An Ode to the Code

 

Where would we all be without the Green Fins Code of Conduct?

 

I for one, would probably be sitting at home in Ireland in the rain, wondering what to do with my life. But more importantly, nearly 500 dive centres across South East Asia would be less environmentally aware. The Green Fins Code of Conduct are fifteen guidelines which range from not touching marine life to promoting environmental education to staff and guests, all with the same goal to ultimately decrease a dive centres impact on the environment.

 

In preparation for my first Green Fins assessment, I studied the Code of Conduct in the only way I know how – making weird mnemonics that vaguely relate to the subject I’m trying to remember. I’ve shared my strange method with my fellow assessors who have encouraged me to make it an entire blog topic.

 

And so behold, back by popular demand, my comprehensive Ode to the Code:

One – Let’s have some fun. Setting up your assessment..

  • Adopt the Green Fins Mission statement

 

Two – How about you?? Do you have your Green Fins agreements on display?

  • Display the adopted Green Fins agreement for the public to see

 

Three – What about me?? Are you a good role model?

  • Adhere to the Green Fins Friendly Diving and Snorkelling Guidelines and act as a responsible role model for guests

 

Four – Look at the floor! Clean it up!

  • Participate in regular underwater clean-ups at dive operator selected sites

 

Five – Time to dive (without an anchor).. Use mooring buoys

  • Participate in the development and implementation of a mooring buoy program and actively use moorings, drift or hand place anchors for boats

 

Six – Don’t be a d!ck.. Leave the marine life in the ocean

  • Prohibit the sales of corals and other marine life at the dive operation

 

Seven – Eleven fish.. That I monitored and reported 

  • Participate in regular coral reef monitoring and report coral reef monitoring data to a regional coral reef database

 

Eight – Grab a mate.. And dispose of your trash properly!

  • Provide adequate garbage facilities on board facilities vessel and deal with responsibly

 

Nine – It’s a crime.. to not operate under a minimum discharge policy (not really, but it should be)

  • Operate under a ‘minimum discharge’ policy

 

Ten – You broke the law again? Go to jail! Know your local laws.

  • Abide by all local, regional, national and international environmental laws, regulations and customs

 

Eleven – You’re going to heaven. And it won’t be a brief time. Environmental briefing

  • Provide guests with an explanation of Green Fins’ Frindly Diving and Snorkelling Guidelines in pre dive briefings

 

Twelve – Twelve months in year. Annual training

  • Provide training, briefing or literature for employees and guests regarding good environmental practises for snorkelling, diving, boating, marine wildlife interaction and other marine recreational activities

 

Thirteen – You’re keen.. To learn about the environment

  • Provide staff and guests with public awareness and environmental materials (ID books, pamphlets etc)

 

Fourteen – You’ve got a spleen.. Which relative to the size of the body is about the same ratio of MPAs to the size of the ocean. * Know your MPAS (At this point it was getting difficult to come up with rhymes, I’m sorry)

  • Provide guests with information on local Marine Protected Areas, environmental rules and regulations

 

Fifteen.. Not quite 16.. No touch! 

Promote a strict ‘no touch’ policy for all reef diving and snorkelling.

GF

*Not actually an accurate fact. Like I said, I was running out of rhymes and it was so ridiculous it stuck in my memory.

This blog post was casually approved by Alan Kavanagh and all credit for Code of Conduct 15 rhyme goes to Daniel Sadd. 

 

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Life Hacks

The internet is all about life hacks nowadays. Simple solutions to everyday nuisances that simply make your life easier.  During my travels, these prove to be very handy. From saving space in my bag by stuffing shoes with underwear and (sun)glasses, rolling clothes instead of folding, wrapping my soapbar in the box of playing cards and using MapsMe so that I never can get lost. You can literally find any lifehack online.

But I also learned some very handy tips and tricks to become a responsible traveler. For example, I realized after two months that there were some pieces of clothing I had hardly worn. I simply gave it away to a fellow traveler or any second-hand market was happy to take it from me. That way they can make some extra money and I am travelling lighter and get extra space for all those new t-shirts I am getting for being a volunteer.

# Fishhugger

Another thing I discovered during my journey and participating in marine conservation projects is that I easily stopped eating fish. Learning about the destructive fishing practices that destroy the corals and marine habitat, but also the overfishing that leads to extinction of many species, I simply couldn’t eat it anymore.

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But I know for many that have not shared this experience, it is not that easy to give it up. Well, if you do wish to contribute something, consider giving up shrimp, tuna and shark fin soup. Now why is the consumption of these particular species so bad? Most fishing gear is not selective. This means that as well as the ‘target’ species of fish it catches (such as shrimp and tuna), any number of non-target species may also be hauled in. This incidental catch of other species is referred to as ‘bycatch’. Globally, it’s estimated that a quarter of what is caught is wasted – thrown back into the sea dead because it has no commercial value!

The fisheries with the highest levels of bycatch are shrimp fisheries – often over 80 per cent of a catch comprises marine species other than shrimp. All types of marine life including whales, dolphins, porpoises, fur seals, albatrosses and turtles are killed as bycatch. Even feared predators like sharks are killed in their millions each year. Tuna fisheries, which in the past had high dolphin bycatch levels, are still responsible for the deaths of an estimated one million sharks annually. But also, many environmental groups such as the Pew Charitable Trust warn that the Pacific bluefin tuna are at risk of extinction unless a two-year ban on commercial fishing is put in place. As this is unlikely to happen in the short term, you can already reduce your personal tuna consumption to help avoid this. In addition, do you know the Shark Fin Soup you can order at the local Chinese restaurant? This actually causes dead to 23-73 million sharks per year. The removal and retention of fins happens onboard a fishing vessel whilst the body of the shark is discarded, an extremely wasteful practice as less than 10% of the shark is used! The most sustainable seafood would be Octopus or Calamari as they are caught at night with light, so this is not disturbing the seabed or doesn’t lead to any bycatch. Want to know more about sustainable seafood? Download the useful the Good Fish Guide app and stay up to date with the Fish of the month!

Now what about meat? I am aware of the abuses going on in the slaughterhouses and the detrimental impact of livestock and agriculture on deforestation and climate change. But I must admit giving up meat proves to be more difficult as it is more integrated in my traditional diet, (and I must admit I simply love a good hamburger once in a while). Where I come from, every Thursday people join ‘Veggieday’. You can step it up by joining the annual 40 days without meet challenge. A first small step that has a big impact. At Marine Conservation Philippines, we would only eat meat on Tuesdays and Saturdays. And we are continuing that tradition now in Panglao. The vegetarian options in Asia are absolutely delicious and great in variety. So why not try it out? Plus it saves money as extra incentive.

# Refill, no Landfill

Unavoidable when travelling in Asia is you will be confronted with an immense waste problem. People just love plastic for no apparent reason. Only the other day when I went for groceries, they will put every wet object in a separate plastic bag. Butter? In a plastic bag! Vegetables? Oww another plastic bag! Frozen? That deserves another plastic bag. And all that goes in two three other plastic bags. Knowing 8 million tonnes of plastic per year finds its way into the ocean, I am looking for ways to minimise my plastic footprint. Learning to say no to plastic bags is a habit that after a couple of days I mastered easily by taking a backpack with me. Another lifehack and my personal best investment ever was a reusable drink bottle. Since I started my projects four months ago, I have bought four plastic water bottles! All the other times I was perfectly able to find a shop that could refill my bottle – very often for free. Imagine all the water you need to drink to stay hydrated in this climate and all these bottles ending up in a landfill as recycling is not a common practice here. By just refilling your bottle you have tremendous impact on reducing landfill. You need takeaway? Take your lunchbox or ask a cardboard box instead of plastic! And learn to say no to straws. It looks like people have forgotten how to drink from their glass as they need straws for everything, juice, soda, iced latte, cocktail,… just sip it as in the good old days. And if you really cannot do without a straw, consider investing in a reusable bamboo straw. They look cool and you’ll steal the show inspiring potentially one or two other people. Go check out the Clean Seas Campaign for more information and easy ways to minimize your plastic footprint. And by adopting these small changes, you can truly make a difference. And as the Dalai Lama puts it “If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room!”

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Accidentally traveling light

“Are you ok?”

“Why are you on your own?”

“Where are your parents?”

 

Did I really look that helpless arriving into Manila two weeks ago? I thought I was doing pretty well on my first time solo trip. No missed flights, everything on time, I even managed to navigate through four different airports without getting hopelessly lost (a big feat for me, being navigationally challenged). There was the minor issue of my luggage with all of my belongings being nowhere to be found… But I was being uncharacteristically calm about the situation – and the lovely Filipino woman who demanded the airport offered me a free night in a hotel made me smile, even if they laughed and refused.

 

When you arrive here you learn very quickly that not much works as you would expect it to. I had mentally prepared myself for culture shock so I found it was actually the small things that surprised me. I still haven’t gotten the hang of queuing in public bathrooms… But the saga of the missing bag was what really hammered the lesson home. After five long days of wearing the same sweaty clothes,  I made a 2-hour journey by habal-habal, bus and tricycle from our base at MCP in Zamboanguita back to Dumaguete airport. The sheer relief when I could see my bag stored in a cargo building was short lived when the security told me they were closed and I was to return at 6am the next morning.

“But it’s right therrrrrreeee!”

“But I’ve been waiting for daysssss!”

No luck. It’s not often you stop to consider an airport closes down when the sun goes down, but that’s Dumaguete for you.

 

All the traveling had turned my many bites ugly and I was getting eaten alive arguing with the guards. I swear, if I get Dengue Fever from this whole ordeal Aer Lingus will be hearing from me. Feeling defeated and sweaty I retreated back to a hostel for the night. At least I’d get a good nights sleep from the adventure… Wrong again. Having found myself in a last-minute room basically placed on the busy main road of Dumaguete coupled with being covered head to toe in heat rash left me missing my bed in MCP.  I eventually reunited with my bag the following morning, and even made it back in time to MCP for our first day snorkelling.  I will be forever grateful to the habal-habal driver who managed to fit my 25kg bag on his handlebars, myself on the back and manoeuvre through the massive puddles of mud left from the rain on the rough road back to base. Thanks Gerry, you’re the real MVP!

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It’s funny to think back to those first few days now on to my third week here, sitting on the balcony of our mansion in Panglao (not technically a mansion – but it at least feels like a mansion after living in one room with six people for two weeks). In hindsight, I may have overreacted on day one when my taxi driver took a wrong turn and my immediate thought was “I’m being kidnapped”. I also still cringe at myself for accepting the drivers’ word at the airport when he assured me that 2,000 pesos was a set price for a transfer from terminal 1 to terminal 3. But, despite some initial newbie falters, I’m pleased to say I’m alive. I’ve managed to improve my haggling skills and have yet to collapse from dehydration or sun burn. We’ve probably squeezed a year worth of lectures, experience and training into two weeks and it’s only the beginning. But what’s the main lesson learned from weeks 1 & 2?….

 

 

I’ve packed way too much!

 

 

 

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Getting Back To Life In The Philippines

It has been nearly two weeks since I began my 29+ hour travel experience from London Heathrow to my eventual destination of Dumaguete in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The journey was surprisingly pleasant and incident free.
It began, like I said in a busy and multi-cultural Heathrow airport. With trepidation over the increased security a direct result of the current global situation, I breezed through security with no mention of the rather alien looking Regulators in my hand luggage that are so often questioned. After a rather amusing exchange with a particularly jolly security official regarding my lack of sleep and general lack of common sense, as well as a lot of British style ‘pleases’ and ‘thank you sirs’, I was home free.
I struggle to sleep on planes, especially planes that provide me with endless movies and TV shows, beer and endless food, and 9 short hours later I found myself in Oman. With barely enough time to blink before my connecting flight to Manila, I audibly groaned at the thought of another security check. This time I wasn’t so lucky. In full view and in the way of everyone’s progress, a guard asked me to empty my bag. With various clothes splayed across a conveyor belt he stared perplexed at the set of hoses looking back at him. Thankfully, a co-worker with the largest assault rifle i’ve ever seen reassured everyone that he’d seen it before and I was free to go. PHEW!
Another 8 hours of limited sleep later I arrived at Manila airport, with a change to sleep in my favourite dark spot of terminal 3. It wasn’t meant to be however, with a few grumbles about change and ‘the man’ I walked away in my defeat as my favourite sleeping place was now a Starbucks.
With a final push and an hour and a half long flight I finally made it to Dumaguete. With 24 hours of spare time ahead of me I familiarised myself with the sights and sounds of the city. Sampling food, and various modes of transport with varying levels of success. FYI if you have the option of a tricycle but they’re charging 10 pesos more than the correct rate and won’t budge, take it! The walk across Dumaguete city in midday sun is not worth that 20 pence you manage to save.

 

Arrival day

Thus began life at MCP. Where do I begin? The food, the people and the setting were all fantastic. Not to mention the amazing bunch of doggos all with differing personalities and quirks. My favourite had to be the regal and majestic compass though, a delight to be around! The unforgettable two weeks I spent here have been truly great. Exploring the area, in particular Casaroro Falls, learning about all the different projects and internships happening in one place and meeting so many different people from all walks of life. I cannot think of a better place to complete the training for the Zoox programme. I only hope I can go back again one day. Hopefully to do some serious stats, but even just for the infamous Saturday nights, great trees, and the basketball hoop.

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Seagrass, a hidden treasure

I remember as a kid I never really liked seagrass. It often felt slimy, looked dirty, got entangled in my hair. I preferred the sand, burying my feet in it, making sand castles with it. The fact that I got sand in my hair didn’t seem to bother me as much as the seagrass for some reason.  How amazed I was roughly two decades later when I learned about seagrass and how to distinguish it. HU, HM, HT, EA, TH, SI, CS, HO what? I never expected that seagrass could be that interesting. Seagrass is a valuable coastal resource capable of indicating change, providing a food source, and creating a safe habitat for sea life.

You discover a whole new world as the seagrass becomes alive beneath you, revealing its hidden treasures. Hovering over it you can detect the small oxygen bubbles it produces, you can distinguish waspfishes, filefishes, collector urchins, seastars, pipefishes and seahorses, all searching shelter and feeding grounds.  Seagrass beds account for 0.2% of  Seagrass and pipefishocean floor but absorb 10% of global carbon buried in the sea.  Knowing that almost an area of an entire football field gets destroyed every 30 minutes, I can’t even begin to imagine the impact further up the ecosystem. Threats – human influences such as nutrient loading (N in particular), algal blooms causing a shift in species composition, algae directly competing with the seagrass for light reducing their photosynthetic efficiency, over fishing, destructive fishing techniques, push nets and land reclamation – are all major factors contributing to their decline. With a quadrat we had to identify and estimate the coverage level of the seagrass. After our eyes adjusted we looked for veins, serrated ridges, rounded leaf tips or even bat(man) shaped edges. Looking for clues and subtle changes, you feel like a true explorer.  That is exactly what Zoox is about. It lets you explore new interest areas and shows you the relationship and interconnectivity of marine ecosystems and how they all influence each other. Apparently, it doesn’t take longer than a couple of hours to get rid of a childhood misconception.

The first two weeks of the Zoox Experience Program we stay at the training center of Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) on the island of Negros Oriental. We are being taught about the science of marine conservation, global laws and policies, marine monitoring of coral and seagrass, blue carbon, shark conservation, professional development and responsible diving in separate modules.  An interesting mix of lectures no university offers with such a hand-on approach. Moreover, we share the premises with the staff, interns and volunteers of MCP. Coming from different backgrounds, we all share the same passion: the ocean. Some help to protect it while scuba diving, conducting reef surveys to identify substrate, invertebrates and fish. Other organise community outreach programs, educating and raising awareness among children, fishermen and government officials. Still others conduct research on alternative livelihoods, Marine Protected Areas, solid waste management, mangrove nurseries and blue carbon offsets.

Thanks to Zoox, new worlds unfold before your eyes the more you learn about it, and with knowledge comes caring, and caring brings about the necessary change to protect the Earth and its oceans. A learning school for true changemakers, everyone to find its own way!

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To New Beginnings

After learning about Zoox in September it feels weird to actually be here. It always seemed so far away, but I’m so excited to actually be here now! First look at the Philippines has been amazing. Everyone has been very welcoming. Starting with my seat-mates on my 14-hour flight from the United States. They were very helpful. I knew the whole lay out of Manila airport before even arriving. Some people had to pay for a taxi to take them between terminals. They told me exactly where to get the bus for free. They offered loads of information and made my nerves calm down a bit.

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After the first week we all went to Casaroro Falls. The falls were breathtaking. The walk to get there took more breath than I was expecting, or should I say the walk back. Getting to the falls was full of excitement. Once we got there we jumped in and I immediately turned into an ice cube. Then it was back to soaking up the sun. When we were done we made our way back jumping from rock to rock and counting the steps- roughly 300 steps! Lets just say I am definitely getting my exercise here in the Philippines.

 

Soon we will be leaving Zamboanguita and traveling to Panglao to start assessments on Green Fins members. I have enjoyed Zamboanguita and staying with Marine Conservation Philippines. It was nice to meet a lot of different people and get to know them. The cooks here at MCP have also been amazing. Definitely not going hungry here. Now the next six weeks where I will have to cook for myself, that’s another story. I have learned a ton these first two weeks and I cannot wait to see what the next six weeks hold in store for me.

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The Power of the Presentation

With the June – August Zoox Experience Programme just a few months away, our Programmes Officer Alan provides some of his best tips for successful delivery of training and presentations.

Dress to fit the role and expectation.

As much as I hate to admit it, being the same person in each of the above photos, fromAlan.jpg an external perspective, the only person I would trust to present to government staff on environmental policy is the person wearing smart trousers and a shirt (Picture 3). But it is all about tailoring your look to the role. If you fit in with your audience they are much more likely to accept what you are saying as they already feel like they are on a social level with you. Training a dive centre’s staff in a suit is not the best way to action change just as attending a government meeting in a vest will not earn respect.

A good rule to live by is to be better dressed, than the least well-dressed person in the room. Look like you belong and you will be accepted as a peer, whatever the scenario (moustache and cravat optional!).

Give individual attention to each of the people you are speaking to.

This is especially true for smaller groups of up to 30 individuals. During a 45 minute presentation, you can give each audience member a cumulative minute of attention. By making eye contact and speaking directly to individuals they will feel much more engaged in the presentation or training and less likely to fall asleep! If it is only a small group in a classroom then get everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning, make them a part of the experience and get to know them. This way you can tailor the delivery of information to the individual. For example correct oil disposal to the compressor boy and boat captain, not throwing anchors to the boat crew and role model diving behaviour to the dive guides.

Minimise your use of notes – be guided by your tools

By remembering the verbal part of your presentation, it will allow it to flow more naturally rather than looking down at notes or cards and then losing your place, frantically searching and flipping cards, dropping them on the floor, attempting to reorder them unsuccessfully before crying and dying.

Instead be guided by your visual presentation, if using slides then “extend” your screen to the projector and keep track of what is next using the presenter mode on your laptop. This way you can guide your speech and whatever you do, never just read words off a slide!

Don’t Fidget

Usted 3e your hands to emphasise your points. Draw in your audience with body language. Keep your arms slighter wider than your body, face the palms up. While not fidgeting, don’t go the opposite way and make every move eccentric, leaping from one side of the screen to the other! Watch a couple of Ted Talks and look at how they move, how they talk and how they stand. Build this in to your presentation skills.

“Put down that clicky pen, leave the pocket fluff alone, keep your hair out of your face, and phone in your bag.”

Stick to the timing

Value other people’s time! If someone shows up to a 45-minute presentation and it takes an hour, then tdownload.jpghey will be frustrated and clock watching wanting to leave. If the presentation is shorter than scheduled, then people will not feel like you have given enough and will leave unsatisfied. Not sticking to the timing also has implications if you are speaking at a large conference. Everyone will be expected to speak within a carefully planned time slot and not sticking to the allotted time has knock effects for the rest of the program. So, make sure you are well rehearsed and don’t be tempted to add something in on the spur of the moment unless you know you can squeeze it in.

 Animations are ugly!

Boings, Lazers, Whizzes, Bouncing and Spins are best left in your high school IT classroom. No matter how fun you think they are it will make your presentation look amateurish despite all your hard work setting their timings. Making small amounts of text ‘appear’, as necessary, is the limit.

 Design it well

Comic Sans is ugly, Arial is (relatively) beautiful. Remember this!  Stick to simple fonts that are easy to read and your audience won’t be lost. Also think carefully This is in no way easy to read.jpgabout your colour scheme. Never use yellow and white together (I remember a terrible 2 hour lecture from a PhD student back when I was an undergraduate. I am sure her subject was
interesting but she has used yellow text on a white background. It was simply impossible to read) and spare a thought for the colour blind before you use red and green. Often it is best to stick to the basics. Dark blue or black on contrasting background is your safest bet. And don’t forget to include plenty of pictures. Visual stimuli are much better at capturing the attention than mountains of text which will go unread, or detract attention away from what you are saying.

 

But most of all relax and have fun. If you are enjoying the presentation then your audience will feel this and reciprocate. Be bright, smile lots and be safe in the knowledge that it will soon be over!

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Looking backward and forward!

After 8 weeks spent with my chaps of the Zoox Experience Programme, here I am… Cebu city! … where I am waiting for my flight that will bring me back to Manila in 24 hours.

It is quite weird to be back in a big city after 8 weeks of isolation near Zamboanguita and on Malapascua. Everything appears much more populated, bigger and noisier, which it’s obviously not just an appearance, but the difference is even more blatant!

I had to leave Malapascua a bit sooner than expected. Two days of fever and an infection provided me with the “nice” opportunity of visiting Cebu’s hospital; thankfully, nothing too serious, with antibiotics becoming my new best friend for seven days.

The early departure has resulted in a longer stay in Cebu for waiting for my flight. In the meantime, it has provided me with more time for some reflections on the two months I have just spent in the Philippines, as well as the next ones!

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It may be the end of ZEP, but for me it’s also the start of a 7 month travel through Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos … here we come! This is also only a goodbye to the Philippines, as we will end up here again before going back to Europe.

 

I am now in this weird situation where nostalgia and excitement are mixing.

Looking backward… the ZEP was an experience I will not forget!

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Steph, Kate, myself, Jenny and Angie on our first week in the Philippines.

 

On one hand, I will miss the other volunteers Kate, Steph, Jenny and Angie, as well as the Zoox team, Alan and Sam, with whom I have learnt a lot and had a lot of fun. I have so many good memories that it is not possible to list all of them; all I can say now is THANK YOU for this amazing experience!

 

 

On the other hand, I will miss my time spent on Malapascua collaborating with dive centres and local dive guides, while getting all this practical and professional experience working on marine conservation projects. It was sometimes intense and tiring, but always interesting and rewarding, and this experience has given me useful new perspectives on my professional career.

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Beautiful view of Malapascua from the boat !

Looking forward… I must not complain… it does not look bad at all!

7 month of freedom through Southeast Asia is quite a nice perspective.

At the very beginning of ZEP, I presented myself as being a sponge, absorbing and digesting all the useful information provided during the training.

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I have enjoyed it so much, that I don’t see any reason to stop. However, I may decide to evolve and become another species of sponge. Indeed, instead of digesting new information and professional experience about marine conservation, I will start absorbing new Asian cultures, adventures and encounters to make me grow!

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A little shark love

I wasn’t always such a shark lover. After watching Jaws as a child, I refused to go in the swimming pool for weeks. Those days are long gone though and I have become an avid shark advocate.

As I am sure you are all aware there is a war on sharks right now. A full blown war that sharks, all types of sharks are facing. They are caught for their fins, their oily livers, used for food and of course because they are perceived to be big, bad, human eating predators.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 50% of sharks are threatened or near threatened (http://www.iucnredlist.org/). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.

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Shark liver oil is sometimes used in cosmetics and vaccines. So a shark may have died for your vanity. Many brands of sunscreen, make up and moisturizers contain shark liver oil or squalene. It’s favoured for it’s moisturizing properties. A United Nations report lists more than 50 shark species that are fished for their oil, several of which are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Sharks have oily livers which helps them maintain their buoyancy without the need for an air bladder. There are lots of alternatives to squalene, including olive oil or wheat germ. However alternatives are usually more expensive than shark oil. Like Unilever, L’Oreal is currently completing the phase-out of production with shark-based squalene and its substitution with the plant-based ingredient. Beiersdorf, LVMH, Henkel, Boots, Clarins, Sisley and La Mer (an Estée Lauder brand) also have either made the decision to stop using shark-based squalene or had a policy to never use it in the first place, according to information the European headquarters of these companies provided to Oceana. 

Sharks are also prized for their fins, which is made into shark fin soup. Shark finning targets 23-73 million sharks a year and the majority of the shark is thrown back in the ocean. Less than 10% of the shark is used, it is extremely wasteful. Many finning operations are illegal operations and most sharks are alive when their fins are cut off and they are thrown back in the ocean to drown. The top shark fin importers are Hong Kong (58%) and China(38%). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization identified the top 20 countries that are responsible for 80% of the Global Shark Catch. Indonesia, India, Spain and Taiwan account for over 35% of that catch. These figures are also probably a conservative estimate of what is actually going on.

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Sharks are slow to reproduce with most species of sharks only reaching sexual maturity after 12-15 years. They also have a lengthy pregnancy of 9 to 22 months with a resting period between litters. Furthering the shark crisis.

Sharks aren’t the man eating, killing machines they are portrayed as in the media. 98 people last year were attacked by sharks with 6 being killed. Considering the number of people who enter the oceans, if sharks wanted to kill more of us, they easily could. Shark attacks are reported world wide and with more people having phones can check those articles more quickly, increasing the fear. Humans kill more sharks in a minute than sharks kill people in a year. 
One study in 2014 by Tulane University put the chance at dying from a shark at 1 in 8 million, compared with 1 in 90 for a car accident, 1 in 1,600,000 for impact by a space rock, or 1 in 195 million for winning the PowerBall lottery. Cows, vending machines and ants all kill more people annually than sharks. 
How can you help sharks?
Research the ingredients in your cosmetics, everything from hair conditioners to lip gloss. Don’t buy cosmetics that use shark oil in their products.
Don’t eat at restaurants that serve shark fin soup.
When you order fish and chips and they tell you that it’s made of flake, you are probably eating shark (especially in the UK and Australia). Tell them you don’t want to be contributing to the extinction of a species.
Don’t use Fed Ex for shipping. Switch to UPS who does not accept shark fins. 
Don’t fly with airlines that allow shark fins to be transported. 
Support companies that are fighting for sharks, my favourite is: http://dorsalclothing.com/
You can make a difference in the survival of sharks. Spread the word, get involved.

 

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Why Malapascua?

Dear friends, my time in the Philippines is almost over. This tiny island called Malapascua has been my base for the last 6 weeks working as a Green Fins Coordinator. But why did the conservation program bring us here? There are 7107 islands in the Philippines, why Malapascua?

Malapascua has a thriving dive industry. There used to be 8 dive operators on the island, now there are 21. Diving is the only reason to make the effort to come here, to be more specific Thresher Sharks are the reason divers come to Malapascua – to dive at Monad Shoal. These sharks look very distinctive with a long tail fin that can be the same length as their bodies (2-3m). The tail fin is used like a whip to stun their prey.

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Monad Shoal is famous for being the only place in the world where thresher sharks can be seen regularly at and just before sunrise. What is so special about Monad Shoal that the sharks go there every day? These sharks are a nocturnal and pelagic (deep water) species but they come up to shallower depths of 25-30m between 05:30-07:30, not to find food, but to be cleaned. Small wrasse fish clean the gills and mouth of the sharks and remove parasites from their bodies.

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This week, I went to Monad Shoal for the first time and it was amazing!!

I was so thrilled to see a thresher shark I almost forgot to breathe! (the number one rule of scuba diving is never hold your breath!). The sharks circle around the seamount (underwater mountain) waiting to be cleaned and our guide strategically positioned us in a sandy area so we’d have a great view and cause no damage to the reef – very important to remember while diving! As we swam back towards our boat, we saw another shark at 15m, which apparently is not very common to see at that depth so that was extra exciting and we all did a little happy wiggle dance underwater! Our group emerged from the water with big smiles and feeling exhilarated.

The diving industry on Malapascua is dependent on Monad Shoal and the regular presence of the thresher sharks. The sharks are the reason divers come to Malapascua. The tourists who come to Malapascua sustain the livelihoods of the locals. Fact. Because of the sharks and the diving industry, the locals have jobs and can provide for their families.

All businesses benefit from those who come to dive, from local accommodations to bars, restaurants, shops and of course the dive centres. Tourism however is both an opportunity and a threat and must be controlled if it is to be sustainable. If the locals benefit from tourism, then how is it a threat?

To put it bluntly, divers are damaging the coral reefs around Malapascua. How is this happening?

  • fins coming into contact with fragile coral and breaking it (this is the most common cause of damage)
  • fins stirring up sand which then smothers the coral, this can also disturb animals that live in the sand
  • sitting/standing on the reefs which can break the coral
  • equipment such as depth gauge, spare regulator and camera hanging down which then can hit corals, causing them to break
  • touching corals which can break them
  • resting camera equipment on corals to take photographs
  • not being aware of surroundings while taking photographs can cause damage
  • not having good buoyancy skills means you are less able to control your position in the water

How are these threats controlled and minimised? Green Fins is the solution!

During these past 6 weeks, we have trained almost 200 dive centre staff on the island to empower them to help change the behaviour of divers so the above situations do not happen. As well as training we also gave the dive centres lots of materials they can use to help get the message across to their customers, such as this poster:

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Attention Divers! Follow these do’s and don’ts to protect all marine life and help keep the reefs healthy.

The above threats are all about corals and do not mention sharks so what is the connection between coral reefs and sharks? This diagram shows how corals support everything on the reef:

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To relate this to Monad Shoal, if there is no healthy coral, there are no fish (fish live on the coral reefs), if there are no fish to clean them, there are no sharks.

One dive centre manager made this honest statement:

“no sharks, no divers, no business, no jobs”.

By following the Green Fins advice, the impact on the coral reefs is reduced. Fact.

Green Fins works! The results of our assessments on the dive centres have shown a decrease in the negative effect on the coral reefs, which is fantastic news. The dive centres on Malapascua are adopting the Green Fins guidelines enthusiastically and in so doing are protecting not only the reef and the thresher sharks but also their business and jobs and of course meaning that divers will have beautiful healthy reefs to visit for many years.

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Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

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