Veta Wade has worn many hats: serial entrepreneur, consultant, ocean advocate, and sustainability ambassador.
An award-winning Caribbean-based ocean advocate, Veta was recognized by the Ocean Awards 2020 as a leader on marine conservation issues within the Caribbean through her nonprofit organization Fish ’N Fins.
Fish ’N Fins is focused on teaching Caribbean children to swim, snorkel, and protect our oceans. Veta created Fish ’N Fins because of her own time growing up in Montserrat, where her family had a deep fear of the water, resulting in her having a very disconnected relationship with the ocean.
After some time spent away from Montserrat, Veta returned and reconnected with island life. She spent a significant amount of her free time learning from fishers and grew more curious about what lay under the waves. She realized that the sea she was taught to fear as a child was misunderstood—and suffering from poor marine management practices. And she knew that unless her community could connect with the ocean, they wouldn’t be able to realize the full potential of rebuilding and teaching the next generation to preserve it.
As Veta puts it, “Black people need to swim and be safe in and around water. Black children need to see Black people being comfortable, adventuring, happy, and prosperous in this space. After all, the sea is in our backyard, and who better to care for your backyard than you!”
A primary challenge to getting more folks to swim was the lack of access to swimming pools, which are often out of reach for local Caribbeans. Enter Fish ’N Fins: a program that began out of a swimming pool. Veta had no equipment nor money for this initiative but, through persistent advocacy and outreach, she garnered the support of divers, her fisher friends, and her colleagues.
Today, Fish ’N Fins provides over 2,000 youth across the Caribbean with opportunities to learn about local marine life, sea safety, career progression, ocean justice, and more. Veta shares the Fish ‘N Fins curriculum across the Caribbean islands, creating long-term opportunities to shift perceptions and build conservation knowledge.
Veta’s help in giving Black communities the ability to wield their own narrative around conservation is planting powerful seeds for the future.
In 2020, to deepen the opportunities Afro-Caribbean people have to be leaders in the ocean economy, Veta founded the AQUA Caribbean Blue Economy Conference.
Veta knew a significant way to create future Black ocean stewards is through direct stakeholder engagement. When building the ocean economy, those who do not have power in the conversation will continue to be those who are the most exploited. Therefore, she believes it is of the utmost importance for Afro-Caribbean entrepreneurs, researchers, and stewards of the sea to have a voice. The AQUA conference engages businesses, nonprofits, green nongovernmental groups, and others on how to build a just, equitable future. These are the systemic changes that will be necessary to create transparency and accountability within ocean management strategies.
Veta’s work addresses both the educational and economic barriers that Black people have had to survive through to feel heard and respected in this space. She was tired of waiting for others to provide a seat at the table—so she built her own instead.