Protecting the biggest Coral Reef system in the Atlantic

When there is a hurricane, the first line of defense are the reefs.

But after a hurricane, then what? The reefs will, of course, be damaged, but who repairs them to ensure they recover as fast as possible so they can continue to be that line of defense?

This is something I never thought about before this conversation.

Reef systems around the world are under threat.

Hurricanes are one major one. But there are many others.

And the MAR system, the biggest Coral Reef system in the Atlantic, faces some very real challenges.

On today’s episode, I talk to Maria Gonzalez, the executive Director of the Mar Fund, a regional environmental fund established to support conservation efforts specifically in the MAR Ecoregion. Its mission is to drive regional funding and partnerships for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of resources in the region.

Maria has been with the MAR Fund since its inception.

And Maria has lived through a lot.

We hear about the challenges that reefs around the world are facing.

And what the Mar Fund is doing to respond to them.

We then talk about the exciting project that TIE will be working on with the MAR Fund in early 2022.

This conversation will get you thinking.

We’ll talk about the power of sustainable business to save the region.

And how you can be a part of this movement.

Maria brings all of this to life for us on this chat. So sit back, relax, and here is Maria.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:00:20
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hello and welcome to episode 39 of TIE Unearthed. Today I’m talking with Maria Gonzalez, a Guatemalan biologist who has been the executive director of the Mesoamerican refund or the MAR Fund since 2005. The reef systems around the world are under threat, and the MAR system, or the Mesoamerican reef system, the biggest coral reef system in the Atlantic, is no different.

00:01:01:08 – 00:01:38:18
Philippa White
It’s home to some of the world’s most stunning coastline and vibrant waters, with an astonishing array of over 500 known fish species. Some of the largest remaining population of manatees and sea turtles. Possibly the largest known aggregation of whale sharks and valuable concentrations of mangroves, seagrass and coral, of which there are 66 species of spiny coral alone. But the challenges are great and thankfully we have the MAR Funds, which is a regional environmental fund established to support conservation efforts specifically in the MAR eco region.

00:01:39:03 – 00:02:03:06
Philippa White
Its mission is to drive regional funding and partnerships for the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of resources in the region. Though TIE and the MAR Fund, we’ve worked together in the past and I’m excited to say we’re working together again in early 2022. This project is specifically fascinating because it’s a way to bring business and environmental conservation in together.

00:02:03:24 – 00:02:18:22
Philippa White
Now, Maria will bring all of this to life on this chart. So sit back, relax. And here is Maria. Hello, Maria. It’s so lovely to have you with us on tie on Earth. Thank you so much for joining us.

00:02:19:02 – 00:02:21:21
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Thank you very much for the invitation, Philippe. It’s great to be here.

00:02:22:00 – 00:02:38:10
Philippa White
It’s lovely to have you. So to kick off, as I always like to do this with our podcasts, perhaps you can just tell our listeners a little bit more about you, the work you do, and the story of how and why Mar Fund was set up.

00:02:38:19 – 00:03:13:18
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Okay, sure. Well, I am the Guatemalan biologist by training. I’m actually a wildlife manager working inland and terrestrial initiatives. And now I am working in coastal and marine issues. But I’ll tell you about that. I work now for the mayor’s American Reef Fund, which is a regional environmental fund, and it was established to support conservation, restoration and sustainable use of them as American Reef, which is shared by four countries Mexico, Belize.

00:03:13:18 – 00:03:41:07
Maria Jose Gonzalez
But in my Honduras. And we focus on different issues protected areas, coastal and marine protected areas, fisheries, climate change through restoration of coral reefs and mangrove conservation and solid and liquid waste, which is a big threat to the reef. And we operate through different channels of funding for key initiatives in the region.

00:03:41:14 – 00:03:45:13
Philippa White
Okay. And how long has the MAR Fund been around? When was it founded?

00:03:45:18 – 00:03:59:16
Maria Jose Gonzalez
This is our 16th year of operation. It was actually funded by four preexisting environmental funds, one from each country. And it has been very good, you know, working with them, getting us started and operational.

00:03:59:20 – 00:04:12:21
Philippa White
So tell us a little bit before we get more into more fund. Perhaps you can just tell us a little bit more about use of what did you do before more fund. You’re a Guatemalan biologist. So what? Tell us just a little bit about your story.

00:04:12:24 – 00:04:42:03
Maria Jose Gonzalez
I studied wildlife management in Costa Rica and returned to Guatemala. And initially I worked for the recently created Protected Areas Council for What Animals, when I had just returned and there I helped set up develop the first read lists for the country. I worked on the initial hunting line system for the country targeting, you know, locals that actually require hunting.

00:04:42:03 – 00:05:05:14
Maria Jose Gonzalez
You know, they use that as a source of protein. That that was an easy target. And then I worked to move for a local research organization that worked on the Pacific Coast, collecting mana, protecting mangroves there, and wetlands, a very important, beautiful wetland. I worked in the Gulf National Park in the north in the jungles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve for several years.

00:05:06:01 – 00:05:30:19
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And then I became involved with the first environmental fund in Guatemala, also a private fund. And being there, this was the Guatemalan fund that now is part of the mayor’s American refund. So while being there with the other funds from the other for the other three countries of the American reef, we created the fund. So, yes, we created that.

00:05:30:19 – 00:05:43:03
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And then for different reasons, I left the Guatemalan fund. And then after that it was us to begin structuring the operation of the American We fund. And I think since I’ve been there since the beginning. Yes. Wow.

00:05:43:03 – 00:05:47:07
Philippa White
So you have been around in for the 16 years, essentially.

00:05:47:18 – 00:05:52:01
Maria Jose Gonzalez
That before that writing your planning and structuring it? Yes.

00:05:52:06 – 00:05:58:10
Philippa White
Yes. Oh, exciting. Wow. And you’re talking to us right now from Guatemala. You’re based in Guatemala. Guatemala is not.

00:05:58:11 – 00:06:06:21
Maria Jose Gonzalez
No, no, no. The Mar Fund office, the coordinating office is based in Guatemala. I live in Bogota, Colombia. Oh, wow.

00:06:06:21 – 00:06:29:19
Philippa White
Yes. Okay. That’s right, actually, because over organizing the time difference, I remember using Bogota. Well, okay. Yeah. Perhaps you can tell us and our listeners about the challenges that you face in that part of the world that perhaps our listeners may not know. And what is the reality on the ground, obviously, with regards to the work that you specifically do?

00:06:30:03 – 00:06:55:01
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Okay. And let me begin just by saying that this part of the world is is very important. It has the largest barrier reef in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is the largest transboundary reef shared by four countries. And that is already one of the first challenges by working across four countries, two languages, two, you know, different cultures, different histories, political systems.

00:06:55:08 – 00:07:20:17
Maria Jose Gonzalez
That is a challenge. But I think in the past years it has been very rewarding to see that it actually operates as a region. You know, people interact in that coastal and marine space across the countries and they learn from each other. And I think that is one of the great things, especially because as with all coral reefs worldwide, there are many threats to these feeds.

00:07:20:17 – 00:07:47:23
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Right. Things like sewage and solid waste. Right. All the impact that is coming from inland into the water that affects the reefs directly, that that is really a big threat. And in different parts of the American reef, that comes from different sources. So let’s say in northern Honduras, it comes from agriculture, right? Some of it that is right by the coast, further north north in Mexico, in Quintana Roo.

00:07:48:05 – 00:08:18:24
Maria Jose Gonzalez
You have tourism by large tourism development and that also creates contamination. That affects the reefs. Other issues are like overfishing, that, you know, that that is a big aspect to or coastal development that is not well planned is also a big threat. And then what you know, the overarching threat is climate change and that exacerbates all the other threats and climate change means bleaching of coral reefs, and they can die from that.

00:08:19:07 – 00:08:47:16
Maria Jose Gonzalez
It means ocean acidification. And then you have trouble structuring the reefs. You know, they they can’t hold that structure, that calcium structure, stronger and more frequent storms. All these are impacts of climate change. So these these are the big challenges in how to approach them, working with local communities, looking working with the local governments to to, you know, face these challenges and begin to put solutions in place.

00:08:47:18 – 00:08:53:05
Philippa White
Yeah. Do you have reach to be able to get to all of those different challenges?

00:08:53:05 – 00:09:35:23
Maria Jose Gonzalez
What margin does is we support establishing relationships and alliances and we raise funding that then we channel to local actors on the ground. So we are a second level mechanism and we work, you know, with fantastic partners that do amazing work on the ground. And so we try to, let’s say, protected area managers and co managers. So we fund governments when they operate a protected area directly or a coal manager, which is something that in Belize what in my name reverse legislation allows NGOs to co-manage protected areas in agreement with the government authorities in Mexico.

00:09:35:23 – 00:09:58:15
Maria Jose Gonzalez
It’s done directly by the federal or state governments. But, you know, we work with all of them and try to provide support for the activities they need to develop, to strengthen the resilience of the protected areas, to work with local communities to participate in the management. Yeah. So it depends on the initiative, you know, the different actors and stakeholders we can reach, but we definitely do not work alone.

00:09:58:15 – 00:10:19:08
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Right. But we also work with other initiatives that are regional in in the American based and there are two that are fantastic. I think the American reef is the only area of coral reefs that has an initiative that measures the health of the reef periodically and puts out a report park and lets us know how the reef is doing.

00:10:19:08 – 00:10:48:19
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So we have that historic information since 2008, which is fantastic, and they are the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative. And there’s also a regional initiative called the American Leadership Program, and they focus on building human capital. So, yeah, many leaders from the four countries, you know, they receive leadership skills, they learn how to develop projects, they focus on different key strategic topics for the region and develop projects on those and those initiatives and then carry them up.

00:10:49:02 – 00:10:58:14
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So, you know, we’ll liaise with them for different projects and different initiatives and try to work together and, you know, just try to help move processes along.

00:10:58:15 – 00:11:24:03
Philippa White
Yeah, well, as mentioned, we have worked together in the past and you know, I have fond memories of that project. It was, you know, super impactful for the individual who was involved. And I just wonder, perhaps you can tell our listeners just about your experience to date with Tai and just what are some stories that stand out with regards to just the impact of working with us and that experience?

00:11:24:06 – 00:11:54:02
Maria Jose Gonzalez
It was extremely helpful and supportive. When we work with Tide, the expert that came that came to provide support is Will. Well, he’s communications expert and he put together a communication strategy and this this was very important for several reasons. Right. Communication, as you mentioned earlier, is so very important. And many times in the day to day trying to raise funding, put out funding, follow up on Project Help, grantees, etc..

00:11:54:15 – 00:12:19:21
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Communication sort of was relegated because it was not something, you know, we didn’t have any in-house experts for communication. And he helped us put in perspective the very big importance of communication. So we are still implementing the strategy that that he put together. And and it has been great. You know, we have a person now on the staff that does communication.

00:12:19:21 – 00:12:41:10
Maria Jose Gonzalez
We’re following the strategy. All the elements that he indicated have been so useful. Of course, you know, things have grown out from that. Yes. It has evolved a bit. Our our website, which he restructured, has grown also because, you know, there are new initiatives in place and things, you know, have have moved a bit. But he provided that and it was just been great.

00:12:41:16 – 00:12:49:21
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And the way we structure our communications now are based on what he provided and which is so very grateful for all all he helped us all.

00:12:50:02 – 00:13:00:21
Philippa White
So yeah, I’m so happy to hear that. I mean, for our listeners to understand what was involved before COVID. So this was actually a while ago, this was about five years ago. Would I be right in thinking about four or.

00:13:00:21 – 00:13:01:22
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Five years ago? Yes. Yeah.

00:13:02:07 – 00:13:25:08
Philippa White
So this was when Tai primarily only worked with immersive experiences. So Will physically went to Guatemala City, if I’m not mistaken. Yes. Based on your head office, he did travel a bit, so I know that that was a huge highlight. I think he went to Belize. I think like everywhere he went. But anyway, he definitely. Or Honduras. Yeah.

00:13:25:08 – 00:13:39:12
Philippa White
So he went went and saw some other of your projects in other parts of the the region for him. You know, I know that it was hugely impactful just having that exposure and being able to and he’s a biologist, I think he’s studying biology, if I’m not mistaken.

00:13:40:01 – 00:13:42:05
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Initially studied something like that.

00:13:42:07 – 00:14:01:21
Philippa White
So then he, I mean, he he was working in an advertising agency when he went and it was the agency that sponsored him to do this. But it basically was a chance for him to bring these two worlds together of having the marine biology knowledge and experience, but actually being able to use his leadership and be able to kind of drive what you do in it.

00:14:01:21 – 00:14:32:11
Philippa White
You know, from a communications point of view, forward tide has since evolved because obviously with COVID borders were not open. We couldn’t send people, corporates also couldn’t actually get involved because obviously their focus was elsewhere. Leadership development wasn’t a huge focus. It was more it’s just surviving like a lot of us. And so we very quickly had to pivot when everything started shutting down, we did then start to get emails from a number of different organizations around the world saying, Are you guys still working?

00:14:33:00 – 00:14:55:08
Philippa White
We really need help. We need help pivoting, etc.. And so very quickly we realized, oh my goodness, we need to we need to figure out a way to keep doing what we do virtually. Fast forward to sort of about six or seven months later, we created TIE Accelerator and also a corporate team tie initiative which is being able to do similar work that Will did with you.

00:14:55:14 – 00:15:23:19
Philippa White
But now it’s a group of professionals coming together virtually, but to work directly with the organization to be able to crack a challenge. And so I’m super excited to say that we are going to be working again with the MAR Fund, which is very, very exciting and hopefully early next year is our plan. And I’m really excited because, you know, this is an opportunity I think also in the wake of COP 26 that I just think that there’s just so much going on around the world.

00:15:24:09 – 00:15:52:05
Philippa White
We know that people are keen to break out of their silos, broaden their horizons, just get access to just worlds outside of their immediate circle of people and just knowledge and be able to break out of that. And obviously, Tai is a way to do that by bringing these issues very real issues together with professionals that can use their leadership to not only impact that organization, but also grow as a result.

00:15:52:23 – 00:16:27:06
Philippa White
So we are going to be working together. And I just wonder, in light of this sort of spiel that I’ve just sort of given our listeners and to just also help you, I think because I think you’ve spoken too early, you know, that we have evolved. It is obviously different. So you won’t have anyone physically there. But actually we have learned it’s so powerful because you have this team of people together, these incredible minds that they’re super keen to really understand what is going on in your region and then how they can use what they know, draw on all of the information that they have access to, to be able to help really make something

00:16:27:15 – 00:16:53:15
Philippa White
a success. And I’m super excited about this project because it is necessary. It can really impact the region, its sustainability at its core, and it’s actually bringing these two worlds together of business and the environment. So I just wonder, can you bring to life this brief for our listeners, for them to understand how you’re hoping to help and then how, how, what you hope to get from TIE?

00:16:53:16 – 00:17:24:20
Maria Jose Gonzalez
You’re and thank you. We are very excited about this opportunity of working again with the support of TIE. So what we are trying to put together and this is another challenge in the region, right? Funding. Funding is a big challenge for conservation. The Met American Reef, even though you speak to different funders and they recognize the importance of the reef, the fact that, you know, it goes across all countries, it’s a large place, important economically for the people that depend on the reefs resources.

00:17:25:18 – 00:17:52:18
Maria Jose Gonzalez
We don’t have many funders focusing on the American reef and and that it, you know has been a challenge to raise those funds that are required. And one of the sources of funding for conservation is the private sector. How do we attract the private sector to the region? How do we develop market initiatives that have a positive impact on the coastal and marine resources that generate revenue?

00:17:52:18 – 00:18:19:17
Maria Jose Gonzalez
It can therefore attract that private sector, and that is the big challenge that we are trying to focus on now. And but we want to develop and establish is a is what we would call a major American Reef Technical Assistance Facility to support market initiatives or initiatives in the region that have market potential to develop. So they are a pipeline that can be a pipeline of ready to invest projects.

00:18:20:13 – 00:18:43:16
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And the issue is how do we design this Mesoamerican Reef Technical Assistance facility? How do we continue to fund it? You know, just how do we develop it to serve that purpose of developing the projects that can attract that capital? We are at the moment working in alliance with different actors to try to establish a blended finance mechanism in the region.

00:18:43:16 – 00:19:04:17
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Right, to bring, like you said, the two sectors, the conservation sector and the finance sector that do not speak the same language. How do we bridge those gaps and bring them together and see whether, you know, in the finance sector, how can they see where those possibilities are, where the opportunities are in the conservation sector to think in market terms, right?

00:19:04:17 – 00:19:29:10
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So we can actually bring these solutions and the ideas to think about the solutions that again can have a positive impact on on the American reef and create a market ready. So just to think, you know, some of the initiatives that we’re thinking can be seaweed cultivation, right? They these have positive impacts on the the ecosystems and they can have, you know, market returns.

00:19:29:16 – 00:19:49:01
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So what do you need to develop and foster and those that are doing these initiatives in the region to attract that capital blue carbon is another possibility as as as a market. So these are the types of things that we want to think about and establish. And, you know, we’re very excited about it. We know there are many challenges, but this is what we want to develop.

00:19:49:02 – 00:20:23:12
Philippa White
So if I’m not mistaken, this project will be helping to create the system and helping you build the sort of business model, if I’m not mistaken, for this to work. So you have ideas of what the types of organizations or companies would be, the sustainable businesses. So, you know, the types of sustainable businesses. I think, if I’m not mistaken, I think this sort of sort of seed capital to kind of start this process and then the TIE project would be a group of people coming in and working with you to basically create what this could look like.

00:20:23:12 – 00:20:25:17
Philippa White
Is that am I right in thinking, well.

00:20:26:07 – 00:20:29:07
Maria Jose Gonzalez
We are currently developing a proposal within this alliance.

00:20:29:07 – 00:20:29:12
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:20:29:22 – 00:20:58:02
Maria Jose Gonzalez
To begin this process of the pilot activities. Yeah. And developing that. Yes. But because it’s all like happening at the same time. Yes. Right. Yeah. We want to think of how the Mesoamerican Reef Technical Assistance Facility, which is part of this whole system. Yeah. Is just one part. And that’s the part that would be hosted within Marfa. How can we structure it so that it can continue to raise funding to develop the initiatives that can then attract the private capital?

00:20:58:08 – 00:21:03:14
Philippa White
Okay. So that technical assistance facility is a financial model, is that right?

00:21:03:15 – 00:21:14:05
Maria Jose Gonzalez
That facility would look or scope for new projects and provide the support that they need to be financially viable.

00:21:14:10 – 00:21:14:19
Philippa White
Okay.

00:21:14:22 – 00:21:18:05
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Yeah, right. So they’re financing by as market initiatives.

00:21:18:06 – 00:21:37:22
Philippa White
Okay. And you’re looking for help because this facility doesn’t exist yet. You’re still in the process of creating that. And it’s basically at the very early stages that this team would come together and put their brains together with you and your team to sort of see, okay, how does this look? What does this look like? You know, it’s exactly.

00:21:38:06 – 00:21:51:01
Maria Jose Gonzalez
How do we make it sustainable? What do we need to think about? How will it operate? And we’re working with with other partners to create the blended finance facility in the region of which Mark Harvey would be one element.

00:21:51:01 – 00:21:51:09
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:21:52:09 – 00:22:12:09
Maria Jose Gonzalez
The thing is. Yes, well, we’re really excited. You know, we have found that there’s just isn’t this system in the region, right? There are in fact, investors that have come in have asked, you know, can you provide ready to invest projects? Nope. No, we don’t we don’t have any of those in the region. They still require some support and development support.

00:22:12:16 – 00:22:17:10
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So we need to put all these elements together. And one of them is the technical assistance facility.

00:22:17:10 – 00:22:38:14
Philippa White
Yeah, exciting. You know, I just did a podcast actually with a friend of mine who has created a refillable glass bottle initiative. And one thing that came out of the conversation, she said, you know, for change to actually happen on a grand scale, it’s now come to the point of it’s not, you know, it’s it’s how business is done that is going to make the change.

00:22:38:14 – 00:23:03:02
Philippa White
It’s how business is done. You know, it’s not making these little changes and it’s not. No, it’s actually live. It’s how you actually do the business, what is done. That’s where changes made. And what’s exciting is really in this region. That’s what that’s what needs to happen is that, you know, businesses that are in that region, the the fundamental core needs to be how those businesses are done is going to be how that change is made.

00:23:03:14 – 00:23:05:09
Philippa White
And that’s what you’re looking for.

00:23:05:14 – 00:23:28:06
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And businesses that have ultimately a positive impact. Yes, of course. Right. So that so that they actually use the resources sustainably. They recover resources. They restore resources if that can happen. And that can you know, we believe there is huge potential for that, but we need to bring all those elements together. And again, there are mill ready businesses, right.

00:23:28:10 – 00:23:32:17
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And that isn’t occurring. So we have to try them out from the market.

00:23:32:19 – 00:23:33:02
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:23:33:09 – 00:23:34:11
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Exactly. Exactly.

00:23:34:19 – 00:23:53:13
Philippa White
That’s exciting. Now tell me, because there’s just, you know, when you work in an environmental cause, there’s just a lot going on, particularly now. And I just wonder also in the light of COP26, you know what, what keeps you up at night worrying? But then what also gives you hope.

00:23:53:20 – 00:24:18:24
Maria Jose Gonzalez
On climate change keeps me up at night working, right? This is the big, big overall ambarella threat for a coral reef region. And, you know, it’s frustrating. There is not enough change at the political level. Yeah. You know, you see that, you know, it’s it’s slow. You don’t know when action is going to take, if it’s going to be fast enough.

00:24:19:09 – 00:24:47:24
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So what gives me hope is that the Mesoamerican reef has is it actually a resilient reef right there? There are many good things about three that provide hope and maybe more time to put good practices in place. So, you know, there are amazing reefs in a very good and a very good healthy situation. Reefs in this part of the Caribbean, the western Caribbean have more live coral cover than the rest of the wider Caribbean.

00:24:47:24 – 00:25:22:24
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Right. So we have reef areas that have over 60% live coral cover. That is fantastic. Right. Reefs that were known before that have been discovered in the past five or six years that that are thriving. And, you know, it’s just wonderful news to have. And and so I think that gives me hope, plus the fact that there is a very large number of people, of organizations, of NGOs, of government organizations that are working together, of academia, that are all coming together to solve to solve problems.

00:25:22:24 – 00:25:36:04
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Right. To go beyond what is expected to to protect areas, to work on restoration and recovery. Just the fact that there’s so many people in the region doing that, that that gives.

00:25:36:04 – 00:26:02:22
Philippa White
Me hope because I ask everybody this question. And it’s just really interesting just hearing the different challenges in so many different parts around the world. But like you say, there is so much happening, needs to be faster, that needs to be more that’s going on. But there is stuff happening and I think if everybody else, if everyone does their bit and if everyone is aware of what’s going on and if everyone does their bit, then I do believe that that makes so much change.

00:26:03:03 – 00:26:06:18
Philippa White
And tell me, who does inspire you are.

00:26:07:11 – 00:26:53:19
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Many people in the region. You know, there are many women that inspire me. There are amazing women that are managers or directors of protected areas and the work they do to fundraise, to reach out, to involve communities, to educate, to get in the water and restore reefs after a hurricane. It is truly inspiring. And then in working with local communities, you know, the projects they put together to to create new, smaller businesses in tourism and just different activities we have as part of the more fun work and and in response to projects, for example, funded by Cave, which is probably the largest funder in the American reef, we’ve developed a couple of books going to

00:26:53:19 – 00:27:19:16
Maria Jose Gonzalez
the protected areas and and the stakeholders, and it was basically it’s their story, right to them telling us what they’re seeing and the changes. And that is so inspiring. You know, how they are committed in in the local communities and how women are, you know, just focusing on what the possibilities are. They recognize the importance of the resources that, you know, of their children of of making sure their children have a home in the future.

00:27:20:00 – 00:27:27:03
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And this is changes the way they work. Obviously, they are so engaged and that I find very inspiring.

00:27:27:07 – 00:27:46:11
Philippa White
You’ve given me goose bumps. Now we’re coming to the end of our podcast, but I’d love you to just tell our listeners, you know, what are you working on at the moment that you think that they would find interesting or what? Haven’t I asked you that you would like to to talk about?

00:27:46:14 – 00:28:12:24
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Well, in addition to this blended finance mechanism and the technical assistance facility, you know, we can we can develop and establish what very interesting thing we have been working on is parametric insurance to cover the cost of reef restoration after a hurricane. This is something that, you know, it’s been it’s been developed with the support of several funders that have been very generous to support the initiative.

00:28:13:12 – 00:28:53:04
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So currently there are insurance policies for four sites in the Mozambican reef and we hope to purchase more next year for additional sites. And for this we are working with a fantastic partner. They are Willis Towers Watson and you know, they have designed this insurance mechanism and this has implied working also with different partners at government level and community level and protected areas level to develop and create that governance structure of people that when there is an event, can get into the water and carry out that emergency response.

00:28:53:04 – 00:28:57:12
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So that is another, I find very exciting initiative that we’re working on and.

00:28:57:12 – 00:28:59:22
Philippa White
That hasn’t existed before.

00:29:00:11 – 00:29:23:18
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Well, the TNC a couple of years ago put out that initial insurance model for Quintana Roo, and we’d sort of like what based on that, taking it more to more towards pure parametric in terms of the insurance and expanded it to them as American reef. And now we’re hoping we’re working to expand that to the wider Caribbean and working Indians in the Caribbean.

00:29:24:11 – 00:29:45:14
Maria Jose Gonzalez
We think this is something that can be done in in all coral reef areas. Reefs are the first line of defense for a hurricane, right? Yes, that’s the first line you have. So you need to have that restrengthen after a hurricane. Of course, it’s going to be damaged. So then you need to make sure it recovers as fast as possible so it can continue to be that defense.

00:29:45:15 – 00:29:46:02
Philippa White
Yes.

00:29:46:13 – 00:30:08:19
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And that’s the idea. And then we, of course, protect the coast, but then they provide food security. Right. You need to have reefs for fisheries, etc., for tourism, for income. So they’re very important in those terms. And the idea is that you recover those services as fast as possible. And for that, you need to go in and put, you know, hands underwater to do that restoration.

00:30:08:22 – 00:30:23:16
Philippa White
Well, just because our listeners and I do not have this type of knowledge, just very quickly, it is simple terms as possible. What would that kind of restoration look like? What do you do after an event?

00:30:23:19 – 00:30:43:08
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And when you can get in the water, it’s safe to get in the water. It’s important first to clean out the debris. Right. Many times piece, you know, you have things coming into the water from the mainland, you know, tires, refrigerators, big things that are washed out in a storm that continues to bump around and damage the reef.

00:30:43:15 – 00:30:54:18
Maria Jose Gonzalez
So you need to clean up the debris. Part of that debris can be broken off coral. So when it’s possible that broken up coral has to be cemented back, right. It’s just cemented.

00:30:54:18 – 00:30:55:05
Philippa White
Back.

00:30:55:11 – 00:31:19:23
Maria Jose Gonzalez
To generate that structure again and to be able to have it be able to grow back. So that is what is done. Some some colonies artists like tipped over a bed. You need to stabilize them and some are cemented back. And that is the work that those brigades that are underwater do you know, we supported an emergency response after hurricanes last year in Mexico and one protected area called Puerto Morelos.

00:31:20:05 – 00:31:37:14
Maria Jose Gonzalez
And they, you know, cemented back over 5000 fragments. They stabilized over 8000 corals. And that returns that original structure. That helps for that yeah you know that coral reef to recover again so that is very important to get those hands under water.

00:31:37:14 – 00:31:45:24
Philippa White
And how long does that I mean, how long since string I’m aware that it’s it varies but roughly the last restoration that took place. How long did something like that take?

00:31:46:13 – 00:31:54:07
Maria Jose Gonzalez
They carried that out within three weeks. Wow. Three weeks. You know, people diving all day underwater all day. Yes.

00:31:54:07 – 00:32:14:19
Philippa White
Wow. Maria, it has been such a pleasure to have you with us. It’s an incredible window into such important work and really excited to be supporting you and the fund next year. We will confirm exactly when that will be, but it will be happening. And yeah, thank you for being with us.

00:32:14:22 – 00:32:21:14
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Thank you so much, Philippe. It’s been great and it’s great to work with you and thank you for letting us share what we’re doing.

00:32:21:14 – 00:32:23:04
Philippa White
Right until next time.

00:32:23:08 – 00:32:26:21
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Thank you. Goodbye.

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