Nereida Marine Education

by Michelle Mech (Nereida Marine Education), January 26, 2015

The oceans are a huge part of my life and I care for them deeply.  For over four decades, I have spent substantial time on the oceans, cruising in 28-40 ft. sailboats with my husband and, for many years, also with our daughter.  I’ve travelled 30,000 nautical miles at sea as well as countless miles off the southwest coast of British Columbia in local waters nearer to our home on Salt Spring Island. 

Offshore cruising has enabled me to experience the magic of sailing downwind on gentle ocean swells under a starry night; witness the bountiful beauty and diversity of healthy coral reefs; and watch gray whales and sea turtles mating just off our boat, dolphins swim over to zigzag back and forth off our bow, and sea lions outlined by phosphorescence as they break the surface at night.  I have also witnessed bleached and dying coral reefs; unsustainable fishing practices, including fishing of endangered species like sea turtles and vital, reef-maintaining parrot fish and longlines at sea stretching in either direction beyond our visual horizons; and beaches strewn with plastic debris.  

Such cruising experiences have provided me with a perspective somewhat analogous to astronauts who have looked down at the Earth from outer space and seen how beautiful it is and how mankind is devastating it.  This has led me to work on many environmental issues over the years, extensively on climate change.  However, my love of the ocean and visits in recent years to Melaque, Mexico, where every day, the beaches were littered with plastic debris, has drawn me to focus my efforts on the oceans. 

Learning that a large percentage of plastic debris ends up in the oceans and is entangling many marine animals or is being ingested by marine life at every trophic level, along with images of albatross carcasses full of plastic debris, sea lions with necks embedded with fishing line or bands, and whales and sea turtles dead from ingestion of plastic, inspired me to want to educate people about the impacts of plastic debris.  Knowing also that many marine organisms are being threatened by other forms of marine pollution as well as ocean acidification and warming from climate change; unstainable fishing practices are decimating fish stocks and impacting other marine life; and marine scientists predict that on our current trajectory most reefs will be lost as effective, productive systems within a few decades, I felt that education on the other major threats to life in our oceans is also important. 

Our oceans make up 95% of all the space available to life. They provide many earth system functions including regulation of climate and the hydrological cycle, habitat for an immense diversity of organisms, transportation, abundant food, and half of our oxygen.  It is crucial that people understand that the oceans are our life support system and if we don’t protect them, we will not only engender the loss of substantial marine life, but also the loss of substantial human life.  As the latest International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) report states, “the future of humanity and the future of the ocean are intertwined”.

One of the biggest challenges in tackling environmental issues is overcoming the lack of education and awareness and, in turn, the apathy that accompanies this.  I feel that it is vitally important that our youth in particular learn about these issues as it is their future that is primarily being threatened.  

Thus the Nereida project was born.  Its purpose is to provide an educational approach to healthier oceans for high school students, and also adults, and hopefully inspire actions towards oceans conservation.  The educational material on the Nereida website was developed in consultation with a very supportive high school superintendent and science teacher, as well as students from a variety of classes in both academic and technical high schools in Melaque.  Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation, also contributed to the material on plastics in the ocean. 

The educational material consists of a series of PowerPoint presentations (available as PDF files), which have been set up so that they contain all the information necessary to be presented by a teacher, or read by an individual, without prior knowledge of the subjects.  The presentations can be utilized individually or as a series.  They are available in both Spanish and English and are also currently being utilized in science classes at the high school on Salt Spring Island.  The presentation on plastics in the oceans is also being utilized by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and has inspired the mayor of Melaque to initiate a comprehensive awareness and cleanup campaign in this seaside fishing/tourist community. 

One follow-up project, undertaken by Melaque students, was to write essays for local distribution.  Excerpts from these essays can be found on the Nereida website and some are included below.  They demonstrate clearly that knowledge does lead to understanding, caring, and concern. 

As Diana Esmeralda Flores Bivian states, “I wonder how is it possible that we human beings are capable of destroying things so nice and beautiful as are the oceans?  I say ‘we’ because it is not necessarily a large factory or company that contaminates with waste, or a grand hotel that empties its drainage into the sea, but also the simple act of throwing rubbish at sea, a plastic bottle, or debris that you and I throw into the sea, that is sufficient to contribute to the great harm that we do to the oceans and beaches. . . It is difficult to recognize that we ourselves are ending the things that bring us life.

I personally feel that it is so wrong that I have been able to witness so many wonders of the oceans, while these opportunities are waning for our children. The majority of my generation fails to understand or be concerned that we are in an emergency situation. As IPSO reports, human activities are making devastating changes to the oceans at a scale and rate unprecedented in Earth’s known history, exposing organism to “intolerable and unpredictable evolutionary pressure”.   As Mora Reyes Ramo del Rocío describes it, “It is amazing the rapid way with which we are ending our oceans, as if we had the task with a time limit to finish with all the good things that the oceans give us.”

Education provides youth with the tools to not feel helpless; to be able to take appropriate actions and to demand that our generation, the generation most responsible, implement the changes and policies necessary to reverse the anthropogenic degradation of our oceans.  It is our youth and the lives of their children that will be most affected and they deserve access to up-to-date, science-based education so they can act while there is still time to ensure quality of life for themselves, future generations, and other living beings. 

One of the major concerns is how we will leave the environment to our descendants. I am sure that anyone would like to leave their children a planet on which they could live with tranquility and health. It is only fair that our descendants will be able to enjoy the world as we have done until today.” - Dulce María Rivera Ortega  

Let’s take care of the oceans since we need them simply to be able to survive.  If we take care of them, we will be able to take advantage of everything we are offered.”  - Pedro Rogelio García Méndez

Footnote:  I am hoping to spread awareness of the Nereida project, so that more schools will be interested in incorporating this oceans educational material into their curriculum, and so that others may learn more about the oceans.  Nereida’s educational material and other information can be found at

Fall In Love With Seafood Again - Thanks To David Suzuki's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks

by Laura Mitic (Carmanah)

It's tough to eat seafood when you know how unsustainable most fishing practices are.  For example, did you know that:

-For every 1 lb of shrimp, 26 lbs of other sea creatures were caught as bycatch, killed and tossed back into the ocean
- Each year, 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die after becoming entangled in fishing equipment
- Around 73 million sharks are caught each year as bycatch and thrown back into the ocean to die with their fins cut off

These facts (and a lot more) can be found here.

The truth is, the ways in which humans harvest most of the seafood found at our grocery stores and in our restaurants are pretty horrible... and the facts can be tough to stomach (no pun intended).

However, check out this awesome list created by the David Suzuki Foundation on Suzuki's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks.  It sheds some insight on how to eat seafood sustainably.

Each time you buy sustainable seafood, you cast a vote that supports ethical fishing practices and industries.  If you're not the one doing the grocery shopping for your household, share this with your parents.  Start a discussion with them about sustainable fishing techniques and why it's important to eat seafood that has been harvested in a way that protects the ocean ecosystems that we all depend on.

Beating The Devil

By JFP Artist, Penn Johnson

I’m recording my first album, For The Trees, tomorrow. It's about climate change, almost entirely. There’s a lot of personal experience in there too, from the frontlines of the fracking shalefields of Pennsylvania, but mostly that’s what it's about, climate change. I mean, what else would it be about? Climate change is the single most important thing happening right now.

It's funny because I only started playing guitar last summer. I guess I played before that, but not really. In order to really play the guitar you kinda need a few hours of practice a day and more than four chords––still working on the four chords thing...

So my friend Mark is helping me with the album. We went to this Changemaker's Conference in Washington, D.C. this past November and met up. He decided to turn his basement into a studio and I said I was gonna record an album. Two months later and here we are. I'll be heading into Boston tomorrow on the train to record for a week. I’ve never been inside a recording studio before.

To be honest, I never thought I’d be here, in this position, recording an album. Music sorta came into my life and eased my mind in a way that nothing else could. I used to meditate every day for twenty minutes. Recently, I’ve been playing music and writing songs instead. It seems to help me even more.

I’ve always been a singer. I've been doing plays and acting since I was young. And I did chorus in high school and all that. Maybe that’s why when I play guitar I focus on the words so much. I watched a documentary the other night called Be Here To Love Me about the 'songwriter's songwriter' Townes Van Zandt and he said something like: "I can’t say a song's done until every word is perfect." That really resonated with me. Later, he said he once wrote a song in his sleep and wrote it down in one sitting. I’ve done that a couple times, too, and it's one of the things that makes me keep coming back to music--it keeps me thinking, passionate––it keeps me alive.

I’m not diagnosed with depression, but the other night I was in a dark spot. I think I need therapy. That’s what one of my best friends said, anyway. But I’m only telling you this because music is the only thing that keeps me coming back. The next day, after one of those 'episodes' they call it, the only thing I can do is pick up my guitar and find some chords that match the feeling of my insides and scribble some words that seem to fit the strumming pattern.
I’m told a lot of musicians struggle with this doubt, with some of the stuff I've got. Makes sense because sometimes you’re someone and then you go become someone else and everyone is confused where it came from, what caused it. But they don’t know you’re more confused than they are, even, and you’re the one it's happening to.

I’m taking the album touring in a month. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t do it, that I’m not ready, that I’m not good enough. But I know that’s not the truth. It's like every time I write a song. There’s a period where I smile and think it's the best thing I’ve ever written. Then another one comes along and the same thing happens and I hate the previous song, everything about it. Eventually, I reach an equilibrium––both are good, both are different.

I honestly think this album's gonna change the world. I think I’m gonna change the world. Me and a bunch of others. The tide is rising but so are we. This movement is growing. And if I can help some people get involved then that’s what I'll do.

Here's a song that always gets me back in the game. It's by Kris Kristofferson and it's called 'To Beat The Devil.' If there's one person in a whole place and you inspire them and they reach out to you, you never know what's gonna happen because of it. That's been a huge lesson in my own music and I'll bet a lot of others would agree. There's always going to be one person. And those people add up. So keep playing. Cause someone's gonna hear.

If I Have The Energy

by Laura Mitic (Carmanah) featuring Mark Neufeld (Institute for Global Solutions)

Mark Neufeld, my Grade 9 English teacher has remained a mentor in my life eight years after I graduated from high school and, since then, he's also become a great friend.  In our discussions I have come to realize that the best teachers are those who are also willing to learn from their own students.

I welcomed his offer to do a guest write-up for The Jellyfish Project's blog since no one understands young minds better than someone who has dedicated their life to working with them.

Think all of your teachers are dinosaurs who don't understand you?  Hmmm... maybe not.  Check out his article, "If I Have The Energy."

I have taught, now, 22 years. Most recently I am a co-founding instructor at Claremont Secondary’s Institute for Global Solutions. Our teaching team strives to enable what we call “resilient problem-solvers”. Among the great examples of thinking I have seen have been among the teenagers I teach. My problem, and increasingly, is how adults think. So please, if you don’t mind, don’t try to convince me that developing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is somehow a gift to our children and grandchildren. It is non-sensical. Just ask any one of the 120 students I teach. Put simply, it is building 21st century infrastructure for a 20th century fuel.

We teach our kids to look at evidence. We teach them to do the research. Consider the source. And perhaps most importantly: to think critically. In a masters’ thesis I’m finishing, I’ve suggested that this current generation of learners is the “research generation”. A very impressive community leader in Portland recently reminded my grade 12 students that they have as much computer power in their phones as the young people who landed the Apollo on the moon had in their entire command centre. These kids will not easily be fooled and I am no longer amused. 

It seems to me that 20th century problems belong to 20th century minds. I know some excellent young 21st century minds who are more than ready to think clearly and critically. My guess is, if you’re reading this post, you are one of them.

And more to the point, these young people will live the consequences of poor policy decisions. This is not to be tolerated. While the thinking, visionary, pragmatic leaders of the world increasing turn to clean energy, including, sub-Saharan African countries, are you really going to tell me the further reducing corporate taxes and changing green house gas emissions laws for only ONE of the many energy options with significant stake in the economic future of this province and this country is somehow a decision for our “grandchildren”? Please. I don’t have the energy. Fortunately, I know hundreds, if not thousands of visionary students who do (and at least five clean energies who do too if given a fair chance). And that’s energy I’m willing to share.

-Mark Neufeld, Institute for Global Solutions, Victoria, BC