by Rosario Sisto
The territory of Massa Lubrense boasts countless natural wonders. Among these, the aquatic environment that surround its banks is especially important and it is safeguarded by the Marine Protected Area Punta Campanella. The M.AR.E. project was indeed started by the Marine Area with the aim of protecting the aquatic ecosystem of these territories.
This project aims to engage a number of young volunteers from all over the world in activities designed not only to help safeguard the local aquatic ecosystems, but also to help spread the knowledge of aquatic wonders and how keep them safe.
For this article we had the opportunity to interview one of this year’s volunteers: Pedro Ribeiro.
Let’s start with an introduction: what’s your name? How old are you? What country are you from?
My name is Pedro Ribeiro, I’m 26 and Portuguese. I was born in a small town in the inland of Portugal and I studied biology, including marine biology, at the University of Aveiro.
Tell us: how did you decide to take part in the M.A.R.E. project?
After getting my master degree last year, I looked for a job in Portugal, but I wasn’t able to find anything that suited me.
One day I discovered the M.A.R.E. project on Facebook and decided to take part in it. Above all, I wish to bring the knowledge I have gained through the project with me to Portugal.
Moreover, during my university studies I was unable to take part in an Erasmus project, so this experience allowed me to “fill that void”, in a sense.
Specific studies or preparations are required to participate in the M.A.R.E. project?
Actually, of the 10 volunteers currently participating in the project only 7 are experts in marine biology, while the other 3 have studied completely different subjects.
Despite this, as much as it may not be strictly necessary to possess specific knowledge to become a volunteer, it is still important for at least a part of the group to have studied marine biology, so as to support the others in the more demanding activities.
What are the main activities carried out by you volunteers?
During the first month we attend an Italian language course to facilitate communication.
The actual activities start during the summer, often with the assistance of other organizations.
The main activities take place in the Bay of Ieranto with the goal of protecting the biodiversity of the area, meaning its hundreds of aquatic species, both plant and animal. When boats happen to enter the bay – where it is not allowed to cruise or dock if your boat is engine-powered – we approach them by canoe to explain to the people aboard the park regulations and its goals, and so we invite them to go elsewhere.
At the same time we put effort into teaching people the importance of protecting this ecosystem, and we often organize kayak guided tours and snorkeling. In this way people can personally immerse themselves in the aquatic wonders of the territory and get to know it better.
Volunteers are also involved in the protection of sea turtles: we follow their footprints in the sand along the beaches, searching for potential nests. Once we find one, we protect it to make sure that the eggs will be able to hatch safely. In the meantime, we take this opportunity to explain the details of the whole process to the people who are on the beach.
Are there any difficulties in protecting a foreign territory?
Personally not. Adapting to this cultural context was fairly easy for me since, in my experience, Italy and Portugal are not very different from a socio-cultural point of view.
How does collaboration between young people from different countries and cultures influence the activities?
Some of the M.A.R.E. project activities also aim to create strong bonds between us, in order to make us feel united despite our cultural differences.
Among the more interesting and memorable activities are the “cultural evenings”: each of us is given a whole evening during which we can tell the others about our country and our culture. The goal of these meetings is to make us all feel closer. We have organized many similar events: Spanish, Greek, Croatian, and many others.
For giving us so much of his time and so much information, we sincerely thank Pedro Ribeiro.
We hope to have aroused interest in those who have read this article. We invite you to visit the territories of the Punta Campanella Marine Protected Area, so that you can personally admire these wonders and fully understand the importance of safeguarding them!