On January 29, 2022, the official inauguration of Innoceana’s Marine Conservation and Education Center (MCEC) took place. Innoceana is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, whose main purpose is to protect, conserve and restore the oceans. The Marine Conservation and Education Center (MCEC) proposes an innovative model that seeks to raise awareness in the local and international community on the comprehensive care of marine ecosystems, creating as well an ideal space for research projects.

During the inaugural event, national and foreign guests were able to explore the facilities of the MCEC, located in Ojochal de Osa. The 638m2 establishment has a classroom called “El aula del mar”, fully equipped to receive students (both children and adults) where they can learn about topics related to marine biology, conservation, climate change and scientific exploration programs. The organization also offers virtual reality workshops and interactive audiovisual adventures.

The building also houses a diving center where expeditioners prepare to dive in the ocean and participate in research projects such as 3D coral restoration and mapping, species monitoring, water quality studies and the disentanglement of marine animals stuck in plastic or ghost fishing lines.

Both expeditioners and volunteers can stay in the cabins adjacent to the MCEC. This lodge is perfectly equipped for the comfortable and pleasant stay of up to sixteen persons.

Innoceana also plans to build a swimming pool at the MCEC designed to teach diving to people who want to get involved in marine conservation. In addition, the organization plans to designate a space for laboratory studies, upcycling of microplastic found in oceans and beaches, growth of coral cuttings in controlled environments, among other scientific projects.

The inaugural event on January 29 was attended by around 80 guests who received a tour of the facilities and gathered to eat a vegetarian meal made with local products. The night was enlivened by musicians like Nebo and Lao & Catherine. The artist Carlos Hiller made a live painting, to the sound of the violins of the duet Omri & Tamra.

As part of this activity, a temporary exhibition of the art of US-based marine conservationist and photographer Andy Mann was set up. Mann —who works with organizations such as National Geographic and SeaLegacy— donated his art pieces so they could be bought by whoever wanted them. The money raised will be used in various projects of Innoceana, an organization that, being a non-profit, is largely sustained through donations and funds raised in marine conservation expeditions. In the future, this gallery will also serve as a means of disseminating the work of artists from the community, without the need for them to donate their creations (unless they wish to).

The event featured emotive speeches by the NGO leaders: Laura Vanopdenbosch —Project Director—, Carlos Mallo Molina —CEO—, Yulian Cordero —Operations Director—, and Karyna Duran —Development Director—. The renowned marine conservationist Randall Arauz, the photographer Andy Mann, the painter Carlos Hiller and Pipa from The Vegan Pirates —co-producer of “Entangled in Costa Rica“, an award-winning documentary created in collaboration with Innoceana— also shared a few words.

To close the evening, several videos were shown on the work that Innoceana has been carrying out in Costa Rica, Spain and the United States. The first audiovisual consisted of an interview with Lourdes Rojas, a Boruca artist who designed and created the mask that welcomes everyone at the MCEC’s Reception. This artwork is of paramount importance as it symbolizes the organization’s respect for the native peoples of the area, ancestral guardians of these lands and their idiosyncrasies. The second video screened was “Entangled in Costa Rica”, a documentary that narrates the events experienced by the Innoceana team when rescuing a whale entangled with its calf in almost five kilometers of fishing nets.

In the long term, Innoceana dreams of replicating this institutional model in other parts of the country and even the world. The health of the oceans is an effort that requires joint work with the population, nations, environmental entities and international organizations.

With this event, the warmth of the people and the involvement of the community, the doors of Innoceana’s Marine Conservation and Education Center (MCEC) were officially opened to receive all noble people willing to get involved in the protection, restoration and conservation of marine ecosystems, on which not only marine species depend on, but also all animals, plants, minerals and humans on the planet.