Div­ing into plas­tic is­sue

Shar­ing whale ex­pe­ri­ences helps ed­u­cate on pol­lu­tion

Sunshine Coast Daily - Caloundra Weekly - - LOCAL LIFE - Danielle Ford [email protected]­news.com.au

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.

PHOTO: PA­TRICK WOODS

EARTH FRIENDLY: Steph Gabriel runs con­ser­va­tion re­treats to Tonga where she takes girls over to swim with whales and other marine life.

PHOTO: PA­TRICK WOODS

OCEAN GIRL: Steph Gabriel is pas­sion­ate about spread­ing aware­ness of plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

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