SWIMMING WITH WHALES
Diving straight into the issue of plastic pollution
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.”
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.