From coral reefs to tropical rainforests, Veracruz is an incredibly biodiverse state that lies along the shores of the gulf coast in Mexico. The biodiversity is matched by cultural diversity, with no fewer than 14 indigenous languages and 11 distinct ethnic groups.
The unique character of the region is reflected in the founding vision of GLFx Veracruz:
“We believe that nature conservation is inseparable from the wellbeing of local communities. Our vision is for local communities to be able to use their natural resources in a sustainable, equitable, and culturally respectful way, so that they become co-responsible for biodiversity conservation.”
Born in Veracruz, chapter coordinator Sabine Cudney is an ecologist and conservationist who has dedicated her life to restoring the remarkable ecosystems that she grew up around. We chatted to her about the work GLFx Veracruz has been doing so far.
“We have mainly been working with an Indigenous fishermen community of Zapotitlán in Veracruz,” Cudney says. “The Zapotitlán elders noticed the lack of fish and how it’s been decreasing year by year. The community themselves were already looking for ways to protect the reef and restore the fish stocks – and that’s where we came in.”
Last October, in collaboration with Comunidad y Biodiversidad AC (COBI) and Gente Sustentable AC, GLFx Veracruz hosted a virtual “exchange of experiences” where long-established fishing cooperatives from four different states shared their experiences around sustainable fishing with the recently-formed Zapotitlán cooperative. The event successfully supported the fishermen in providing technical advice and connecting them with a wider network of rural fishermen facing similar struggles.
GLFx Veracruz is now working with the fishermen of Zapotitlán to build on these learnings and actively assist them to reach agreements to protect a 2-kilometer stretch of coral reefs.
“The fishermen are the heroes of this story,” Cudney explains. “They are motivated and organized – they just need the right capacity building, as to how to preserve their reefs while securing a livelihood. But that’s where we can help.”
With the support of the GLFx headquarters, the all-female, interdisciplinary GLFx Veracruz team is creating short, animated videos that explain the basic principles of reef conservation and demonstrate tried-and-tested fishing practices that are known to support the recovery of fish stocks.
“For some of the fishermen, the reefs are just rocks, so the animations will add a little bit of the ecology of the interdependence between fish and reefs,” Cudney says. “We want this information to be very accessible: small videos intended for the fishermen that can spread easily throughout their fishing communities.”
GLFx Veracruz is in contact with other fishing communities nearby Zapotitlán around Mexico that are interested in adopting these sustainable practices but not quite yet convinced.
“They’re almost using Zapotitlán as an experiment,” Cudney says. “They want to see the outcomes first, and, if Zapotitlán has good results, then they will likely join too.”
Community by community, these simple, shareable videos have the potential to drive significant recovery of the damaged reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s the impressive “think global, act local” impact that motivated GLFx chapters like Veracruz can inspire.