ANDREW AND MARIT MINERS
ANDREW YEAR CERTIFIED: 1989 AGE WHEN CERTIFIED: 19 CERTIFICATION LEVEL: INSTRUCTOR MARIT YEAR CERTIFIED: 2000 AGE WHEN CERTIFIED: 23
CERTIFICATION LEVEL: ADVANCED OPEN WATER
“We felt strongly that when we built Misool and formed the Misool Marine Reserve, we were entering a community and making our home there,” says Andrew Miners, who along with his wife, Marit, is co-founder of a resort and foundation often held up as an example of how everyday people with grit, heart and determination can effect real change. For their vision and dedication, the Miners are our January/february Sea Heroes.
Q: MISOOL WAS RECENTLY NAMED A MISSION BLUE “HOPE SPOT.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU? MM: Establishing our 300,000-acre reserve as a Hope Spot elevates our visibility in the global arena. We hope Misool might serve as an example to other businesses looking for ways to weave together conservation, community and ethical business practices. AM: Our hope is that our model can be replicated again and again. Just imagine if every resort, hotel and dive shop protected a bit of reef just off their shore. The effects would be immense.
Q: WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH LOCALS? AM: Being a good neighbor means listening to your neighbors and valuing their concerns. Most people would consider the opinion of the governor more important than that of a fisherman. We don’t. An operation like the Misool Marine Reserve is a living, breathing animal, and we have to continually adapt. It’s fruitless if you just say, “OK, that’s done,” and walk away — it’s a constant commitment. MM: The local people are our long-term partners. Between our business and our foundation, we employ 165 people who are supporting themselves, and often extended families, in a sustainable manner.
Q: ANY SURPRISES? MM: How quickly nature has rebounded. We created the reserve in 2005; fish biomass increased an average of 250 percent over six years, and the number of sharks inside our no-take zone is 25 times higher than just outside.
Q: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES IN MARINE CONSERVATION? AM: Global warming and plastic in the oceans concern me the most because they are everywhere and affect everything. If we don’t solve those issues, ecosystems will collapse and oceans will change so dramatically that most species will die — including our own. MM: That’s why responsible tourism plays such a vital role in conservation. People protect what they love, and diving introduces people to so many more things to love.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR MOST SATISFYING MOMENT? AM: When we first started Misool, sighting sharks on a dive was a rare occurrence. Now they are everywhere. MM: Our son’s first two-word phrase was “baby shark.” I was struck by what a massive transformation had taken place: from former shark-finning camp to baby-shark nursery in just a few years. Nature wins when we just get out of the way.
Q: TELL US ABOUT MISOOL FOUNDATION. AM: Our primary goal was to prove that a dive resort’s active engagement in marine conservation is a huge win for the business, ecosystem and local communities. Now we are working on inspiring and assisting other resorts and dive shops to adopt our model. MM: Those first years were rough; the resort bankrolled 100 percent of our conservation initiatives. There were times we had to choose between buying mangos for guests’ breakfasts or buying fuel for patrols. We now operate a full-time 15-person team to protect the reserve, using drone and radar surveillance as well as routine patrols. We have established a community program that recycles 2 tons of oceanbound plastics per day. The Misool Manta Project collects important population data on reef and oceanic mantas. And we’ve just been given a government grant to start two cooperatives in the local village: one to employ 32 former fishermen in an aquaculture project, and the other to support women processing coconut oil into soap. Q: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MISOOL? MM: Our mission always will be to protect the world’s richest reefs. I think we have demonstrated that conservation and private enterprise are mutually beneficial, and that nature is our most valuable asset. Conservation, engagement with local communities, and fair labor practices must be central to the business — not afterthoughts. We hope Misool is an inspiring example of just how effective private-enterprise-led conservation work can be. And, of course, how powerful consumer choice can be in supporting conservation.