I was asked to write a blog on my work in ocean / shark conservation, not an easy task I must say. I am not that good with words, especially about myself. I like to think I am better in actions 😉
But what I do know is how it all started : with a diving trip to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Cocos island, also named the island of the sharks, is on the bucket list of many divers, especially on the shark geek ones like all of my family. Our son read shark books while other 10 year olds read comic strips, he knew (and still knows) more about sharks than I do (I guess that says it all 😉 ), he was the one that said we just needed to go to Cocos. So in July 2008 off we were to Costa Rica, and as if the long plane journey wasn’t enough (I am EU citizen) we embarked the ship for what would be a rough and long (30 + hours) crossing. But from the first dive on we knew it had been all worth it : white tip sharks everywhere, schoolings of hundreds of hammerheads, silvertip, blacktip, galapagos, whale sharks, we had it all, tooped with dolphins, manta rays etc. : we had found paradise on earth ! But then came the rude awakening : a trip to the ranger station on the island (Cocos Island is a National park, so Rangers are on the island all year round) : hooks, buoys, fishing lines, … all over, there just wasn’t even room to store them, Rangers even made a bridge with these materials. Sharks are known to be around Cocos so what better place for poachers to go to, drop a longline in the water and fill the boat with these high priced shark fins ! I just realized that if we were to enjoy shark encounters on our dives, if we were to e able to visit this paradise again, we needed to act ! Back home I started searching the internet, signed on for a Facebook account, met like-minded people, was asked to admin a shark conservation page, and a second, a third, … one. One moment I was maintaining 12 shark conservation pages at the same time. But as noble and important awareness is, I felt there was more than reaching out to the same people over and over again, so I started writing letters, polite, science based argumented letters to restaurants, politicians, news stations etc. asking them to stop serving shark fin soup, do more to protect the oceans, stop portraying sharks like Jaws like creatures but emphasize the beauty and importance of sharks. It worked, I got replies back, even from the Costa Rican and Taiwanese presidential office. So I realized that personal letters were read, they did catch attention, so what if I was to write my letters and had others to back them up ??? I started writing letters, reached out to organizations and individuals worldwide asking them to co-sign the letter and again it worked, I had letters with over 50 other organizations and countless of concerned citizens to co-sign. Mexico, Canary islands and many other projects worldwide have been on the list. Yesterday I started on a project to give a negative advice to listing long line fishery companies for blue sharks as sustainable (really long line fishing for sharks can that ever be sustainable ???).
But apart from writing letters, signing petitions, raising awareness, we of course all need to change our way of thinking about sea food, we just cannot eat whatever we like ! believe me I love seafood, shrimps used to be on my menu at least once a week and so was tuna, but that has changed, our family stopped eating all of that due to the bycatch. We simply cannot consume shrimps, tuna or whatever without thinking of the consequences. No matter how much we like it, the price the oceans pay for it is just too high. So in case you are still eat sea food, make sure it is a sustainable and ethical choice. There are plenty of sites, you can find information on what to eat or what to avoid. Check before you go shopping, just don’t buy whatever you feel like, because together with that bag of shrimps a whole lot of turtles or other sea life died, would you want that on your plate ???? Please “SEA” lists below.
(1) World Wildlife Foundation Sustainable Seafood guide
(2) Oceana Sustainable Seafood Guide
(3) Montery Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
(4) Oceanwise Sustainable Seafood
(5) David Suzuki’s Top 10 Seafood Picks
So yes, after all these years I am still going, not adminning that many FB pages any more, I had my ups and downs. Yes there are a lot of downs in the conservation world : there is a lot of “competition”, many organizations doing what they think is important and hoping for the credit and the even more important donations that might come with it. But I am still standing : individually, no donations, no own organization, just me, myself and I and all of you behind me. I’m trying to help out wherever I can, for whatever organization worldwide that is worth the support because oceans and sharks, we just cannot do without them!
To get a sense of what I do you can read this letter I wrote “Australia-letter (1)” after reading this article “Australian Government Seeks To Opt Out of Protection of 5 Shark Species”
This letter needs a LOT more signatures so please contact me and I will include you in the final letter sent to Australia.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and hopefully after this and more investigation you too will have some of the deep concern and passion I and many like me have for these beautiful, highly essential, ancient apex predators!
The Global Shark Conservation Initiative