My name is Nehara Pandey, I’m 14 years old and I live in a small costal state in India called Goa. One of the main sources of income in my state is tourism. This is due to the beautiful beaches along the coastline, the churches, the food and also the hospitable nature of the people. As our coast borders the Indian Ocean, my state is home to many pods of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, along with many other species of fish, crustaceans and mammals. There is a small coral reef and even a shipwreck.
Unfortunately, tourism has affected these magnificent sea creatures in many devastating ways . The main one being the fact that people are either unaware or do not care about their actions. Dolphin spotting boat trips started out as an innocent way for tourists to experience these majestic creatures. Unfortunately today this activity forces dolphins to venture deeper into the sea, causes them stress, keeps them underwater for longer, does not give them time to feed their young, breed, or hunt. During these trips, many boats chase one pod of dolphins or one dolphin that has strayed away form its pod. The boats get extremely close to the dolphins and surround them, which causes the animal great stress. In some cases, the motors can damage the dolphins dorsal fin. One might think that a few boats are not much to be worried about, but the truth is in the North of Goa, there are over seven hundred boats, which are not all licensed, that operate and target the same pods only from different beaches and these boats make a minimum of four dolphin trips day. Boat operators often have a common misconception that the dolphins have the whole ocean to swim freely in, but the habitat of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins is about two kilometers from the shoreline. Some organizations have tried to tackle this problem, but the boat operators continue to not cooperate and the government doesn't pay attention to this problem even though many people have tried to bring it to their notice.
Goa’s coral reef is around two islands, Grande Island and St. George Island. Many picnickers at the island, oblivious to the reef below that is home to hundreds of fish, throw beer bottles, plastic bottles and other garbage or accidentally drop their anchor on table coral that has taken hundreds of years to grow.
In my opinion, educating the future generations as well as the current one is the key step to creating eco-friendly citizens who have a sense of duty towards mother earth. I wanted to join the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council to help bring awareness to the alarming rate at which our marine ecosystems are being depleted. I also wanted to interact with people my age who share the same vision and passion as me. I am grateful that the organization chose me as one of their members even though I was under the age of sixteen. I hope that being on the council boosts my ability to reach out to people as well as my peers. I've been in love with the oceans as far as my memories go back and have a strong connection to the sea. The devastating effects of human ignorance and indifference need to be brought to light and I want to help in this wave of change.
Last year, I collaborated with a body artist named Preetam Lotlikar and we represented problems faced by marine life as well as coral through body art. It was an amazing experience, I learned a lot from this project, and I hope I made an impact on the people in my state. I hope to continue doing whatever I can to spread my message about the oceans.