For as long as we Mauritians can remember, going to the sea has been equated with a festive occasion, or at the very least a very special time out. How could one not be happy at the sight of brilliant turquoise waters, and the stark whiteness of the beaches? As we go along, the sea has also started representing the next frontier of development for islanders like us, with its potential for employment, energy, and innovation. In various ways, the marine environment and the sea are our benefactors.

However, lately, marine debris has been littering our beaches; the gorgeous islets around Mauritius have been the worst hit, as waves wash up the discarded fragments of our daily lives onto the pristine sands and the habitats of the endemic birds.

It isn’t a problem relevant only to Mauritius – or to islands. Whether you’re reading this blog post from the North of Mauritius, or from the Caribbean islands, or from the busy streets of a European city, your impact on the ocean is being felt across the currents.

Over 6.4 million tons of debris is washed up into the sea every year – representing close to 50 thousand pieces of litter per square mile of ocean. In addition to the above, we all rely on the sea for food (sushi doesn’t grow on trees!), for employment, for ecosystem services.

So what about #SeeingBlue?

The Global Shapers – Port Louis Hub has been very much aware of the importance of protecting the marine environment. We have a very strong relationship with the sea. Our very first team building activity was a dive initiation for the Shapers in the Hub.

We launched #Seeing Blue in May 2014 with the intention of encouraging more Mauritian youth to know, and care, about the marine environment that we so often take for granted. We were delighted at the level of support that the project received. The project, which was co-organized with the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH) founded by Meghna and Karuna, our two Shapers, kicked off with a competition that got youth to reflect on our impact on the Ocean, and on the Ocean’s impact on us.

#SeeingBlue competition

The responses were overwhelming! Essay entries diligently detailed the various harms to the ocean: from marine noise to ghost nets to unsustainable extraction for making jewellery. They also offered an insight of solutions that could be implemented at individual and national level to address those issues.Video and art entries also visually captured what we were doing to the ocean whilst a song reminded us that we’re destroying our future.

Our jury was composed of Mr Patrice Robert (IBL), Dr Bhugun, Ms Maja Zidov and Mr Krishna Luchoomun who had a hard task selecting the winners. But they had to make a decision, and the winning entries were as follows: For the 13-18 year olds, the artwork by Bhasnee Isnoo blew the jury’s mind away; on her part, Ms Nandita Mishka captivated the Jury’s heart with her essay and was the winner in the 18-30 year old category.

These videos were also part of the winning entries:

An informative slideshow:

A cute stick-figure animation:

A forceful message:

#SeeingBlue Dialogue

The competition culminated into a dialogue regrouping multiple stakeholders around the ocean, at the seat of the Indian Ocean Commission. The questions which loomed above us all were: how far are we willing to go to protect our maritime resources, and how far do we want to cross our personal inhibitions, comfort zone and boundaries to understand and love the ocean more intimately. Perhaps the main message that shone through, however, was that from Mr Francois Rogers, President of the Reef Conservation society: “there are still wonderful things to be saved in the marine environment. The excuse that it’s too late to save anything does not apply. We must now act to save what’s left.”