To take or not to take, fishermen weigh in on best ways to protect the ocean in Galapagos and Cabo Pulmo.

I recently dove in the Galapagos and Cabo Pulmo and below are some of my favourite images and stories highlighting the incredible ocean wildlife and the ways people across the world are working to protect the ocean. 

Over 70 per cent of the earth is covered in ocean, and reports point to the fact that ocean fish populations have been cut in half since 1970. That’s a lot of life on earth lost. Where did all the fish go? To answer simply: we have consumed them. Nearly three billion people rely on fish as an important source of protein. Today, there is barely a geographical area in the world unspoiled by fishing and containing primeval, non-exploited fish populations and intact ecosystems. Aside from a few remote, far-off reaches of the globe, most places are missing their stars of the sea.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean, Kristin Hettermann

There are still some spectacular exceptions to this devastating trend. Places of hope, where you see and experience biomass as it swirls around you and the abundance darkens the waters above. It is in these areas, mostly “no-take” protected zones and remote areas far from humans, that I began to understand what it felt like to be a fish. I’ve seen life through their eyes – sometimes looking into their eyes. 

Protecting the Ocean in Galapagos and Cabo Pulmo - part one 

Juan Castrano, born in 1947, is a local fisherman born and raised in Cabo Pulmo. He was in the first generation of fishermen that made the decision to protect the reef and change the economic activity in Cabo Pulmo. “We realized at the end of the 1980s that we had to increase the effort to continue fishing, because we could not find the same amount and quality of fish close to our home. Around that time, we were visited by some tourists that wanted us to take them to visit and dive on the reef! My brother Jesús told me that this was a better business than fishing because when we take the panga (small boat) to the water, we already have an income.”

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean, Kristin Hettermann

Wouldn’t more fish in the sea solve everyone’s problems? It’s easy to see that the long-term value for a society is when a whole system is healthier and more robust. More and more examples are showing that in cases of preservation and protection, if a system is allowed to replenish itself, it will end up being of greater benefit to all people as well as itself. 

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean, Kristin Hettermann

Brett Jenks, President & CEO of Rare Foundation, is leading some cutting-edge efforts to reform global fishery management and believes the path forward is a smart synergy. "Pitting protected areas against sound fishery management creates a false dichotomy. We need both. MPAs don't necessarily benefit people and fishery management doesn't necessarily benefit local habitats,” he states. “But well-designed fishery management regimes, in concert with well-designed marine protected areas, are an ideal combination.”

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean, Kristin Hettermann

The stronger marine environments are, the more resilient they will be to any type of change- climate change, pollution, toxins, ocean acidification, warming sea temperatures ... to name a few villains. The keys to successful MPAs rest in community involvement, scientific alignment, long-term sustainable financing, and political support. And as challenges become exponentially greater with larger areas of ocean, enforcement is a crucial component of protection.

Smart fishermen around the world are realizing that the status quo, in regards to fishing, is just not going to cut it anymore. Certainly with openness, innovative thinking, and empathy, as well as good science and economics rooted in equity, the combination of science, tourism, and fishing in marine protected areas seems to be a great model for the world to catch onto.

Green Sea Turtle in Galápagos

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Please see for more details. Kristin Hettermann is a writer and photographer – striving to share positive stories, document the earth and its cultures, inspire people to explore, and raise awareness for important causes - particularly the protection and restoration of the world's oceans. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action.