Happy Earth Day!
If you’ve ever visited our little town you know that we live in paradise – the beach, the jungle, the climate… It’s truly heaven on earth!
But did you know that the barrier reef just off our shore is the 2nd largest in the world and a national marine park!?
Or that the Mayan jungle just behind our little town is the 2nd largest remaining tropical rainforest in the Americas?!
Not only that, but below us lies one of the most complex waterways and cave systems in the world known as Cenotes?!
As amazing as our environment is, it’s also very fragile. We are surrounded by delicate ecosystems that unfortunately due to modern lifestyles and development they have become stressed and damaged. And it’s our responsibility to help protect it.
In honor of Earth Day, we would like to introduce you to one of the most active environmental protection groups in Puerto Morelos, UNIDOS POR LA MADRE NATURALEZA! (United for Mother Nature)
Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza
This local environmental group was created exactly two years ago on Earth Day 2020 by local powerhouse Aysha Carolina Pena Torres.
After working as an Industrial Engineer and Project Manager in Mexico City for 10 years, she finally followed her dreams of working with marine life and moved to Puerto Morelos where she founded Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza.
You might recognize Aysha from the 2020 New York Times article “A Race Against Time to Rescue a Reef From Climate Change” written about the reef restoration project she is a part of!? (See picture below!) Yeah, that’s our girl!
Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza’s main goal is to promote environmental consciousness and conservation culture at a community level. They work closely with CONANP (National Commision of Natural Protected Areas), INAPESCA (National Institute of Fish and Aguaculture), CRIP (Central Regional Investigation of Fishing in Puerto Morelos), and local scientists. Their mission is to bridge the gap between science and the community.
They want to make an impact by informing the community of not only how fragile our local environment truly is, but what we can do in our daily lives to protect it. They are all about community linkage, citizen science, environmental consciousness, and getting the community to know and LOVE the environment! Because if you know it, you protect it!
The group is focusing on 3 different projects at the moment.
Eco-Brigadas (or Eco Brigade in English) focuses on community clean-ups and proper waste disposal! They meet regularly and typically focus their efforts on one area during the garbage collection (the coral reef, seagrass, coastal dune, beach, mangrove, or jungle). But not only does the group pick up trash, they also sort it– organic, non-organic, recyclable – and teach others how to do so. All recyclable materials are properly disposed of in hopes that they will be recycled and repurposed.
They stress the importance of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Rot, and Refuse (The 5 R’s). Because in the end, we can pick up garbage all day long but nothing is going to change if the community is not informed of how to truly make a change when it comes to waste management. Want to get involved? Follow the group on social media for future dates! They do bi-monthly clean-ups.
2. Reef Rescue Brigade
This initiative started in 2018 after a very, very active hurricane season. After a few hurricanes and multiple tropical storms, our barrier reef was greatly impacted.
When storms hit, parts of the reef break off, especially Elkhorn Coral, which is crucial to the reef’s ecosystem. Once buried in the sand or washed to shore, it soon dies. But if the coral is rescued in a timely manner, the fragments and colonies of Elkhorn Coral can be rescued and refastened to the reef. The reef rescue is typically only during hurricane season (which is quickly approaching) but throughout the rest of the year Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza continue to inform the community on how to protect our reef!
3. Marine Turtle Brigade
From May to November, parts of our beaches will be nesting ground for the local marine turtles! These areas are extremely sensitive and should be protected by us all. Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza is all about community awareness. Through local talks and social media, they spread the word on what we can do to help protect this amazing creature.
A few tips from Aysha herself…
- Know the mating season is from May to November.
- During this time avoid all nesting areas.
- Do not allow dogs to run on the beach without a leash. They could very easily disrupt a nest.
- Know how to identify a nest and do not sit near it during a day at the beach.
- If witnessing a hatching at night, avoid any cameras with flash.
- Never touch or pick up a turtle (mature or baby) especially during this time! Their mating/hatching process is very sensitive to any outside force.
- If you see a sea turtle (healthy or in danger) notify us immediately so we can effectively mark nesting areas or tend to the turtle if in need!
How can you get involved?
Unidos por la Madre Naturaleza is always looking for new volunteers and donations. If you are interested in either, contact Aysha via the group’s Instagram or Facebook page (@unidosmadrenaturaleza). But don’t forget– the #1 thing we can do to be involved is consciously be aware of our local environment and of the impact our daily actions have on it… And then make changes, no matter how small they are, for a healthier earth.
Now get outside and enjoy your day!