A love affair with Conservation

It has long been said that it is a fine line between love and hate. When you feel passionate about someone or something it has the capacity to lift you up and bring you down, so so down.

So I sit here, in El Nido, on Valentines Day, and I declare that I have a love/hate relationship with my job. But to be honest I think this is pretty standard for everyone. It does not mean I ever want to quit or change careers. It just means that sometimes, I hate it. However, the scales are well and truly tipped in the favour of Love. The hate lasts mere moments. To me, this balance is job satisfaction, and I have oodles of it.

Conservation is not glamorous work (previous ZEPs will tell you that never has anyone sweated so much as us in our Green Fins shirts), and there isn’t a continous cycle of feeling rewarded for the good you hope you are doing. The corporate world will still look down on you for the hippie-tree fish-hugging work that you do. The economy doesn’t value the worth of your industry (or you wouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail to get funding). People will refuse to listen to science and logic for the long-term benefit of their business, and you know, their planet. You will cry, more than once. You will throw your hands up and ‘give up’ more than once. You will question your choices, your commitment, your passion, yourself. These are just some of those ‘hate’ moments I was talking about.

There will be many, they will be harsh and they will completely pale in comparison to those ‘love’ moments. Here are some of the moments of the past year that have swept me off my feet:

1) Moalboal Dive Guide Seminar

Anyone who follows this blog would have seen my blog post on this and known that I came out of that event on a serious professional high. It was amazing to get the public and private sectors in the same room in the first place. It was magic to hear them voice their concerns, normally directed at third parties, to each other. To see bridges mended, explanations given. To see tempers flare and die down with understanding. And the not only see, but be part of, a change in attitude towards each other. Whether it lasts and is built upon only time will tell, but regardless, it was a special afternoon.

Public-private partnerships - magic words in Conservation

2. Unexpected beach clean up outreach

After Sharon’s highly successful beach and reef clean up we were all hanging around waiting for the elusive dump truck to collect our spoils. Two young Moalboalano girls started hanging around our group. The fact that the ZEPs attrack attention from the local communities is no surprise and we tried to offer them some of the snacks we had for the clean-up participants. The girls took the snacks but refused to eat them, mumbling something in Cebuano that I (shamefully) couldn’t understand. After a few minutes of hopeless encouragement for them to start eating, they pointed at the bags of rubbish. I tried to explain what we had been doing and they nodded in understanding and asked for a bag. They wanted to help to earn their snacks! I took them to the beach and they ran around checking if each piece of rubbish was the correct thing to take. “Ate Sam! Ate Sam! What about this? What about this“. They weren’t our target audience for the clean up, but it just goes to show how a public event can reach out so much further than you intended.

Proud clean-up participants

3. Training National Government Partners to be Green Fins coordinators

Last October, JJ and I headed to Manila to start a significant step forward in the management of Green Fins Philippines. We held a training workshop with staff from the project’s national management team, the Coastal and Marine Management Office (recently known as Coastal and Marine Division) to train them to be Green Fins coordinators. CMD has been a wonderful and supportive partner of the Green Fins project, even folding it into the national management strategy for coral reef ecosystem management (SCREMP). I was able to part of building the capacity of the team to manage the project! That I could ‘play’ at this level with these players was a privilege and extremely affirming of my professional capabilities. On top of all of that, I had my first bubble bath in years at the hotel. It’s also about the little things.

Working with the Green Fins National Management Team

4. ADEX 2013
After my own ZEP and before I started my role as Programmes Officer, I was the Principal Investigator for LAMAVE’s whale shark research project in Oslob, Cebu. We were (they still are) investigating the effects of the controversial feeding practice on the sharks. Because of this role, I was invited to speak at the Asia Dive Expo (ADEX), whose theme for 2013 was whale sharks. ADEX is my happy place (so. many. stickers) and it has long been a point on my bucket list to speak there.  I have had to do public speaking my entire professional career, but it had been a long time since I’d been nervous about it. No one tells you that living your dreams can be terrifying. But fears were conquered, words were spoken, applause was given and satisfaction was had. The networking I was able to do there was incredible. I met so many wonderful people, and several science/conservation heroes of mine *blush*. This year’s theme is coral reefs. Diving + coral reefs = Green Fins so I’m going back to ADEX for my second fix!

About to tick of major event on my bucket list, cool as a cucumber, obviously.

Fears conquered

5. CITES 2013This wasn’t an event I was directly involved in, but I appreciated it as a huge step forward for marine conservation, shark conservation in particular. We were at an inception meeting with representatives from UNEP, IUCN and the Maldivian and Vietnamese national partners for Green Fins. It was an intense few days that saw me frantically taking minutes for the first time in my life. Definitely job satisfaction in hindsight. The meeting was during the 16th CITES Convention of Parties and several elasmobranch species were up for protection after several highly successful public campaigns and years of hard work from elasmobranch scientists and conservationists. On every break I was scrolling through the live commentary from attendees on Twitter, and every (it ended up being all) successful listings brought on skipped heartbeats.  Marine conservation issues are largely overlooked by these big international conventions and it felt like an exciting insight into the future.

Celebrating CITES shark success - March 2013

 6. Birthday 2013I spent my birthday on a glorious day off in Aninuan, diving our favourite spot with JJ, Wai and Meg (ex-ZEPs and Reef-World interns; we missed you Chloe!). I made some time for my hammock  and having drinks on the beach under the most incredible blanket of stars (before falling asleep like the party people that we are). I was in a beautiful (warm) place, with some of my favourite people doing some of my favourite things. Moments like this continually affirm my life choices, and my pursuit of this line of work, despite those ‘hate moments’ and the other struggles that come hand-in-hand.

Birthday Sunset in Aninuan

2014 has already proved incredible rewarding for the whole team, and it’s only set up to get better. The ocean may not have been my first love, but it is, and always will be, my last.

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About Sam Craven

Zoox Senior Programmes Officer. Obsessed with Nudibranchs.
This entry was posted in Sam, The Zoox Experience Programme, The Zoox Staff and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A love affair with Conservation

  1. Stan says:

    Those first two paragraphs are so very very true! It can be so utterly heart-breaking at times to be constantly battling against the odds, but somehow every little bit is worth it, especially when the successes show through, and the fish/coral/etc. smiles back at you. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Sylvie Rockel says:

    Point 6 sounds very much like my birthday last year 🙂 Missed the hammock but found myself mesmerized in a sea of bioluminescence (a first for me)! It was great having you all around for that day and having being part of your journey last year. Wish I could turn back time & do it all over again. Keep it up! Those brief moments of bliss are definitely worth all the frustration in between!

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