About The Project
In this place—just below the water’s surface, where light diffracts and waves subside—a vibrant community exists, intimately connecting land to sea; mangroves to coral reefs; and filtered shallows to the vast ocean expanses beyond. In this place, the ocean’s nursery should flourish. But to continue to do so, this place needs our help.
This project aims to restore a mangrove ecosystem by bringing diverse initiatives and groups of people together to find solutions to a common concern: the degradation and disappearance of the Enchanted Lagoon in Isla Grande, Colombia. The Lagoon is surrounded by the San Bernardo and Rosario Islands Coral Reef Natural National Park, and its significance has resulted in bringing together collaborative initiatives. These initiatives shape a project with shared goals: education, habitat restoration, and the promotion of socio-ecological integrity through Lagoon conservation efforts.
Initiatives have included an artistic approach; research, joint projects, and conversations within the local communities of Isla Grande and Isleta; as well as collaboration between Colombia Underwater Expeditions (CUE), the local communities’ Communitarian Council, and National Parks. The shared aim is to raise awareness and promote conservation activities to support the Lagoon as an interconnected ecosystem with inherent rights, as well as cultural significance and relevance to the sustainable development and well-being of the local Island’s biological and cultural integrity.
CUE’s involvement in the Island’s restoration processes began in 2015, although the co-owners’ previous, independent dive practice afforded opportunities for informal Lagoon monitoring and education for over two decades. In 2015 we reached out to the Communitarian Council (i.e., governing body) in Isla Grande to contribute our support to growing advocacy related to the rapidly declining health of the mangrove ecosystem—degradation resulting from such processes as climate change, unsustainable human use, and a need for education and action. The Council gave CUE consent to engage in activities to raise awareness of the Lagoon’s degradation, and further provided a National Park contact for collaboration purposes.
CUE appealed to Parks for the securement of resources and support needed to begin physical restoration and regeneration in connection with local community governance and Life Plan (i.e., “ethno-development plan”) efforts. However, despite Park’s shared concerns, we were told that the financial costs of restoration were estimated to be an immense sum of approximately 200,000 USD—an amount that has indefinitely slowed the process until the totality of money can be collected.
Notably, this hurdle has not dampened CUE’s efforts to work with the community to protect this invaluable ecosystem. Recognizing that ecosystem health cannot afford to wait on red tape, CUE co-owner Juan Vega decided to pursue an artistic engagement project that aligned the efforts of a local youth research team, fellow divers, fashion designers, community members, and Parks officials, to work together to raise awareness about the nature of the concern. While a team of local youth researchers initiated a mangrove cleanup, additional volunteers were enlisted to capture the story of mangrove significance, degradation, and community potential through Juan’s underwater lens. Multiple days were spent creating a masterpiece of filtered light, vibrant colour, and heart-felt expression. The first of several photo exhibitions was held in April 2016 in collaboration with the local community, National Parks, and Cartagena University to share Juan’s stunning underwater photographs depicting the fragility, erosion, significance, and beauty of the Enchanted Lagoon.
These photographs are on sale to raise money toward continued restoration progress, while further financial support is on hold. Please take a moment to savour the images below and if inclined, to purchase a digital image. Your contribution will enable continued restoration efforts of a lagoon that is integral to not only local, but also our global ocean health. If interested in purchase or sharing your ideas or comments, please write to us. Step by step, dive by dive, conversation by conversation, and photograph by photograph, we can protect this fragile ecosystem together. Thank you for your support.
When we collectively dream, plan, act, and celebrate: we create possibilities, momentum, and lasting change. If we all paddle together in the same direction we will be able to conserve this incredibly important ecosystem. Together, we can restore it by engaging and framing a renewed mindset of current and future generations in ways that understand the significance, champion the knowledge, and extend the care required, to save something that simply benefits inherent and dependent life-support systems.