Students dive into sustainable fisheries storytelling in Belize

It’s always exciting when students get to apply their communication skills to make the world a better place. That’s why we’ve grown our Partner Program over the last few years, helping dozens of non-profit clients in different sectors tackle their unique communication challenges.

Most of the projects are local. So when students Aaron Good and Yao Wu were partnered with systems change incubator Future of Fish as part of the broader Ocean Link Northwest Partner Program initiative last year, they never thought they’d end up free-diving in a tropical archipelago.

But every once in a while, a special opportunity comes along. Future of Fish decided they wanted to use the opportunity to support their partners at the National Fishermen’s Cooperative in Belize by producing a video to raise consumer awareness about the co-op’s sustainable, community-driven fishing practices.

Aaron and Yao jumped at the chance. Comm Lead and Ocean Link funder The Nereus Program chipped in to support new equipment that would allow them to film miles away from the nearest electrical outlet or internet connection — and underwater. After a lot of hard work and planning, they were off to Belize.

“Currently, the fishing industry in Belize is 100% manual — every fish is caught by hand,” Aaron explains. “To watch these fishermen free dive for their catch was an impressive site to behold, if not incredibly challenging for non-divers like us to film! But I’m glad we got the opportunity, because this story is invisible for all but those living this life every day.”

The Nature Conservancy works with the National Fishermen’s Cooperative to ensure continued productivity, sustainability, and environmental resilience. A new initiative on traceability educates buyers and consumers on the origin of the fish, with the aim of sensitizing and motivating them to pay more for a higher quality product.

“When we see a lobster on our plate, we don’t see the ten fishermen crammed into a sailboat for a week at sea, spending twelve hours a day in the water hauling them up one by one. We don’t see their families who depend on that catch to go to school. We don’t see how the fish stocks and coral reefs suffer when commercial fishing takes over.” Aaron said. “We just see dinner.”

Three men on a wooden float smile and pose for the camera, in front of a light green tropical shoal.

Comm Lead student Aaron Good (top left, center) and recent graduate Yao Wu (top right) in Belize filming sustainable lobster and conch fishers.

“Helping the public engage with massive — but also distant and complex — crises facing our oceans was the key challenge of the Ocean Link initiative overall”, explains Alex Stonehill, head of creative strategy for Comm Lead.

“Alarming scientific research about environmental changes, and their human impacts, isn’t hitting home,” Alex said. “A relatable story about how one person’s life has been affected by those kind of changes is more likely to inspire meaningful action than raw facts and statistics.”

The film Aaron and Yao produced from Belize emphasized those human connections, reconnecting the viewer with the people and places behind the food on our plates. You can watch it above.

“[In Belize], we were face-to-face with seafood in its natural habitat, and the human effort it takes to acquire that seafood sustainably,” said Aaron. “Remaking those connections, not only for myself, but through the camera lens so that others can do the same was the most memorable part of this project. That and the fresh conch ceviche!”

Alex StonehillStudents dive into sustainable fisheries storytelling in Belize
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