Sailing near the Oaxacan beach "La Entrega" in the tourist destination of Bahías de Huatulco, Mexico, the local Kayak club set out to fish for the day's meal. Despite the fishermen's luck not favouring them today, our friends Erasto and Enrique, upon encountering a floating patch of waste, came up with the perfect way to make the most of the day: the idea was simple. In two weeks, the club would return to the sea, but this time, they wouldn't be seeking Mahi Mahi or Marlin. The goal was to remove as much plastic as possible from the sea, and whoever collected the most would receive a dinner paid for by the rest.
This laid the foundation for a highlight in Huatulco's summer calendar – the "Plastic Fishing Tournament in Kayak." It is an annual event not about profit or politics but a testament to the dedication of local volunteers and businesses working together to preserve Huatulco's beauty and ecological balance.
The tournament's first edition set the tone for what it would become over the years. Support poured in from different crews and community groups, working a two-week preparation for a healthy and safe event, whose primary goal was to serve as a beacon of light for those eager to take action and contribute with a positive impact on our seas and oceans.
The soft white sand and gentle waves of Santa Cruz Bay provided the perfect setting for this collective effort. Over 40 participants collected 110 kilograms of waste – from plastic and PET to cardboard, glass, and even discarded camping gear and fishing equipment. The impact was undeniable.
Fast-forward to late 2023, this initiative has only grown by leaps and bounds. In the latest edition on October 20th, over 130 participants from various corners of the globe convened at the iconic Santa Cruz Bay, this time with new categories. Public interest skyrocketed, prompting the inclusion of paddleboarders and diving teams.
"We've been living in Huatulco for two years, exploring the bays with our kayak. We joined the tournament because we are interested in helping keep the beaches clean," shared Cassandra Miller, originally from New Zealand, as she received her participant kit alongside her husband.
As the clock struck 7 a.m. on Friday, October 20th, participants lined up, ready to race to their gear categorised in 3 separate areas. With a quick donning of safety gear, they were off to the sea. After passing the buoy markers, participants charted their course to one of the nine bays and 36 beaches in the area. They will have the next 4 hours to return to the beach as often as needed to weigh the waste collected in their sacks provided for the competition (no metals or local organics allowed). Those seasoned at sea dive deep, cleaning the ocean floor, while beginners snagged floating trash. Ingenuity took centre stage – everyone wanted to win, but more importantly, they wanted to contribute.
The surprise came when the Organizing Committee announced a whopping 840 kilograms collected during the tournament. Enrique shared insights about this during the pre-event press talk, "Let's not send the wrong message; the garbage we've pulled out in the last two years and what we're pulling out this October 20th isn't necessarily generated in Huatulco. Ocean currents and winds cause waste produced elsewhere to end up on our shores; for example, last year, we found oil bottles with tags from our neighbouring country Guatemala. So, if you're planning a Huatulco vacation, know it's a clean spot, and the locals are passionately working together to keep it that way."
The awards ceremony buzzed with a festive and unified atmosphere, tinged with a touch of reflection. "Sure, we'd love to collect less trash each time, but we know this is our challenge; we'll keep organising this event as long as it takes. We're thrilled that folks from other parts of Mexico want to replicate this tournament in their communities. We're all for it, and we're here to help. Just imagine the impact if this tournament happened simultaneously in all the coastal states of the country," Erasto stated, closing the tournament.
It's time to spotlight Huatulco, Mexico, and take a page from its book. Ecological and conservation causes are at the forefront if we want to continue coexisting harmoniously with our planet's ecosystems. Now, more than ever, we see that these causes can be turned into something challenging, exciting, and worth celebrating. There are always ways for everyone to contribute from their corner. You are now our ally; let us meet next summer and fish for some plastic in Huatulco.