It‘s been a hectic week of travel from the West Coast of California to the capitals of Ecuador and Washington, D.C. and back.
My journey began in Quito, Ecuador with scientific colleagues from Latin America that have been studying the migration of sharks and sea turtles in the Eastern Pacific.
While each of us work in our own specific biological island “hotspots,” such as Galapagos (Ecuador), Cocos (Costa Rica), and Malpelo (Colombia) Islands, tagging animals and placing acoustic listening devices (receivers), we have been sharing data for nearly a decade as sharks and turtles have moved from one hotspot to another.
This loose collaboration (http://migramar.org ) has helped to elucidate the movements of these animals, and have identified connectivity of the region. Unfortunately, while each of these hotspots are marine protected areas, the ‘swimways’ that connect them offer little or no protection to these species from industrial fishing vessels that ply the Pacific extracting tuna, mahi-mahi, and shark fins, and that drown and kill sea turtles and other non-targeted species.
Since some of us had had only communicated by phone, Skype and email, getting together to meet in person provided a rare opportunity to discuss ways to improve collaboration and effectiveness. As a result, we decided to incorporate MigraMar into an official organization. This will enable us to expand our ability to collect this critical data and provide training and opportunities to the next generation of scientists in the region. Most importantly, we will be able to better organize ourselves into a strong and effective voice for encouraging the nations that share the waters of the region to close the policy and enforcement gaps that have allowed turtles and shark populations to be decimated.
Thanks to the generosity of Helmsley Charitable Trust (http://helmsleytrust.org) , Zdenka Piskulich of Pacifico (redpacifico.net ) and Costa Rica Forever (http://costaricaporsiempre.org/ ), and an amazing facilitator, Paquita Bath (http://www.aligningvisions.com ), we are well on our way to creating the strategic plan that will allow MigraMar to grow and flourish.
On my back to the U.S., I made a weekend layover to celebrate another organization I co-founded 40 years ago, when I was a “radical” college student at the University of Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
The Maryland Food Collective (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1646164468936229/), located on the College Park campus, remains a student-run, student-owned workers collective dedicated to providing healthy food to students, a magnet for young people fighting for a better world, and demonstrating a different and unique model of collaboration that has been flourishing for four decades. It was remarkable to have people ranging in age from 20-70 come together to swap stories how the food co-op had and still was influencing their lives.
It was an amazing and inspiring week where I got to reminisce with old friends and make new friends at both events. While the two models and missions of these organizations couldn’t be more different, both brought together people from very different backgrounds working for a healthier world.
My hope is in another 40 years, idealistic people will be celebrating the 40 year anniversary of MigraMar and the 80th anniversary of the Food Co-op and most importantly that both these organizations continue to make the world a better place for current and future generations of people and wildlife.