Project Leader

Fabio Cuello Mercado

Fabio Cuello Mercado

Who I am

I am a marine biologist from Colombia, an early-career conservationist and manager of the Fundesabanas corporation. This organisation is currently working with the coastal communities of Magdalena to promote the creation of marine protected areas in territories historically affected by violence and drug trafficking. We engage mainly with the Arahuac indigenous communities, who live at the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. We have drawn up a conservation plan for the largetooth sawfish in national waters, developing a comprehensive strategy based on education, monitoring, conservation, sustainability and communication. We are also looking for international partners to help Colombia’s coastal communities to make the transition from an extractive economy to one based on sustainable development, taking advantage of the richness of biodiversity and landscapes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and its coast.

Where I work

This project will be implemented along the coast of the Arahuac indigenous territory and will cover a coastal and adjacent land area of ​​144 square kilometres (56 square miles), with the possibility of creating a marine protected area of ​​18 square kilometres (seven square miles). Immediately behind the coast, the highland area of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta rises to 5,200 metres (17,060 feet) above sea level. Inhabited by the pre-Columbian Arahuac people, it encompasses moorland, wetland and wet forest ecosystems and is a priority area for international conservation on account of its extraordinarily high biodiversity, particularly of birds and plants.

What I do

Comprising entirely fieldwork, this project involves various activities to rehabilitate the environment and engage with local people. These include replanting mangrove forests with native mangrove species; collecting plastic waste and other debris from beaches; demarcating protected coastal areas and providing relevant signage; producing specific multimedia content about target species and habitats; providing training for local personnel; taking local people to educational institutions to help familiarise them with our aims; and celebrating the incredible biodiversity of the area by means of a photography contest.

My project

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