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Forging unity: building the OCEAN CITIZEN community in Tenerife

Forging unity: building the OCEAN CITIZEN community in Tenerife

On Wednesday, April 17th, the first meeting with some members of Tenerife’s local community took place at the Centro Cultural de Playa San Juan. This meeting was the first of many and is a big step towards informing and involving the community, which is at the heart of OCEAN CITIZEN. 

Hosted by Underwater Gardens International and Innoceana, this event marked the beginning of a series aimed at informing and engaging the community—a core element of OCEAN CITIZEN’s mission. It was a privilege to count on the virtual presence of Prof. Dr. Sergio Rossi, the project’s coordinator, who introduced OCEAN CITIZEN and engaged directly with attendees, addressing their inquiries and sharing insights.

This meeting aimed to unite individuals from diverse sectors, informthem about the project developments, and establish an effective two-way dialogue. This dialogue forms the foundation for community engagement within the project’s capacities. The event unfolded in two sections. In the first one, Prof. Dr. Sergio Rossi introduced the project and directly answered the questions of the attendees. The local team presented the work carried out so far on the island, with a focus on environmental assessment, research campaigns, preliminary results, and perspectives for the coming year. Attendees showed great interest in better understanding the state of the ocean and the methods being considered by the consortium to achieve its recovery.

The audience was then invited to dive deeper into four main topics through interactive talks and games:

  • Key concepts of marine restoration,
  • Marine forests of Tenerife,
  • The role of citizen science in promoting a marine restoration project 
  • Establishing communication bases between stakeholders and OCEAN CITIZEN.

Gathering in smaller groups to discuss and learn about targeted topics created a more intimate and trustful atmosphere. Many participants ended up sharing childhood memories, depicting a much richer coastal ecosystem, full of macroalgae and fish that are quite sparse today. This nostalgia underscores the urgency to act, ensuring that Tenerife’s marine environment not only stabilizes but flourishes in the years to come.

“It is necessary to act so that, in the future, Tenerife’s marine environment remains as it is and at least doesn’t degrade further or, even, gets better.” Borja Suaza (Sustainability Hotel Mynd Adeje).

Group activity, Quentin Pineau (Innoceana)

Many concepts linked to marine restoration were refreshed during this first event, marking a great start for improving Ocean Literacy, as intended by the project. Attendees’ interest in discussing the role of citizen science in restoration efforts also pinpointed a positive attitude towards active participation.

Overall, this first event was a great success. Meeting with members of the local community in person allowed for a better understanding of their expectations, availability, and willingness to get involved in the OCEAN CITIZEN project. Each sector represented that day expressed their interest in receiving certain tools for citizen participation and information specifically relevant to their own activity, such as good practices for whale-watching companies and hotels, or marine educational material for professors.

It is important that kids grow up with adequate knowledge so that taking care of the marine environment happens naturally” – Jeremy Seguier (Professor at CEIP Adoración Rodríguez Alonso).

The team can now work on planning the next activities, increasing their number and frequency compared with the original agenda to address the desire to be kept regularly updated about the ongoing research. Also, focusing the content on attendees’ topics of interest and offering several sessions to fit everyone’s availability will help maintain a sustained flow of information and promote engagement.

As we move forward, driven by the community’s eagerness and insights gained, our focus shifts to crafting tailored tools and resources for various sectors. The collaboration and support from the Guia de Isora Town Hall have been instrumental in making this inaugural gathering a success.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all attendees for their invaluable contributions. Together, like in ecological succession, we will create a favourable environment to build a community that will foster a future where a sustainably restored ocean becomes a shared reality that we cultivate together as a shared ecosystem.

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