Div­ing straight into the is­sue of plas­tic pol­lu­tion

Sunshine Coast Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Danielle.Ford@sc­news.com.au

WITH her sus­tain­able swimwear line help­ing make marine con­ser­va­tion fash­ion­able, Steph Gabriel wants peo­ple to dive fur­ther into is­sue of ocean pol­lu­tion.

While study­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence at uni­ver­sity Miss Gabriel launched her own swimwear line, Ocean Zen Bikini, us­ing fab­ric crafted from re­cy­cled plas­tics.

The brand has gone on to be­come well-known, not just on the Coast, but across the coun­try.

Fast for­ward five years and the 29-year-old is still ex­pand­ing her ef­forts to help com­bat plas­tic waste.

Now, she is us­ing whale div­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in Tonga to help ed­u­cate and in­spire peo­ple.

“I’ve been tak­ing a group of girls to Tonga for three years now to swim with hump­back whales in the wild,” she said.

“I went over my­self five years ago and swam with them and just knew I had to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with other peo­ple.” Miss Gabriel said while she started the re­treats to sim­ply share the ex­pe­ri­ence, they have de­vel­oped into a way of open­ing peo­ple’s eyes to the im­pact pol­lu­tion has on the ocean.

“My pas­sion for marine con­ser­va­tion started when I was liv­ing in the Cay­man Is­lands and work­ing with wild st­ingrays,” she said.

“That ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally opened my eyes to just how much of an im­pact we are hav­ing on our marine life.

“So with these re­treats I’m able to give these girls the op­por­tu­nity to see marine life up close and in­spire and show them how to love and pro­tect the ocean.”

Dur­ing the yearly trip she sits down with the group and talks about plas­tic waste and the di­rect im­pact it has on the crea­tures they see dur­ing the re­treat.

“You see them make that con­nec­tion be­tween say a plas­tic shop­ping bag and how it could harm that beau­ti­ful whale they were swim­ming with the day be­fore,” she said.

The Alexan­dra Head­land res­i­dent said while she couldn’t change the world her­self, she took pride in know­ing she was do­ing her part.

“You can’t change the world in one go, but it’s about the small steps,” she said.

“Peo­ple hear our story and read about what we are all about and are hope­fully in­spired to do their lit­tle bit.”

Photo: Pa­trick Woods

FIGHT­ING FOR CHANGE: Steph Gabriel runs con­ser­va­tion re­treats to Tonga where she takes girls over to swim with whales and other marine life and uses it as a way to teach peo­ple about the im­pact of plas­tic and waste on marine life.


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