"It doesn't really take much to collaborate for the environment, just a little initiative, respect and love for the sea"

The bottom of the sea also needs us to act now. That is why today we want to highlight the story of Elena Pérez Novillo-Fertrell, a young woman from Tenerife who, in her free time, acts to improve the environment and also spreads the word on her social networks.

As she explains: "A few years ago, I started studying Industrial Chemical Engineering at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and I was very impressed by the impact that industrial processes have on the environment. Likewise, I have always been concerned since, step by step, I have been seeing how the bottoms of my town have been dying, finding in the same place a multitude of dead fish".

Can you tell us more about the initiatives you usually carry out?

At the moment, I find myself alone carrying out these activities without funding of any kind and during my free time. It doesn't really take much to collaborate for the environment, just a little initiative, respect and love for the sea.

Sometimes, a person or a diving center gets in touch with me to participate in a cleaning or to organize a sea bottom cleaning, but it is not usual. Although one of the centers that has collaborated more has been Pleamar, whose equipment has helped me to retire tires, boat batteries and even a zodiac, providing all the material to get it out of the way.

Luckily, my friends always support me and when work and time allows it, we go together and leave the routine. 

How did you start taking initiative to improve the environment?

I have always tried to leave Medano Bay cleaner than I found it, as I said, the concern has always been there but I had never published anything on social media.  I don't know what happened, one day I just got "angry" after a very unpleasant dive and started posting everything I could find, and I haven't stopped ever since.

I take advantage of my degree knowledge plus more that I have been acquiring, reading and asking biologists or organizations such as Sanamares, in Valencia, to make known and explain how waste affects ecosystems, biodiversity and the food plate.

Is there any cause you would like to highlight?

Playa Grande in El Poris, is the most polluted spot of all the Canary Islands. Every time I go there, my heart shrinks, not only because of the microplastics, which can literally be swept away from the sand with a broom, but also because of the macroplastics and ghost fishing floating on the surface.

On this beach there are three turtles residing and the thought that they are in danger every day, because of us, it gives me the creeps. The “eco-implicados” association has already found several turtles stranded on the same rocks.

Maybe I'm a bit idealistic, but I think that jobs can be created that are not dependent on tourism to cure and care for the seabed, on which the Canary Islands are so overly dependent, because without them we really don't do anything.

The bottom of Poris (Canary Islands)

Furthermore, although the Canary Islands government has approved a sum of money for the creation of five new water treatment plants, I don't think this is the best idea, since the water systems of the islands need to be urgently fixed, such as, for example: the Abades emissary, which you can reach by swimming and is located at a depth between 8 and 10 meters. Or the emissary of Pelada, which is getting damaged every time and due to the currents, the bay of Medano is affected and they have to close the beach because of e-coli.

Abades emissary (Canary Islands)

We have seen that you carry out cleanings in the sea, what do you find most often? And the weirdest thing?

The most common are shoe soles, cans and fishing gear.

In the Canary Islands, there is a lot of “Santería”and some of the rituals that are carried out have to do with the sea and purification, the rarest thing has been a T-shirt and inside there was a diaper to which they had introduced colored stones and punctured a multitude of pins. Even today, I don't know what kind of ritual it was, I just know that it made me very sick and that when I opened the t-shirt (which looked like a bag) I almost threw up, since I really didn't expect it.

What would you say to someone to make them aware and start acting now to help the planet?

It is very likely that you see that there are situations that overcome you and that you don't understand the "logic" behind certain actions. The good thing is that every day we are more aware, you are not alone and no, you are not crazy either. Continue with what you are doing, because we all have the power to influence to a lesser or greater extent and since we are here, it is better to leave beautiful footprints.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that it is very important when disseminating knowledge that people shouldn’t believe the first thing they read, it is necessary to be curious and investigate in depth, so that oneself can get an idea of what’s going on and be able to act accordingly.  Scientists have a lot to say about the climate situation, because of this, the hashtag “#sinciencianohayfuturo” is more than necessary, since, in Spain, unfortunately there is no investment in research, these people have a lot more to say than I do. But also, it is important that these same people teach the general population what is happening so they can demand a solution. It is not much good to publish for scientists, if interest is not generated. 

To end with a phrase I heard some time ago "It's not my garbage, but it's my planet".