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Sustainable Aquaculture


The Colombian researcher Sara Gutierrez Plata is deeply engaged in restoring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which has been damaged by climate-change-induced high water temperatures, acidity, and overfishing. 

Coral reefs are vital for coastal protection and aquatic biodiversity. In a project supported by the "Healthy Reefs for Healthy People", Sara Gutierrez Plata used sustainable aquaculture as she developed methods for small-scale, low-intensity restocking of the Caribbean King Crab. Caribbean King Crabs are efficient reef herbivores that can be used to reduce macroalgae proliferation. It is the foremost ecological problem in the Mesoamerican Reef, affecting coral growth, recruitment, and health. The Caribbean King Crab is also of high commercial value and is an excellent candidate for mariculture since it has a short larval duration, rapid growth, herbivorous diet, and high site fidelity.

Through her project, Sara achieves a triple-win situation: decreasing the overgrowth of macroalgae, reducing pressure on commercial fish by engaging fishers in alternatives, and supplementing the local economy with a sustainable seafood revenue source. The goal is to create a circular economy that actively supports the restoration of herbivory and corals, improving reef health but also supporting a new sustainable productive livelihood option for local inhabitants.

The WIN WIN Youth Award 2022 is awarded to Sara Gutierrez Plata for highlighting how aquaculture must also be regarded – as a way to repair and soften the detrimental effects human behaviour has on nature.

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