Bryan Oliva Cruz

Hello! My name is Bryan Cruz, I’m 25 years old and I was raised in Roatán but I’ve lived in Utila for the last 7 years and I am now part of the Utilian community. My love for the ocean is undeniable. During my childhood, I used to spend almost every free time I had in the sea. I was once one of those kids you see jumping into the water from dock to dock every afternoon after school. The ocean was my backyard, my playground and the place I always felt safe. During the weekends I would go fishing with my entire family, looking for any kind of fish we could find. It was something that even the youngest of my sisters had to participate in. The food we took from the ocean kept my family alive for many years. We fished only for ourselves and it was our main, sometimes only, nourishment for the week. As a family we would eat anything we could caught, even groupers, parrot fish and the occasional barracuda. This all changed in the sixth grade, when I received an environmental education class by the Roatán Marine Park. They taught us how some species of fish are not sustainable to eat. I was able to start changing the eating habits of my family after those classes. I am one of those people who use to do things that weren’t correct due to ignorance, changed, and now is an advocate for environmental protection. I am basically vegetarian now. I got a job hunting lion fish as a snorkel guide with the Ocean Explorer, I got to expand my knowledge about the ocean and the health of our reefs with them. I was able to start my career as a diver with the help of Ecomarine Gunther’s Dive Center and Paradise Divers. Diving was not something I could afford when I first move to Utila and for their help I am truly grateful. I became a boat captain shortly after obtaining my divemaster. I knew I wanted to do something to protect the ocean, I was so grateful for everything it had done for me, I felt the need to do something in return.

How I’m being the difference?

How i´m being different?

I’ve participated in all lionfish derby’s either as a captain or as a diver since I arrived to Utila. I’ve done diving against debris every time I can. I’ve participated in so many beach cleanups I am an expert in picking up microplastics from the sand now. It felt a bit short. My big breakthrough came when I started working with Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility. I started as a field guide going to the mangroves looking for Ctenosaura bakeri, the endemic iguana of Utila, for Kanahau’s population studies. I was able to get involved in creating awareness in the community, the tourist and the interns, about the importance of protecting the mangrove to preserve the coral reef and vice versa, it’s importance as a nursery for different species and how it provides food for the reef inhabitants. One of the things I am most proud of is helping to developed Kanahau’s environmental education program, School of Nature, along their new environmental education coordinator, in which we turned the environment into the classroom children can learn about nature. We like to say it is a school without walls, cause what better place to learn about nature than the environment itself. I am the person in Kanahau (in site) with the highest diving certification at the moment, so I am responsible for most of the water activities with the children. We go on snorkeling trips where we teach them about fishes, corals and reef associated organisms; on kayaking trips where we teach them about the mangrove, its importance to the reef, bioluminescent organisms and on many other activities. The School of Nature is not focused on marine conservation, but on terrestrial conservation as well, it is a holistic approach of teaching environmental education. So far, we’ve had 23 children from 10 to 16 years of age participating in our activities, they are all amazing and interested in learning about nature. By teaching children about the environment now, you are saving it in the future. However, most of these children will probably never dive. Diving is expensive for most Honduran people, especially the children of those who left the main land looking for a better life in Utila. Most of them had never snorkeled before we took them, so they couldn’t really understand why so many people from all over the world came to their little island. Imagine living in a diving paradise and have no opportunity to dive because you have no money. I am doing as I can as a dive master to teach the children about the ocean. But as a dive instructor the things I could do would be so amazing. We could work to raise funds to certified the school of nature children for free. Also offer discover scuba diving and bubble maker experience to the smallest ones. That would be a dream come true, as I will be giving back what others gave me when I first arrive to Utila.

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