Salinas: A Tourist Beach Hand in Hand with Sustainable Development

Connecting the people of a community with our ocean would seem to be a complex mission. However, articulating science and the role of linking with society, functions performed by universities, became the basis for achieving this mission, which turned out to be not at all complex.

By Erika Salavarria, Universidad Península de Santa Elena UPSE, Ecuador.

On the morning of Thursday, August 29, 2019, civil society and control inhabitants gathered in one of Ecuador's tourist beaches, Salinas. The objective was to solve one of the environmental problems that affects tourism and promote dialogue between science and public policy in that town through a subtidal beach cleanup, propitiating the action from science that is developed in the academy.

Through a Project of Linkage with Society, with code DVC283-BIO021-2018, the natural beauty of the beaches of Salinas and its care was evidenced. Itinerant photographic exhibitions were previously held in 6 cities. The photographs of the exhibition “Salinas: Natural Scenery, Biodiversity and Ecology" were taken by 4th-year university students in the subject of Marine Ecology II during their field trips and using their cell phones. As a result, the traveling exhibits achieved unexpected success with the attendance of tourists nationwide. The goal was to inform about the ecosystem services offered by Salinas and to raise awareness about the vulnerability of these ecosystems to human-induced pollution.

MarineLittersProject DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

In Salinas, Province of Santa Elena, Ecuador, a subtidal cleanup was carried out that did not seem to differ from others that had already been done before. However, the desire to take care of our beach made us all mobilize for a common goal: "A clean ocean".

Underwater solid waste collection: Contributing to the care of our oceans

The subtidal cleanup was attended by university students, surfing instructors, local technicians, and members of the Maritime Development Support Unit of the Santa Elena province of the Direction General of Maritime Interests and society.

Participants of the Marine litter cleaningProject DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

The objective was to clean the seabed through a sporting activity: snorkeling. It was the first time that we combined this aquatic sport and a marine cleanup in the framework of a Project of Linkage with Society, developed by the Peninsula de Santa Elena University (UPSE) co-executed with logistical support from the Decentralized Autonomous Government GAD Municipal de Salinas, through its Department of Environmental Management in the mayoralty of Mr. Daniel Cisneros Soria.

The selection of the site for the marine cleanup was the charge of the Environmental Management Department, locating a beach that offered all the necessary safeguards. Volunteers were initially trained and the requirements for a subtidal cleanup were reviewed. Once approved, the cleanup was carried out, which included collecting solid waste, then classifying and weighing the items for future use in community training activities.

Photographic Exhibition at Salinas PortProject DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

In 2016, 499 kg of garbage was collected in 5 km of the "Mar Bravo" beach in Salinas, by the volunteers of "Mingas por el Mar" and it was evidenced that most of the waste collected was of plastic origin. In the subtidal cleanup we conducted in 2019, we covered an area of 1.65 km of Salinas beach and collected 19.8 kg of plastic, among other waste such as metal and glass. Due to the increasing tourist activity on this beach, and according to the classification of the marine debris collected, we concluded that this activity is the source of contamination. After the collection, in order to strengthen the development of technical capacities, one of the members of the Maritime Development Support Unit, Sgt. Marlon Olivo Carpio, conducted the training "Basic knowledge of nautical charts" for those who helped with the beach cleanup.

During the underwater cleanup, tourists were curious about the organisms living in the marine debris collected and the sources of contamination on the beach were identified.

PhotosExplanationProject DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

The science we need

Part of the collected marine debris was sent to Oslo, Norway, for exhibition at the "Great Oceans Conference 2019" along with marine debris from other countries worldwide; our collection was the only sample sent from Latin America, Ecuador.

In the development of the project, its application to participate in the Fifth Call of the "Premio Verde. BDE 2019" contest arose. This contest was institutionalized in 2012, under the "PROVERDE" program of the Development Bank of Ecuador (BDE). The project results, achieved with the peninsular community, led to the pre-qualifying stage in the contest.

Tourists observing associated organisms to marine litterProject DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

Although the project did not reach the first place, the final results of its different components showed that it is possible use the scientific information gathered to generate proposals and that the actions between the different sectors made it possible to promote sustainable practices in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The following year, one of the goals achieved was to translate the results of the marine debris collection into solutions. In June 2020, a legal regulation document called "Proposed Ordinance for the regulation of the use of plastics on the beaches of the Salinas canton" was presented at the Municipal Government, demonstrating the dialogue between science and public policy for the benefit of the community.

Other scientific results of the marine garbage collection, such as records of associated biodiversity and the impact of garbage on marine life, were sent as an abstract to the XLIV National Biology Conference, Ecuador, held virtually in December 2020. The Scientific Committee of the Conference accepted the abstract "Biodiversity and Marine Garbage" which was presented by Ivonne Becilla Cedeño, student participant of the project. Once again, the care of the environment was evidenced through planned scientific and technical actions.

fotografa sin ttulo 067Project DVC 283-BIO021-2018.

But challenges remain to be faced. Alliances between the different social sectors are important in order to reach common objectives. Another relevant aspect is the financing for the development of projects. This is one of the important issues most notorious in developing countries. Here, many projects are implemented through self-financing, as was the case for us, to achieve the transforming actions expected from a more humane science and framed in sustainable development towards the Ocean Decade.

This article is part of an online series dedicated to the UN Ocean Decade. One story will be published each week that is related to initiatives, new knowledge, partnerships, or innovative solutions that are relevant to the following seven Ocean Decade outcomes. Access the special digital issue dedicated to the Ocean Decade here.


  • Surf Paradise School
  • Olón Aventure School
  • Eco Snorkelistas School
  • Capitanía del Puerto de Salinas
  • Cruz Roja de Santa Elena
  • Brigada de Seguridad Ciudadana
  • GAD Municipal Salinas

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