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Stephen Plein leads by example

March 29, 2017
By ASHLEY GOODMAN ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

With ocean advocacy in mind, Stephen Plein, owner of New Wave Eco Charters, set out to start his own charter business last year. New Wave Eco Charters is based on Captiva and focuses solely on marine naturalist or biologist led tours around barrier islands in Southwest Florida.

New Wave is comprised of a three-person team: Plein, his fiancee, Stefanie Wolf a marine biologist and Mark Willis, a marine naturalist who grew up on Sanibel.

Plein was born and raised in Fort Myers. He attended the University of Miami where he graduated with a bachelors degree in creative writing and photojournalism. Previously, he was working for an advertisement agency in Miami before starting his own business.

Article Photos

Stephen Plein, owner and founder of New Wave Eco Charters.


One of his main goals for his charter business is to teach others sustainability. Plein does this by bringing pre-filled stainless steel water bottles on the boat to reduce plastic waste and he also brings plastic shelling buckets that are large enough to hold trash they find while exploring the barrier islands. This is just the beginning though, according to Plein.

He said he became inspired by these practices after living in Hawaii for six months giving kayak tours. Plein came back earlier than he anticipated.

"I wanted to put these ideas into my own community and be able to touch the people that are close to me here, "Plein said. "The thing with conservationism and going to a place like Hawaii is, you're preaching to the choir."

And that is exactly what he did. While living in Hawaii, he became inspired by the word "kuleana" which means the marriage of right and responsibility.

"I felt responsible to come back to this area and instill some of those things to the people who visit," he said.

His goal is to leave the environment more beautiful than the way he found it, whether it's just by collecting trash or cutting down on plastic waste.

Plein offers private half-day excursions, (four hours) guided shelling excursions, sunset cruises (two hours) and lunch trips (three hours). Each charter is $100 per hour. A three-hour kayak tour is available as well for $75, up to eight people can go on each tour.

"It's a little more intimate and it's a little more interpretative," Plein said.

During his excursions, one can expect to learn about a variety of topics including the Calusa Indians, dolphins and shorebirds.

In addition to his charter business, Plein is in the process of kick-starting his non-profit, New Wave Foundation, which will teach local youth about the marine environment in Southwest Florida. Each semester, the foundation will choose 12-15 students, through fielding essays to study with them for 12 weeks. Each class will be about two hours long. Plein said that 10 percent of each charter sale will go towards his non-profit.

"It's going to be completely donation based. These kids don't have to pay a dime," he said.

Once his foundation is up and running, he plans on taking the education curriculum to local retirement homes as well.

Another way Plein plans on giving back to the community is by donating charters to local fundraisers. On March 7, he donated a four hour shelling tour to the highest bidder at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum's annual fundraiser, Under the Sea. For him, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"The biggest goal is ocean advocacy and a long-term cumulative effect. It's been a dream in the making," Plein said.

For more information in booking a charter or donating to New Wave Eco Charters, call Plein at (239) 671-7447 or email them at For further information on the excursions go to



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