Diving into plastic issue
Sharing whale experiences helps educate on pollution
WITH a successful eco swimwear line to her name, Steph Gabriel continues on her mission to educate people about the problems with plastic.
She is helping inspire a new wave of marine warriors by taking women on retreats to Tonga to swim with humpback whales, in a bid to enlighten them about the impact plastic has on the ocean.
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 Steph developed her passion for marine conservation after having seen first hand the impact plastic waste was having on our oceans.
“During my degree I was able to go live in the Galapagos Islands for six months for a study and I was also able to research coral reefs in Indonesia,” she said.
“Those experiences really opened my eyes to just how much of an impact we are having on our marine life.”
While still at university she 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 26-year-old is still expanding her efforts to help combat plastic waste.
The Alexandra Headland resident said while she can’t change the world herself, she takes pride in knowing she is doing her part.
“You can’t change the world in one go, but it’s about the small steps,” she said.
“With Ocean Zen people hear our story and read about what we are all about and are hopefully inspired to do their little bit,” she said.
“It’s really nice when someone says to me ‘I read that post on your website and I remembered to say no thanks to a plastic bag’.
“That’s what it’s all about, planting the little seeds to help make a change in how people think.”
As part of her last line Steph made her first move to branch out to other eco-products, launching a plastic-free water bottle.
She is also 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.”
Steph 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 sting rays,” she said.
“That experience really grew my want to help protect 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 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.
Spots for this year’s retreat have already been booked up but registration for next year’s will open next month.
For more information, visit oceanzenbikini.com.
EARTH FRIENDLY: Steph Gabriel runs conservation retreats to Tonga where she takes girls over to swim with whales and other marine life.
OCEAN GIRL: Steph Gabriel is passionate about spreading awareness of plastic pollution.