Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence National Geographic Society, USA Class of 2008
At the end of my presentation, my fellow YGL Luis Guillermo Plata, who was then the minister of trade, industry and tourism of Colombia, said, “Great, this is interesting. Do you have a business plan?” Nobody in conservation talked of business plans, and there I was, faced with the challenge of taking a completely new approach to conservation. In this, I was joined by YGLs Kristin Rechberger of Dynamic Planet and Marco Fiorese of the Monaco-Asia Society, and together we fine-tuned the Fish Banks idea with the help of other YGLs and economist colleagues to develop the business case to encourage hotel chains, coastal municipalities and small island governments to invest in the creation of marine reserves.
The plan we developed is simple: marine reserves are set up on local waters at the municipal level or around private land. Local fishers have to agree to become investors in this enterprise and to stop fishing in part of their fishing grounds. During this time, their loss of income is partially offset by tourism access fees. After several years, biodiversity and the biomass of fish increases several-fold (the average worldwide is 450%), there is substantial spillover around the boundaries of the reserve, and the income of fishermen and those involved in the tourism industry (for example diving and snorkelling) in these reserves gets a boost. Last year, we published a paper in a scientific journal on a general business model for marine conservation, showing that conservation does not need to be a sacrifice and that it can even be profitable.
All of this has been thanks to the YGL community. If you think you have a good network, think again because you haven’t met the YGLs yet! Being a YGL is an enormous privilege – your professional network will increase exponentially, you will establish great friendships and you will grow tremendously as a person. At least that’s how it has been for me – it completely changed my life. As a YGL, go to as many events as possible, be like a sponge ready to absorb, and great things will happen!