leaders gathered in Miami for the Aspen Ideas Climate Summit. There, SOA released a report that showcases more than 200 startups, nonprofits, and grassroots initiatives that have accelerated solutions to heal, restore, and preserve our oceans.

This includes innovations from climate-conscious Floridians, like the passionate team at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. They approached SOA to expand their sea turtle conservation, research, rehabilitation and education initiatives. The result was a collaborative effort with the Haiti Ocean Project to develop Haiti’s first children’s book on the importance of protecting sea turtles.

Meanwhile, with the help of an SOA micro-grant, Shelby Thomas and the Ocean Rescue Alliance have installed 70 reef modules off Riviera Beach, which attract a rich diversity of marine life. In 2021, the SOA Ocean Solutions Center at the University of Florida hosted a series of events, including beach cleanups. Volunteers also took samples from a water treatment plant near Sweetwater Wetlands, analyzing levels of pollutants and contaminants in conjunction with the university’s environmental toxicology lab. These local ecopreneurs and ocean innovators represent a microcosm of a global movement you can join to protect and restore our oceans.

Businesses can take simple steps to reduce their environmental footprint by using seaweed straws instead of plastic. Individuals can choose to have e-commerce products delivered in reusable packaging. Fishermen can seek to become more sustainable from net to vessel.

I challenge you to explore the treasure trove of 222 ocean sustainability solutions and apply them to your daily life and business operations. It’s not too late to create a future where our life-giving ocean teems with biodiversity, and where future generations can breathe a sigh of relief.

Daniela Fernandez is founder and CEO of the California-based Sustainable Ocean Alliance, which empowers a generation of young leaders to create solutions to protect our oceans.

She wrote this for the invasive sea Florida editorial board collaboration focused on the threats posed by global warming.