SOA Awards $70K in Grants to Hubs in 2023


SOA Blog

Sustainable Ocean Alliance is accelerating ocean solutions around the world. Here are their stories.

From Peru to Indonesia, Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) works with over 80 youth-led Hubs around the world that focus on propelling local engagement with timely ocean action. 

Hubs are youth-led, action-oriented groups organized around regional locations or university affiliations. Together, SOA's Hubs work to promote ocean health and sustainability by implementing at least two annual projects—often with financial support from SOA's Grants Program. In the article below, dive into some of the funded projects spearheaded by SOA Hub leaders in 2023.


SOA Caribbean (Saint Lucia): Kids 4 Coral

Project Leader: Monique Calderon (28), Grant: $2,000

WhatsApp Image 2023-12-09 at 16.06.52_66c06bfeIn Saint Lucia, many youth are under-educated and under-exposed to the magnificence of the marine environments in their own backyard. SOA Saint Lucia, in partnership with Caribbean WaterWays, addressed this challenge by offering snorkeling sessions and coral reef education in different communities across the country.

Project Leader Monique Calderon is currently working as a Fisheries Biologist with the Fisheries Department in Saint Lucia. 

  • Impact: 2 days of snorkeling and educational activities attended by 22 children.

  • Future plans: Continue to host snorkel and Families In Nature days to engage families to participate together.


SOA Timor-Leste: Ocean Heroes Bootcamp

Project Leader: Nelson Maia Siqueira Amaral (27), Grant: $2,145

To address the lack of awareness and understanding of ocean conservation among young people, SOA Timor-Leste organized an Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, offering engaging activities for participants such as an ocean conservation movie night, mangrove restoration, and sea turtle conservation. Nelson Amaral has served as the Program Coordinator for SOA Timor-Leste since 2021. 

  • Impact: 500 mangrove seedlings planted and 30 young people educated through the bootcamp activities.

  • Future plans: Continue empowering and educating local youth through initiatives such as beach clean-ups, education events, and bootcamps. 


SOA Zanzibar: Sustainable Mangrove Restoration

Project Leader: Rashid Said Ali (26), Grant: $1,460

In collaboration with the Youth of United Nations Association Zanzibar (YUNA), SOA Zanzibar participated in a mangrove planting exercise in the northern region of Zanzibar Island. Project leader Rashid Said Ali has more than five years of experience working with different organizations on implementing mangrove projects in Zanzibar.

  • Impact: Approximately 1,000 mangrove seedlings planted by 60 participants.

  • Future plans: Continue monitoring the planted mangroves and providing educational opportunities to the community.


SOA Ocean Devotion Madeira: OceanAware Madeira

Project Leader: Annalisa Sambolino (31), Grant: $2,214

SOA Ocean Devotion Madeira launched OceanAware Madeira to raise awareness about ocean sustainability on the Portuguese island of Madeira. They held two beach clean-ups and created an art exhibit using marine litter. Project Leader Annalisa Sambolino is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Madeira and MARE, focusing on plastic pollution in pelagic food webs.

  • Impact: 100kg of plastic waste removed by 100 participants.

  • Future plans: Continue to educate over the protection of our marine life in the waters' of the Madeira archipelago through educational campaigns, beach clean ups, workshops, and events in collaboration with local artists. 



SOA Hong Kong: Hong Kong Marine Ecosystem Restoration

Project Leader: Rainbow Wing Sum Leung (25), Grant: $1,584

IMG-20231015-WA0021SOA Hong Kong led a project to restore Hong Kong's marine ecosystems through the creation and deployment of 'shellfish' reefs constructed with discarded shellfish shells sourced from restaurants and fishers—successfully diverting waste from landfills and creating new marine habitats. Project leader Rainbow (25) is currently a PhD student at the University of Hong Kong studying ecosystem-based management of coastal habitats and associated ecosystem services.

  • Impact: 11 shellfish reefs constructed using 1.44 kg of fishnet fragments and 13 kg of shellfish shells by 22 participants.

  • Future plans: Students will act as citizen scientists and collect data on species to evaluate the success of the shellfish reefs.

SOA Black Sea (Romania): Cross-ing Marine Litter Threat

Project Leader: Lavinia Voiculescu (26), Grant: $2,976

SOA Black Sea, in partnership with Mare Nostrum, has been actively engaged in conducting marine waste monitoring assessments along the Romanian coast.

They organized a cross-event run and educational awareness day about the detrimental impact of litter on the sea and its diverse fauna. Lavinia Voiculescu is the Projects & Events Coordinator of SOA Black Sea and has been working with Mare Nostrum for more than two years.

  • Impact: 28 kg of marine litter collected and analyzed; 2,000+ individuals participated.

  • Future plans: The monitoring program for marine litter will continue, with the data being submitted to EMODNet and MarineLitterWatch.


SOA Mexico: Saving Mexico's Mangroves

Project Leader: Valeria Magaña (29), Grant: $2,000

Mexico is home to 6% of the world's total mangroves, placing it fourth in the world for most mangrove habitats. Recognizing the importance of this ecosystem, SOA Mexico created an immersive scuba dive and educational project for younger generations in La Paz. Project Leader Valeria Magaña is a biologist and has been leading SOA Mexico since 2021.

  • Impact: 27 youth received their PADI open water scuba certification alongside mangrove ecology training.

  • Future plans: Continue to provide certifications to youth in Baja California Sur, enabling them to attain knowledge and promote the conservation of the mangrove ecosystems.

SOA Peru: Youth for the Protection of the Peruvian Sea

Project Leader: Stefanie Torres (25), Grant: $2,700

SOA Peru organized Youth for the Protection of the Peruvian Sea, showcasing their journey, and encouraging active involvement in their advocacy efforts. They also co-organized a Pre-COP28 event, ensuring the ocean remained a crucial topic throughout the negotiations. SOA Peru President Stefanie Torres has represented Peru in many international events such as UNOC Youth & Innovation Forum 2022, COP27, COP19 CITES, and more.

  • Impact: 55 young individuals trained on negotiation topics for Peru; 52 participants attended the pre-COP28 event.

  • Future plans: Continue hosting advocacy events for youth to promote awareness and reflection on the crucial role the ocean plays in their lives.


SOA Porto: Ecos do Mar | "Echoes of the Sea"

Project Leader: Maria Rita da Quelha Magalhães (20), Grant: $2,240

Ecos do Mar, organized by SOA Porto, addresses the issue of insufficient knowledge and misinformation about the ocean. The project aims to raise awareness through a social media campaign and Science Café events, fostering a scientific culture and promoting trust in science. Project Leader Rita Quelha is a student in Aquatic Sciences at the School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences of the University of Porto.

  • Impact: 120 individuals educated through the Science Café events.

  • Future plans: Expand outreach efforts to attract a broader audience, collaborating with local institutions or organizations to co-host events.


SOA University of Florida (UF): Community Cleanups with UF Students

Project Leader: Nikita David (21), Grant: $1,170

IMG_8447This project by SOA UF focused on addressing the issue of pollution in the local water bodies of Gainesville, FL and nearby areas by engaging and educating students through various clean-up events. Nikita David (21) is the Co-President of SOA UF and has been a member of SOA UF for the past two years.

  • Impact: 5 clean-up events, 59 volunteers participated, and 72 kg of litter removed

  • Future plans: Continue to host cleanups each semester and increase the diversity of events to encourage higher involvement with the hub.



In 2023, 34 Hubs in 25 countries received a total of $70,000 in grant funding from SOA's Grants Program—with 70% of initiatives taking place in developing countries and 20% being indigenous-led. The following impact data was achieved: 


1,316,871 square meters of marine habitat restored

1,282,050 square meters of marine habitat created

4,500 mangrove seedlings planted


627 kilograms of ocean-bound pollution removed

440 kilograms of pollution avoided


3,525,030 square meters monitored

31,663 people reached

1,747 people educated or trained

5,300 direct participants


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