Environmental Education and Conservation in Fishing Communities

During our trip, there were several occasion in which the importance of children education presented itself to me as an evident fact when dealing with conservation and the way communities interact with the environment and their use of natural resources. This is far from an original idea, however my intention here is exemplify this experience.

On the first day after our arrival to Bahía Kino, we had the opportunity to stroll about the beach in Kino Viejo, and witnessed how several fishing crews landed their “pangas” and unloaded their catch. We had the opportunity to approach some of these fishermen in there vessels and in more than a couple of them, children were lending a hand on the work. In one of the “pangas” that we approached, there were three boys whom were actually students of the Prescott’s College environmental education program that takes place at Bahía Kino’s schools. Their teachers, Marlú and Carolina were among our group and immediately started chatting. The kids were quite enthusiastic about their teachers, which I believe derivates from the close bond that has developed between them. These kids were all of elementary and middle school ages and, because it was not a school day, I think that they might have the habit of helping out their fathers or grandfathers on weekends and day’s off from school, learning the trade in the meantime.

In a personal conversation with her, Marlú told me about the history of the program and how it has grown within the community, starting as an ecology class in elementary school, then comforting an ecological club, which seeded parallel clubs for the junior high and high school as the first students advanced in their basic education and how their enthusiasm has created a ripple effect into their families. She also commented on the fact that many of their student’s who are now almost of age to go to college aspire to become conservation biologists or ecologists. However, a reality is that part of the community’s youth does not get the opportunity to go to college, and some never finish high-school because of their family’s economic situation or disfunction. Thus, many of them might go for the livelihood that they learned from their fathers and grand fathers: fishing.

An added value of these environmental education efforts is that they entertain the kids with constant projects and activities. For example, the high-school ecology club has a weekly film screening at a small venue they call “la eco-cueva”. After each screening, they discuss the film’s share their impressions on the film and the environmental subject treated in it. Through this, the students not only learn about environmental issues and science, but they also develop a sense of criticism and verbal communication skills. Ultimately, these fort of ludic activities also help to keep them away from drugs, which is a particularly big problem in such communities.

It is my opinion that the environmental education from programs such as this one goes a long way into developing better adults capable and concerned with making decisions that are conscious about the impact they have on the environment, be it if they become fishermen, professionals, merchants or which ever way of life they assume. Even more, as a result of our experiences on this trip and our interactions with several communities, I now believe it is of great importance to establish such children environmental education programs parallel to any program that is aimed to educating the fishermen themselves, as this will strengthen the presence of conservation values within families and empower the development of the community’s  youth into environmentally conscious adults.

http://flickr.com/gp/leoverdugo/35Di1C – Marlú (center), Caro (Right), and one of their high-school students explaining the environmental education efforts they do among Bahía Kino’s youth.

http://flickr.com/gp/leoverdugo/Z7B6P9 – A teenager (foreground) who had been helping to unload the catch off one of the pangs we approached in Bahía Kino.

http://flickr.com/gp/leoverdugo/P1RYsi – Caro and three of her students who were helping and playing on a recently landed panga in Bahía Kino.

http://flickr.com/gp/leoverdugo/S6UeP – A teenager fisherman (right) processing his crew’s catch of the day at Puerto Libertad.