"It’s one single ocean, all connected, and we’re all part of it. You look at the ocean and think it’s just a blue mass but every single drop of that water has life in it."
Kerstin Forsberg is a marine conservationist whose programmes working with Peruvian coastal communities have gained international recognition. The ultimate Unity Challenger, she puts people first in her campaigns; educating, empowering and mobilising them in her ultimate goal to preserve our oceans.
What I’ve learnt from the ocean

Growing up as a child I was always interested in nature. I set up my own after-school zoo club aged 9. The idea was to learn more about the animals and see how we could care for them and educate the other students about them.

I have learnt through the ocean over the years that all oceans are connected, it’s one single ocean and we’re all part of it. You look at it and think it’s just a blue mass but every single drop of that water has life in it. It’s extraordinary, and we’ve only scratched the surface.

Northern Peru is a very biodiverse area. It’s considered a Hope Spot – a critical marine conservation area. The waters are home to many endangered species such as the giant manta ray, which in the past was being harvested for local food consumption. We wanted to shift the economy into a more sustainable model such as eco-tourism. We needed to show that these animals are more valuable alive than dead.

Photo credit ©Musuk Nolte/TIME
How children can make a difference?

The future belongs to the children. We had a group of volunteers helping to research sea turtle standings a few years ago, and one of the volunteers brought her younger brother, Josué, who was 4 at the time. I remember how excited he was. Now Josué is 14 years old and runs his own environmental club in his community. It showed me that you really can put a spark in and watch it grow.

We want to give students the power. We are at the beginning of the Connecting Schools program, where we link kids in different countries up via online platforms, and they exchange ideas and information about their environmental youth-led projects. A lot of time the youth want to do something but they don’t necessarily have the knowledge or skills on how to build a project in an adult world – we are giving them the tools to do it.

Photo Credit ©François Schaer/Rolex
How people can work together?

Local seaside communities hold the keys to our ocean’s wellbeing. Problems like overfishing and pollution should not only be tackled from the top down: we need to empower the critical mass of people on the ground. They know their ocean better than anyone else.

Human connection is vital for change. Real friendships have been created through our conservation programmes. Sparking these connections is really inspiring and exciting – we’ve brought together fishermen and scientists; children and policy makers. By connecting these people new conversations are starting – that’s what creates change.
KERSTIN FORSBERG: 3 FAST FACTS

-50 Schools in northern Peru are participating in the Planeta Océano educational outreach programme

-Less than 4% of the world’s oceans are protected

-The wingspan of a giant manta ray is up to 23 feet

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