José Escaño is a marine biologist, climate activist and conservationist with more than 7 years of experience in the yachting and recreational diving industry. He is currently co-founder and coordinator of the projects MedGardens (Cleanwave Foundation) and SeaScale (Observers of the Sea) both of which have received funding by Marilles Foundation.
Is your relationship with the sea one of fascination, devotion or both?
I feel like a son of the Balearic Sea. It has surrounded me since I was born and I consider it my home. That is why I am determined to contribute to its regeneration and conservation.
Tell us how and why MedGardens came into your life.
From 2013 until 2020 I was at the helm of the family business innovating in recreational diving and active tourism. At that time I asked several prominent acquaintances in different sectors for advice on where to take a new professional direction and Philipp Baier (Founder of Cleanwave.org) gave me the challenge and the opportunity to develop a new initiative focused on marine regeneration.
After consulting with ongoing projects in other regions, such as OperationPosidonia.org, CoralGuardian.org and EquilibrioMarino.org, I proposed a new citizen-driven marine restoration project: MedGardens.org.
What are the key values of this project?
MedGardens works with communities combining research and social engagement to to support coastal regeneration processes over time in specifici locations. Communities in that location see the change and the direct benefit to them.
What is the global approach leading to this local initiative?
The UN decade of "Ocean Science for Sustainable Development" and "Ecosystem Restoration" starts in 2021. Much more needs to be done if we are to reverse the loss of health of marine ecosystems. We need coordinated action from all sectors to create the right conditions for a truly sustainable development of the oceans, seas and coasts.
At a more local level MedGardens can act as a platform to support the establishment and improvement of marine protected areas whilst generating knowledge and practice which is open source and transferable to our Mediterranean neighbours who share similar challenges.
More attention is needed on the degradation and lack of management of shallow coastal habitats, because these are the ones we capitalise most on via multiple ways (e.g. tourism, diving, fishing, yachting etc.). Their conservation needs more attention if we want to be able to continue to offer benefits to local communities and visitors in a sustainable way.
Why do you think a visit to Medgardens this summer is a must?
It's our first year and every contribution - be it financial, in-kind or voluntary – is essential. It will make the start smoother, the future brighter and eventually it will allow us to have more impact. This is the chance to fix what we have broken, and to prove that we can do it.
Can an initiative like this be replicated around the world?
Of course it can. MedGardens can be replicated to other Balearic Islands and other corners of the Mediterranean. We are working to restore communities of seaweeds like Cystoseira and seagrass like Posidonia and Cymodocea, which are present all over the Med; and so are the pressures on the environment like tourism, sailing and fishing.
MedGardens itself is a model that is replicated from other corners of the world such as Indonesia or Australia
A quick test for sea lovers:
A reading: Let my people go surfing, Yvon Chouinard.
An image that reminds you of the Balearic Islands: The "Balearic flag", which is the mix of four colours that one sees from the boat: navy blue for the Posidonia meadows, light blue for the sandbanks, dark green for the pine forests and sky blue for the sky.
An organisation or person of reference: Adriana Vergès and Fiona Tomas, two marine scientists dedicated to connecting citizens and the scientific community to work towards common goals.
A beach: S'Arenalet d'Aubarca.
A phrase that defines you: Cooperation is the absolute conviction that no one can get there unless everyone gets there, by Virginia Burden.
Optimistic, realistic or pessimistic? Always optimistic.