When Anesh Mungur, a 14-year-old climate change activist, went on family vacations to Mauritius as a child, he saw a lot of seashells on the beaches. However, upon his return to the archipelago to report on the consequences of climate change, the stretches of soft sand bordering the Indian Ocean appeared to be devoid of life. He believes the island is suffering greatly as a result of climate change and that more has to be done to protect it before it is too late.

Shells have always been significant in Mauritian tradition; the Monetaria annulus, also known as gold ring cowrie, is a gift of love or good fortune. According to oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, the number of seashells on the island has plummeted by 60% in the last three decades. Climate change, as well as activities such as overfishing, tourism, and wastewater and boat pollution, are to blame, according to him.

When it comes to climate change, Mauritius is one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet. Rising sea levels, droughts, and cyclones are all threats to the country. “Don’t pick them up from the beaches,” Mr. Kauppaymuthoo advises, noting that seashells also help to prevent coastal erosion. Winds, waves, and sea currents have a tougher time moving the beach silt around as there are more shells. What advice does he have for folks who want to remember their tropical vacation? “Look at the shells, take photos of them – that way you can have fond memories and also knowing that you are saving them too.”