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Activist Spotlight: Tanja Morariu With the Miami Chapter

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?

Chair of the Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

Through my role as head of Sustainability at The Palms Hotel & Spa, in addition to my personal dislike of the unnecessary use of disposable plastic, I was introduced to Mike Gibaldi, our current Treasurer and long-standing member and activist with the Surfrider Miami Chapter. I wanted to help educate and create change on the negative impact of disposable plastics and microplastics on our environment and our ocean.

Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?

Water quality issues, with high levels of pollution in the bay and ocean, are environmental issues that we monitor through our Blue Water Task Force Program (BWTF). Climate change, through the rising level of the seas, is also causing flooding in our beach and bay front community and increasing the strength of hurricanes. Now, as of late and forecasted for the future, the heightened level of sargassum created through warmer seas overall, is impacting our tourism industry. Added to that are the trash and recycling systems that are not working as they should be and much green-washing in the hospitality industry which promotes bio-plastics as a more eco-friendly alternative to disposable plastic, as it is “bio-degradable” event though there are no commercial composts in the whole of Florida to handle these bio-plastics.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

Rise Above Plastics, Blue Water Task Force, Ocean Friendly Restaurants, Composting program, SEAS (Swim, Explore, Act, Surf), Beach Cleanups and Surfrider Experience Days, and most events, fundraiser and marketing initiatives.

Q: Are there any specific project(s) that you have worked on which benefited your community? If so, can you tell us about that?

 All of our projects are meant to benefit our community. Perhaps those that have the most direct impact are our BWTF and our SEAS program.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

I am extremely proud of the BWTF volunteers and their dedication to sampling the 23 locations in Miami Dade every week and getting the results out every Friday evening before the weekend to inform the community about the state of the water in the ocean and bay. This program is also playing an integral role in assisting the City of Miami Beach and the University of Miami in their study to identify the issues causing the high weekly readings at Parkview Island. I am also proud of Karen Beber Futernick, our Miami Dade County Liaison, not only for being so involved with the county, but especially for pulling together all the different organizations and volunteers to develop and implement the SEAS Program. Lastly, I was one of the organizers of our 1st ever Beach House fundraiser in November 2019, where we had over 150 guests and raised about $30,000 for our BWTF program.

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues that you're passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements have intersected? If so, can you tell us about them?

Our SEAS Program sits just at that intersection, teaching inner city children and their parents how to swim, so that we can then teach them how to surf and educate them on the impacts of disposable plastics on our beaches and ocean as well as the need to protect Biscayne Bay.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

Surfrider is an environmental nonprofit run by volunteer-led chapters. It is made up of passionate ocean warriors of all ages who also have the wellbeing of our ocean and planet at heart. They are active and passionate users of our beaches and ocean – surfers, kite surfers, paddleboarders, swimmers, divers, beachgoers, etc., a cool multigenerational and multi-racial tribe that welcomes everyone who has the same values at heart.

Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?

 I feel like I have found my down-to earth, natural, eco-friendly, ocean-loving tribe in a community that is often too superficial.