Oceanographic Magazine / Issue Ten

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Conservation • Exploration • Adventure





The Surfer Squad Sally Fitzgibbons Kelly Slater Stephanie Gilmore

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Discover our shores Barbados beneath the waves is as beautiful as on its powder white shores. It’s the perfect dive destination year-round but if you are thinking of a summer trip, Dive Fest Barbados ’20 takes place 3rd – 12th July 2020. Featuring water awareness programs, scuba and freediving demonstrations and trials, beach clean-ups, conservation tips, recyclable boat race, lionfish hunting and tasting, as well as scuba dives all over the island - including the exhilarating east coast!

Visit Barbados



Whenever you visit, companies all over the island offer facilities such as guided trips, scuba diving lessons and equipment hire for all abilities. Once you’ve experienced Barbados underwater, you’ll be keen to continue exploring popular sites like Maycocks Bay, Dottins, Shark Bank and Bell Buoy. You won’t be alone in the water, as Barbados is teeming with aquatic life, and you’ll be diving amongst Stingray, Manta rays, Barracuda, Angelfish, Grouper, Parrotfish, Triggerfish and Seahorses. Don’t miss out on your chance to discover what lies beyond our beautiful Barbados beaches!


An experience without equal

“The reef systems here are some of the most pristine I have seen anywhere in my dive travels around the globe, and Wakatobi resort and liveaboard are second to none. The diversity of species here is brilliant if you love photography.� ~ Simon Bowen




Editor’s Letter In this, our tenth issue, the ra n g e o f s t o r i e s collated feels particularly personal and particularly eclectic.

The ocean means something different to all of us. This fact is represented in every issue of Oceanographic through the sharing of often personal stories. In this, our tenth issue, the range of stories collated feels particularly personal and particularly eclectic. We open with a story about a Frenchman who has, having given up his 'professional' career following a life-changing encounter with a pod of sperm whales, made it his mission to decode the language of whalesong - as well as share all his data with the wider scientific community. The ocean to him is a healthy obsession. That is followed by the story of Kokoly, a remarkable and indomitable Vezo fisherwoman who, in the face of a collapsed coastal ecosystem, faces a daily struggle to get by. The ocean to her is survival. Then comes the intriguing story of an Italian photographer who grew up dreaming of the ocean and the whales within it, but never seeing either having spent her childhood inland. In adulthood that deep connection is made real, photographing grey whale biologists in Mexico. The ocean to her is a longheld dream made real. Then there are the two British architects who bought an old lifeboat and transformed it into a beautiful home before motoring north to Norway, breaking free from the daily grind. The ocean to them is freedom. For the people of Suluan in the Philippines, an island decimated by typhoon Haiyan and now on a new solarpowered road to sustainability, the ocean is community.

Will Harrison Editor @oceanographic_editor @og_editor

For the poachers discussed in Hanli Prinsloo's column, the ocean is a resource. For the poachers' children, thanks to I AM WATER, it is a place of intrigue and beauty and, hopefully, a place to be protected rather than poached. What is the ocean to you?


Oceanographic Issue 10


Contents O N T H E C OV E R



After a life-changing encounter with a pod of sperm whales, one man has dedicated his life to the pursuit of understanding whalesong - a journey that has been as much about hard data as it has been about the question of consciousness.

A freediver records the sounds of whalesong in Mauritius. Photograph by Fred Buyle

Get in touch PAG E 2 0 ED I TO R Will Harrison A S S I S TA N T E D I TO R

Beth Finney


Amelia Costley


Joanna Kilgour


Chris Anson


@oceanographic_mag @oceano_mag Oceanographicmag




For all enquiries regarding stockists, submissions, or just to say hello, please email info@oceanographicmagazine.com or call (+44) 20 3637 8680. Published in the UK by Atlas Publishing Ltd. Š 2019 Atlas Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Nothing in whole or in part may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

A collection of some of the most captivating ocean images shared on social media, both beautiful and arresting. Tag us or use #MYOCEAN for the opportunity to be featured.

Printed by Warners Midlands Plc ISSN: 2516-5941

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Like millions of fisherwomen around the world, Kokoly relies on the ocean to live, as both a source of income and nutrition. With fish stocks depleted and vibrant reefs turned to rock, Kokoly’s life is now one of survival.

For some, the ocean is an everpresent part of their existence, perhaps even identity. For others, it is a distant and unknown expanse, never seen or felt or smelled. For one girl brought up in Italy's Po Valley, the ocean was a near-mythical obsession then she saw it for real.

The private Caribbean island of Mustique, known largely for its luxury and excess, is embracing sustainability, a decision proving to be popular with guests and locals alike. Is luxury tourism beginning to change for the better?

The tiny, remote island of Suluan in the Philippines, was the first to be hit by deadly typhoon Haiyan. Now, a movement of women – survivors and island protectors – are leading the drive towards renewable energy in a community deeply connected to the sea.

Two young architects refit a decommissioned lifeboat for an upcycled - and stylish - ocean adventure. Leaving the south coast of the UK behind, they head for the west coast of Norway just themselves, the ocean and their dog Shackleton.


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In a special edition of Behind the lens, we take a collective look at the photographers featured throughout 2019 and showcase some of their beautiful work not previously showcased, along with some of their most powerful words.

Big wave surf champion, environmentalist and social change advocate Dr Easkey Britton discusses meeting the people behind - and surfing on the Cigarette Surfboard, and how powerful stories can result in positive action.

Freediver and founder of I AM WATER, Hanli Prinsloo, discusses the importance of connecting young children with the ocean - particularly in communities that, due to inequality, view the sea as a place to poach rather than protect.

Dr Simon Pierce, Principal Scientist at the Marine Megafauna Foundation, discusses the astonishing beauty, skill and biology of thresher sharks, and how their unique behaviours should be celebrated.

The team at Project AWARE, Oceanographic’s primary charity partner, discuss how taking action for the ocean is the same as taking action against the climate crisis currently facing the planet.


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Jay Clue Mexico “Trying to capture the breakneck acceleration and grace of one of Earth's fastest predators is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience,” says photographer Clue. Striped Marlin can reach speeds of 50mph (80kmh). They are highly adapted to be able to move with incredible agility. I N PA RT N E R S H I P W I T H



Cameron McFarlane Australia "Braving windy weather on a winter's night, I was welcomed underwater with crystal clear water," says McFarlane. "And a group of the smallest squid I've ever seen - less than 10mm in length." I N PA RT N E R S H I P W I T H

Andreas Schmid Mexico An inquisitive blue shark scythes through morning sun rays in winter water off the coast of Cabo San Lucas at the very southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. Blue sharks are often caught as bycatch in high seas longline and driftnet fisheries. I N PA RT N E R S H I P W I T H


Aleksander Nordahl Norway

"My friends Ă˜rjan and Svein stop for a selfie as they come up from the sunken navy vessel KNM Torp outside Kristiansund in Norway," says Nordahl. "It's some of the wildest coastline in the world." I N PA RT N E R S H I P W I T H


Conversations WITH FRIENDS

After a chance encounter with a pod of sperm whales, one man has dedicated his life to the pursuit of understanding the language of whalesong. Wo rd s b y H u g h Fra n c i s A n d e r s o n P h o t o g ra p h s b y Fre d B u y l e

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first met Frenchman Fabrice Schnöller aboard the expedition yacht Barba earlier this year when we took part in the Arctic Whale project, a story featured in Issue 08 of Oceanographic. As we sailed across the North Atlantic, Schnöller explained the pioneering research he has dedicated much of the past decade to – Darewin, a company he founded in 2012 with one simple aim: to gain a greater understanding of cetacean click communication. Born in Tahiti, Polynesia, the ocean has always been part of Schnöller’s life. “The first years of my life were spent on the beach and in the water. I have always been connected to the ocean. It’s my universe.” And while this may be the root, Schnöller notes one poignant encounter that led him to found Darewin. In 2006, on a short sailing journey from the Réunion Islands to Mauritius, Schnöller and a friend found themselves surrounded by a pod of sperm whales. Hypnotised by their presence, an urge to enter the water overcame him. “[It was a] crazy experience – 20 big animals coming towards me, making sounds, wanting to touch me, studying me,” he says. “It was like being on another planet, and it was the start of everything.” Schnöller, who at the time was the CEO of an engineering company, was so compelled by his encounter that he sold his company, embarked on a postgraduate degree in biology and began his innovative research into cetacean communication. “I discovered that there was no one really working on communication, so I said, ‘let’s collect evidence of it so that people can see it, maybe then they will be interested’.” The primary objective of Darewin is to collate data, and lots of it – the pursuit of a critical mass of information that, it is hoped, will encourage the broader scientific community to invest additional resources into whale communication research. It’s a get-the-ball-rolling exercise of sorts. To aid this process, Darewin uploads its ever-expanding findings to an open-source platform, available for all to access. Darewin’s data collection methodology hinges on two things: freediving and revolutionary technology. Freediving is important because it enables Schnöller and his team (including record-breaking freediver and underwater photographer Fred Buyle) to interact with the whales unencumbered – a non-invasive approach without the noise and complications that arise with scuba gear. Regarding the technology, Schnöller wanted to create something that allowed his team to capture the magic of the interactions as well as collect visual and acoustic information that would afford them the opportunity to learn from the encounters, in turn improving the quality of subsequent interactions. “It’s not every day that you meet 20 sperm whales, [and I wanted] everyone to see it. So I developed these 360° cameras. My goal was to

PREVIOUS PAGE: Fabrice Schnöller filming a group of sperm whales in Dominica with a 360 camera. THIS PAGE: Schnöller and a school of bait fish off Reunion island.



“Darewin's data collection methodology hinges on two things: freediving and revolutionary technology.�



“Darewin is also exposing our own species' naivety when it comes to how we interpret communication.”

capture everything, to gather data, to share it with people – and to interpret [whale behaviour] so we can interact with them [more effectively].” The tool he created was a combination of cameras and hydrophones, and it worked. With the onset of VR, his timing was perfect. His captures allowed people to totally immerse themselves in particular encounters. It tacked on an emotional element to what started as a scientific pursuit. “When you get into the water with them, you can feel the love a mother has for her calf,” says Schnöller. “By using VR, others can feel that too.” In 2015, Darewin partnered with the New York Times to produce the Emmy-nominated 360° underwater VR movie, The Click Effect, and was also invited to present at the 2016 UN Solution Summit. By capturing all the information available, Darewin offers scientists the necessary data to make better connections between communication and behavioural habits. So, we know that whales communicate, but what are they saying? And how complex is that communication? Here, Darewin has collated significant data surrounding the whistle-ID of both captive and wild dolphins. It is known that dolphins in captivity use whistles as a form of ID, so Schnöller set about collecting the signatures of a wild pod off the coast of Réunion Island. His results showed that each dolphin used a unique whistle when approaching him in the water, as if they were presenting themselves. “Scientists have said that yes, dolphins use their whistle when they come to you, but it can’t be proven that they are introducing themselves, and they are right. But when you are in the water, you know they are doing that.” The same can be said for sperm whales, of which Darewin has amassed the largest collection of behavioural and vocalisation data ever recorded. When Buyle was freediving with a pod of sperm whales, he witnessed an incredibly rare sight – a live birth. But it is what the mother did next that most surprised the team. “The mother took the baby in her mouth and she brought it to Fred. He felt like the mother was presenting him her baby.” There is, of course, no way of scientifically proving that this was what the mother was doing, even though they felt it when underwater. This is where Darewin’s VR technology aims to shed further light. By capturing every element, scientists will be better equipped to understand the intricate


details of what is happening underwater, from both a communication and a behavioural perspective. Darewin is also exposing our own species’ naivety when it comes to how we interpret communication. Schnöller notes that we project our own way of communicating onto cetaceans and try to make determinations from this perspective, but the truth is that they communicate in their own unique way, using a sensory system we do not possess. “They have sonar,” he says. “Sonar can convey more information that just sound. We don’t have the sensory system for this, so we don’t ‘get it’.” Anthropomorphism – the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities – extends, it would seem, to communication. Using the jawbone as an antenna, and teeth as receivers, sonar enables whales to create a 3D map of everything around them. So when Schnöller and the Darewin team enter the water, the cetaceans around them can physically see through them too, in much the same way as an x-ray machine. In addition, Schnöller notes that sperm whales can collectively communicate through a term he calls overlapping. “I have to stop talking and listen when you talk,” he says. “We cannot talk and listen at the same time, but sperm whales can.” It is our Umwelt, the term coined by the early 20th century biologist Jakob von Uexküll, that proposes our objective reality to be absolute. Schnöller sums this up perfectly: “Just try to explain to someone who has been blind all of their life what it’s like to see.” Sperm whale communications are extremely diverse. Their clicks can be as short as 1/1000 of a second, and their range goes all the way up to their ‘gunshot’, one of the most powerful sounds on the planet – as loud as 230 decibels. To put this into perspective, a jet taking off registers at around 150 decibels from 25 metres, enough to rupture an eardrum. Scientists claim that anything between 180-200 is enough to kill. These powerful sounds enable whales to communicate over truly enormous distances – thousands of miles. Regarding the huge distances over which whales are able to communicate, we must consider the larger questions surrounding the impact human activity in the oceans plays on the health of cetaceans. Offshore oil drilling, fracking and seismic surveys, for example, emit such significant underwater sounds that, according to a report published in the Journal of Experimental

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TOP: Schnöller using a 360° camera mounted on a ray-bio-inspired device with multiple hydrophones built to record whales and dolphins clicks. BOTTOM: Schnöller filming spotted dolphins in Bimini, Bahamas

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“What started as an inquiry into whale communication has developed into a broader consideration of whale consciousness, and our duty to their welfare."

The first 360° camera/ sound recording prototype being deployed in Mauritius, 2011.

Inquisitive sperm whales come in for a closer look at the prototype.

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“Sperm whale brains possess spindle cell neurones, which are most commonly associated with empathy.”

Biology, whales avoid otherwise populated areas and even change their migratory patterns. Worse still, underwater sound is also directly related to cetacean death. The well-publicised mass stranding of Curvier’s beaked whales, Blainville’s beaked whales and northern minke whales in the Bahamas in 2000, for example, has been acknowledged by the US Government as a direct result of mid-frequency military sonar use. What started as an inquiry into whale communication has developed into a broader consideration of whale consciousness, and our duty to their welfare. People often recall the moment they make eye contact with a whale – they feel connected in some unknown way to another sentient being, a trans-species communication that supersedes objective thought. Schnöller explains regarding sperm whales, for example, the evidence of consciousness is alarmingly clear. “They educate their calves for 15 years,” he says. “Why do they do this? What do they need 15 years for? To catch some squid? I don’t think so.” Indeed, sperm whales possess the largest brain in the animal kingdom, and their neocortex, the part of the brain that controls higher-level function, including cognitive behaviour, perception and language, is six times larger than a human’s, and far denser. They also possess spindle cell neurones, which are most commonly associated with empathy. This evidence suggests that sperm whales, among other cetaceans, have brains that allow them to feel emotion, intuition and goes some way to explain just how diverse their communications truly are. “Firstly, we have to ask, what is consciousness? And then we have to ask, how can we say that we are more conscious than them?” says Schnöller. “We are not so different. These animals are very social, they have empathy, and you can feel it when you meet them, but you can also take it from the scientific, biological angle too.” What it fundamentally comes down to is an emotional response, and it is this emotional response that Schnöller believes is the way to create a more harmonious existence with whales and the wider marine population. “When I’m in the water, I know they are communicating with me,” says Schnöller. “So I think if we really want to raise awareness of animals among people, we have to create something emotional. For me, raising the idea of consciousness in animals is about targeting one very simple thing, to say that they deserve the same rights as us. They are sentient beings with emotions like us. So the last wall between us and the animal, for me, is language.” Darewin continues to bridge the gap. As of this moment, Schnöller is in arctic Norway trialling a new invention with orcas, something he jokingly calls the Orca Talker, to further glean information about the complexities of cetacean communication. We know their communications are multifaceted, but is there anything else we can learn? “The basic idea was to capture the orcas’ acoustic signatures, to see what they’re saying.” For this, Schnöller invented a special tool to bounce the clicks back at the animal to see how they reacted. He says: “The tool [has] three acoustic lenses that create rebounds in the sound and make a hologram to see if they receive it, how they react and whether they’ll be interested.” Only after this winter season will their results be revealed – another step in data collection. By mapping signatures in this way, the team will also be able to match cetacean dialect with other recordings, thus making it possible to determine where the whales have come from. As Schnöller says, “Maybe there’s a possibility for us to find out what sounds are used and from where, like humans with different languages.” With all research that is at the frontier of discovery, the process is a long and arduous one, but it is only by staunchly pursuing this knowledge that we will be able to understand in greater detail. Darewin is asking the right questions at the right time. The better we understand the language of cetaceans, the more likely we are to instil positive change within our oceans.

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fishing for a future

Like millions of fisherwomen around the world, Kokoly relies on the ocean to live, as both a source of income and nutrition. With local fish stocks depleted and once vibrant reefs turned to rock, Kokoly’s life is now one of survival. Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y G a r t h C r i p p s

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ore than 100 million people in the global South rely on small-scale fishing for their livelihoods and food. These not so small small-scale fishers make up more than 90% of the world’s fishermen and fisherwomen. They fish in near-shore tropical ecosystems, which harbour a variety of marine life. But the lives of these people are ever more precarious. Overfishing, both by small-scale fishers themselves but also industrial fishing fleets, has greatly undermined the fishing stocks they rely on. Climate change, as the result of man-made CO2 emissions, is making the oceans hotter and more acidic, further diminishing sea life. At the same time, these coastal communities face rising ocean levels and increasingly extreme weather events. Marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures works with small-scale fishers across the tropics to rebuild their fish stocks. With support from the Sundance Institute Stories of Change, I set out to document the challenges many of these small-scale fishers face. I teamed up with Paul Antion, Blue Ventures's Outreach Manager living in Southwest Madagascar. We decided to focus on fisherwomen. In most traditional fishing communities, women not only fish, but make and fix nets, and process and trade catches. They live from fishing, but most have no rights over their fisheries, and are often at the bottom of global seafood supply chains that drive overfishing. Research published in the late 1980s shows that fisherwomen in Oceana caught a significant part of the region's marine food. The regular way they fished also made women more reliable providers of protein for subsistence than men. But more than 30 years on, the huge role of fisherwomen still goes largely unrecognised and often unpaid. For a couple of weeks Paul and I travelled along the southwest coast – the homeland of Madagascar's traditional Vezo fishing people – meeting and just talking to Vezo fisherwomen. We came across many strong characters and stories, including one woman who said “now that I have seaweed farming, I don't need a husband anymore”, but one person stood out: a small diminutive octopus fisherwomen from Lamboara. Kokoly. In October 2016, Paul and I began visiting Lamboara to document how Kokoly survived from the ocean. We spent hours picking our way over vast reef flats where Kokoly foraged for octopus, sea cucumbers and urchins. We paddled out to the edge of the barrier reef where she fished with a hand line. Some days we walked kilometres to the mangrove forests, where Kokoly gathered bait or cut mangrove poles to build her house. When the tide was low enough, Kokoly would tend her seaweed lines between fishing trips. We would be up at dawn as she went out to sea. Most days, as the tide came in and Kokoly returned from the sea, we'd

PREVIOUS: Kokoly catches an octopus – her primary catch. RIGHT: Venturing further out to sea in a boat she built herself, from lessons handed down by her father.


“For a couple of weeks Paul and I travelled along the southwest coast – the homeland of Madagascar's traditional Vezo fishing people. We came across many strong characters and stories ... but one person stood out: a small, diminutive octopus fisherwoman from Lamboara. Kokoly.


“One of the reasons Kokoly is such a skilled fisherwoman, and that she can do a lot of things at sea typically considered the reserve of men, is that she was one of five daughters. Her father, with no other men to help him, had to take the girls out to sea as soon as they were able.”

shelter from the relentless sun in the shadow of a neem tree, where Kokoly's extended family would gather to rest and chew the fat while they repaired nets and the women plaited each other’s hair. Kokoly told us, "God didn’t make me to sleep during the day. I have to keep working and doing something". Our experience bore this out. When she wasn't out at sea, she'd be salting fish, processing sea cucumbers or gathering tree resin in the forest (traditionally Vezo use resin from a euphorbia tree species to seal the hulls of their wooden outrigger canoes). As dusk brought some respite from the heat, Kokoly would go to the beach to repair her wooden canoe or clean her seaweed lines. If she had caught fish that day, she would gut them for supper, then feed her ducks. Each night, just before darkness fell, she would herd her ducks into their shelter for the night. Kokoly is the most genial and affable of people; Paul speaks Vezo fluently and the two of them got along like old friends. Their conversations were long and wide ranging. By February 2017 we had more than enough footage to give a glimpse into the life of a fisherwoman and how she survives by fishing. We now had to carve a ten-minute film out of it. Writers are encouraged to ‘murder their darlings’. We didn't go that far, but with a character as unusual as Kokoly in a context as both visually striking and humanly complex as Lamboara, we weren't able to portray in the film much of what we witnessed and most of the footage ended up on the floor of the editing room. Every documentary filmmaker must have 1,001 offcuts they wish they could have included. Unusually for a woman, Kokoly was skilled at building and repairing the wooden outrigger sailboats that are so fundamental to Vezo life. One evening, sitting on the beach, she explained how she came to learn her skills: "I’d always watch the men putting their boats together, when they'd work on the outrigger, I’d be there watching. If they'd work on the joints, which are difficult, I'd watch them. That’s how I know how to do it. My father and my grandfather, they knew how to do it all, to build traditional sailing ships. Wherever my dad would go, I’d go. I’d rather be there than playing with my friends. Just to watch what they were doing. When I was still in school, I wouldn’t make it in time to see what they had done, so I’d ask my father ‘what is this?’, ‘how'd you build it?’ He’d say, ‘oh, this is for the outrigger.’ I'd ask him, ‘why 34

don't you make me a toy boat to play with?’ He'd ask, ‘you girls want a toy boat?’ Even though we were girls, we also wanted to play. So, he built us a boat so we could play. And there I was, building boats." One of the reasons Kokoly is such a skilled fisherwoman, and that she can do a lot of things at sea typically considered the reserve of men, is that she was one of five daughters. Her father, with no other men to help him, had to take the girls out to sea as soon as they were able. Kokoly's father died when she was a teenager, and the women of the family had to look after themselves. Talking to Kokoly, you could sense a longing and fondness for a time when the sea was still alive, and she would go out fishing with her father: "When I went with him, we’d catch a lot of fish. We’d freedive and get all kinds of fish – unicorn fish, grouper, sharks. When we’d be freediving and we saw sharks we’d jump back into the boat because they bite. He’d get back into the boat and grab his spear, but first he’d say, ‘paddle, paddle but do be careful not to bang the paddle against the boat, it’ll scare him and we won’t catch him.’ So, we’d paddle slowly until we were close. He’d throw the spear and we’d get the shark. Sometimes two sharks, but our boat was too small so we could only fit one in the boat with the net and fish, so the other we’d have on a rope behind us. “It makes me sad because there aren’t any more sharks, they were worth too much. What used to be so plentiful now you can’t find them anymore, like turtles or trevallies, there aren’t any. It was better, but now everything’s worth so much. It’s terrible, it makes me really sad. Everything’s difficult to find, what’s left is hiding far away, because they’re scared." The changes in sea life she had witnessed and how market demand had driven that was a leitmotif in Kokoly and Paul's conversations. She would grow nostalgic over memories of the sprawling corals, colourful and varied with plentiful numbers of octopus sitting contentedly in amongst it. Nowadays, it’s been decimated to sand and rocks. She said: "There won’t be anything like that again. It’s over. Now we’re suffering." Kokoly explained how once, fishing was mainly for subsistence. When no one bought fresh octopus, she and her sisters would catch it just for food or dry it for a little money. They’d take it further south to Manombo to trade for cassava and maize. But nowadays, the octopuses are

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TOP: A catch, and a smile. MIDDLE: Kokoly outside her nephew's house - temporary accommodation while she rebuilds her own home. BOTTOM: Returning to the village having harvested seaweed.

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“Kokoly would grow nostalgic over memories of the sprawling corals, colourful and varied with octopus sitting contentedly in amongst it. Nowadays, it's been decimated to sand and rocks. She said: "There won't be anything like that again. It's over. Now we're suffering.�

MAIN IMAGE: Kokoly prods and probes rocks for hiding octopus. TOP: Returning to shore. MIDDLE & BOTTOM: Tending to her seaweed crop.

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“Before, there used to be a lot of sharks, but now there aren't any. They're all gone because they're worth so much. It's like gold. It's all gold, event sea cucumbers, even crabs. Everything.”

Kokoly freediving to catch octopus. The need to venture into deeper water in order to find prey is increasingly common.

few and far between, having been overfished due to a skyrocketing price and demand. “Octopus is worth too much, too many people are buying it, too many people are catching it," she explained. "Before, there used to be a lot of sharks too, but now there aren't any. They're all gone because they're worth so much. It's like gold. It’s all gold, even sea cucumbers, even crabs. Everything, once it’s worth something, you won’t see it anymore." In affluent countries, we buy our food in supermarkets and work in diverse economies. For most of us, we earn our salaries and can buy our food regardless of what is happening in the natural environment. We are largely disconnected from natural life in the sea or on the land. But the changes in the marine environment and plunge in catches made Kokoly poor. She'd often muse about money: "When I get money, there’s a lot I can get with it. I’ll buy dishes, pots and pans, buckets, blankets, clothes… And you're not starving, whenever you're hungry you can buy something to eat." Many fisherwomen borrow money from the seafood middlemen or shopkeepers, but Kokoly tries not to: "I’m afraid of borrowing money. I’m afraid of being in a lot of debt to the shopkeepers. So, I’m not borrowing today, and we’re not eating. Not even a week ago, I borrowed money. Rice is now going for 550 ariary per cup, if you get 10 cups that’s 5,500 ariary [1.16 GBP or 1.50 USD]. Now it’s all gone. I also had 500 ariary of tea and bokoboko, so that’s 6,000 ariary [1.27 GBP or 1.63 USD]. I’m afraid because that’s already a lot, it's too much." Significantly diminished fish stocks and the associated collapse in catches has been the source of great hardship for Kokoly. Even though she tried to hide that fact from us with her whimsical and happy temperament, it was an unavoidable truth. You may come away from our film about Kokoly (available to watch on the Oceanographic website) thinking she is unique. As a person she is; but tens of millions of other traditional fisherwomen throughout the tropics lead the same precarious life she does. Women who are skilled and hardworking but who face daily hardship because of the collapsing natural environments around them. As we lurch into global climate breakdown and mass extinction, the words of Kokoly are all too true: "We used to think that nothing would run out. Everything was going so well." Oceanographic Issue 10



By Dr Easkey Britton

The social ecologist NO SUCH THING AS AWAY “ The Cigarette Surfboard. It's an unusual and provocative way of starting conversations with strangers about the consequences of our mindless everyday behaviours and habits.”

Photograph courtesy of the Cigarette Surfboard.


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sing cigarette butts and surfing to build ocean mindfulness and stewardship is the introduction to industrial designer Taylor Lane and filmmaker Ben Judkins creative and environmental surf film project known as The Cigarette Surfboard. It’s an unusual and provocative way of starting a conversation with total strangers about the consequences of our mindless everyday behaviours and habits, a mentality of littering represented with the flick of a cigarette butt. They argue how this represents our single-use, throw-away culture and its effects on the ocean. It all started with a creative response to the question, “What kind of trash could we salvage to make a poignant statement about littering and coastal health, while capturing the hearts and minds of surfers, environmentalists and everyday citizens?” The answer: Cigarette butts – the most littered item in the world (5.6 trillion a year). What most people might not realise is that these butts are made from plastic. Floating in the seas and our bathing waters are trillions of these butts, leaching thousands of toxic chemicals into the water. There are currently three ciggy surfboards traveling the world with Taylor and Ben, an evolution of earlier models. They gathered thousands of butts from the beach and using recycled foam surfboard blanks they carefully inlaid and glassed the butts into the deck and bottom of the ciggy boards, creating beautiful, striking visual designs and patterns. I met Taylor and Ben for the first time in the north-west of Ireland last year at a place called the Fairy Bridges, ancient limestone sea arches with the Atlantic ocean roaring below. Since, they’ve been on a journey around the world meeting influential surfers, environmental activists and designers to challenge the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and to explore the responsibility surfers and the surf industry have to be stewards of the sea, what actions are being taken, and what are the technological, ecological, social and cultural creative design solutions. And, crucially, what can each of us do to improve the current state of our ocean’s health, and why the health of the ocean is essential for all humans, wherever we are on the planet. The Cigarette Surfboard is not unlike a powerful talking stick – when it is passed to a surfer, passerby or stranger it opens up a whole field of curiosity, discussion and reflection. Through sharing waves and riding these boards in different places around the world, powerful stories are being shared full of personal connection and affinity with the ocean, and universal themes, across cultures. Nowhere on earth is plastic pollution not a problem, and no part of the ocean remains ‘untouched’ either. We used to believe that the sheer



volume of our oceans, about 1.335 billion cubic kilometres, would dilute any of the waste we put in it – ‘dilution is the solution to pollution.’ Yet, our planet’s greatest body of water is becoming increasingly vulnerable. The most vivid example of how tangled our societal actions and human behaviours are with the ocean, and how there is no such thing as away, is the emergence of microplastics in our seas and food chain. Microplastics are so widespread that they are in our drinking water and entering our bodies, with poorly understood consequences. It is estimated that we eat, swallow, and breathe in 2,000 tiny plastic particles a week, about the size of a credit card. Despite this, projections for plastic production are set to double and triple in the coming years. Taylor and Ben try to address this huge question, where will all the plastic go – landfills, the oceans, outer space? Through the Cigarette Surfboard, stories are being gathered of how we might restore our oceans, and our societies, to a state of good health. These stories include the political impact of the activism of Chris Hines and Surfers Against Sewage, who rallied the masses to change UK law, putting a stop to raw sewage pollution; the influence of environmental campaigners and advocates Sustainable Coastline Hawaii, Kokua Foundation and Surfrider pushing Bill 40, a law that would make Hawai’i the first US state to ban single-use plastics (Hawai’i has already banned chemical sunscreen harmful to coral reefs and plastic shopping bags); Precious Plastic, the innovation of Dave Hakkens and his team of creatives in the Netherlands who invented DIY open-source technology to recycle plastic waste; Moy Hill Community Farm in Ireland recognising the importance of land-sea connections, and the benefits of regenerative agriculture not only for growing good food and maintaining healthy ecosystems but growing community too. These are powerful reminders of how it’s all connected. There is no such thing as away. With each wave ridden the story continues to grow, of small and big waves of change gaining momentum around the world. EB About Easkey Dr Easkey Britton, surfer and founder of Like Water, is a marine social scientist at the National University of Ireland Galway. Her work explores the relationship between people and the sea, using her passion for the ocean to create social change and connection across cultures. Currently resides in Donegal, Ireland. Follow the Cigarette Surfboard: www.thecigarettesurfboard.com @thecigarettesurfboard

Oceanographic Issue 10



The balance of things For some, the ocean is an ever-present part of their existence, perhaps even identity. For others, it is a distant and unknown expanse, never seen or felt or smelled. For one girl brought up in Italy's Po Valley, the ocean was a near-mythical obsession, as were the whales that called it home. Then, in adulthood, she headed for the coast, to a place she had never been but always known... Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y L u c i a Vi n a s c h i


Oceanographic Issue 10


Oceanographic Issue 10




aised in northern Italy in the middle of the Po valley, I have spent the majority of my life far from the sea. I have simultaneously spent most of my life feeling a tension, an inclination to leave life inland behind and head for the coast, that endless place of unbroken horizons. I thought relentlessly about the ocean and the creatures that live in it. As the years passed, I started to listen to that voice within, to give shape to the unformed ideas and feelings that had always – and uncompromisingly – just been there. It was important for me to learn, to experience, first-hand, the life of the sea, its sights, sounds, smells: the lifeblood of this planet. My fascination centred most acutely on cetaceans; when thick fogs descended upon the Po valley, a mythical sea of sorts, I always imagined the huge flukes of whales emerging from within the mist before crashing back within the great shifting and temporary waters. Whales have, for a reason unknown to me, always lived in my heart. As a photographer, one of the things that fascinates me almost as much as the cetaceans themselves, is the people who dedicate their lives to understanding these creatures – their biology, their behaviour, their unknown futures. The pull of the sea, and of the creatures that live within it, soon transformed into a fascination with the people who speak the language of the sea, who live by it, on it, in it, who feel it and breathe it. I wanted to tell their story through photography. In 2018, I contacted Michelle Gelippi, an Italian marine biologist who moved to Baja California, Mexico to study grey whales during the mating season. I suggested I join her for a field season in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon, to tell her story as a woman of the sea, and reveal the importance of the breeding ground these whales used and, excitingly, to connect with the whales myself. I arrived to Mexico with a wealth of knowledge, acquired from books, about the beautiful baleen whales that I would encounter on their annual migration – 15-metre, 35-tons and up to 70 years old. Incredibly, the grey whale is the sole living species in the genus Eschrichtius, which in turn is the sole living genus in the family Eschrichtiidae. This mammal descended from filter-feeding whales that appeared at the beginning of the Oligocene, more than 30 million years ago. Today, there are two remaining grey whale populations: a critically endangered population in the Western North Pacific, believed to have as few as 150 individuals; and an Eastern North Pacific population that, having been reduced to low numbers due to whaling, has returned to healthier numbers – in 1994 this population was removed from the US Endangered Species list. There was also once an North Atlantic population of grey whales. Intensive whaling over many centuries drove this population to extinction – the heart-wrenching reality of the impact our species’ actions can have on the underwater world and the creatures who call it home. PREVIOUS: Grey whales migrating. (Photograph by Kyle Munson) RIGHT: Dr Javier Caraveo readies himself for the next whale biopsy.


“As a photographer, one of the things that fascinates me almost as much as the cetaceans themselves, is the people who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of understanding these creatures – their biology, their behaviour, their unknown futures.�


“I met my first whale on my first day in Guerrero Negro. An entire life spent dreaming of these majestic creatures had come to this moment. It was an emotional experience that impacted me deeply, not least because the whale was not in the water but washed ashore, dead.” Whatever knowledge I arrived to Mexico with, I knew it would soon be bolstered – if not usurped – by a much more compelling, authentic and perhaps reconstructed first-hand knowledge. The kind that you can acquire only with direct experience. When I first met Michelle, in the village of Guerrero Negro, near the Ojo de Liebre lagoon, I felt an instant connection with her. It is a rare thing, something I cannot explain fully – an affinity that binds me to the people of the sea. Michelle has courageously chosen, for the love of the ocean and whales, to move full-time to Mexico, with her husband Marco, also a marine biologist, and her son Gioele. During my time in Guerrero Negro, I lived in a tent at the local headquarters of the Cibnor, the research centre where Michelle is enrolled in a doctoral program. Being there was a gift. I was able to observe all aspects of the lives these biologists lead. I got to know their routines, to discreetly be part of it. Michelle’s work, developed under the supervision of Dr Javier Caraveo, serves to build a complete view of the health of grey whales during the crucial period of reproduction. Whales, and all cetaceans, are great bioindicators of the health of the ocean, so Michelle’s work will add to the broader conversation around ocean health as well as add information and data to grey whale research. I met my first whale on my first day in Guerrero Negro. An entire life spent dreaming of these majestic creatures had come to this moment. It was an emotional experience that impacted me deeply, not least because the whale was not in the water but washed ashore, dead. Michelle and Javier went to work on the carcass and catalogued their findings. Michelle explained how the whale had become part of the life of the desert by leaving the sea behind, it’s flesh and bones now food for coyotes and other land animals. It was striking: land and sea, so often thought of as separate, yet so directly linked. That continuity of life and death, land and sea, was clearer to me than I had ever seen it, despite understanding how intrinsically linked all of Earth’s ecosystems and animals are. I’d had my first encounter with a whale, and with Michelle's wisdom. Our daily routine consisted of waking up at 5am and heading out to the sea. The days were marked by a slow rhythm. To understand those animals and the people studying them I had to lose a conception of time that, for the duration of my life to that point, had remained consistent. I became a disciple of patience. Our activities


were bound by the presence of light, rain, and wind. I am used to working with people, but here I had to adapt to a new system of observing and photographing. It was something I didn't foresee, and therefore wasn’t prepared for. The whales spoke to me with a silent language, the language of the wild. They told me that this place was theirs, sacred and ancient. The rules that governed humankind did not apply here. This was something inherently understood by Michelle and Javier. I realised, as time passed, how lucky I was to experience this place in the rawest way possible – not on tourist boats, but with biologists. There was no whooping and hollering when interactions occurred, rather calmness and respect – for both the whales and the ocean. I learned from them, their respect for the animals and ecosystem with which they interacted on such a regular basis, a place they sought to understand and protect. They taught me about dedication, and that respect for something – real respect – doesn’t necessarily have to be declared. Actions matter. They were masterful lessons. The objective of Michelle's research is to study the ecophysiology of the grey whale during its lagoon stopover. The central body of her research is based on the analysis of biopsies collected from the superficial fat layer of grey whales – both mothers and calves. It was a privilege to experience the routine of those biopsies. It’s a ritual that requires great patience, attention and strength. Strikingly, when the samples were being taken, Javier made me think of the harpooners who hunted this population of whales to near-extinction. His action and intent are, of course, exactly the opposite of slaughter: the collection of data that could help this population survive and thrive, rather than the collection of blubber. Just as important as the tissue samples of the majestic grey whales were samples of the tiny plankton on which they feed. The whales’ primary food source, studying and understanding the lagoon’s plankton will offer the team a fuller picture of the state of the marine environment in which the whales reproduce. It formulates a fundamental part of Michelle's work. It is fascinating – still even to Michelle as a marine biologist – that the health of the mighty grey whale population and the lagoon at large depends so heavily on such a small organism. A remarkable example of the connectivity of things. For Michelle and Javier, fieldwork is always followed by time in the laboratory, where samples turn into data. The same, to some extent, is true for me: my experiences and images collected, translated and ordered to tell a story: a story not of the science on this occasion, but of observation and admiration. It was fascinating for me to understand the mechanisms of research, to feel the diligence and quiet commitment of the researchers who dedicate themselves to the ocean and the creatures who call it home, who pursue knowledge and understanding in the hope of achieving an earthly balance once again. Here’s to Michelle. And Javier. And their colleagues. And grey whales. And plankton. And everyone else out there working to achieve equilibrium.

Oceanographic Issue 10


TOP: Dr Caraveo prepares to take the biopsy of a mother and calf. The instrument used is about five metres long. MIDDLE: A curious calf breaches for a closer inspection of the biologists and their boat. BOTTOM: Biopsy collected, Michelle Gelippi carefully catalogues the sample.

Oceanographic Issue 10



By Hanli Prinsloo

The ocean activist THE LONG GAME


hile walking the dog on the beach just below the village where I live, I stop dead in my tracks. There he is. The sun is already high in the sky as he hauls himself onto the rocks. Tattered old wetsuit, patched and worn fins, mask and snorkel. I don’t even have to wait to see the tell-tale signs – the bag, dripping wet, hurriedly stuffed into a backpack, the baggy jeans slipped on over wetsuit or the nonchalant stroll to the nearby train station. I watch as hundreds of dollars worth of protected ocean treasure is carried away. Another day, another poacher. Abalone poaching in South Africa is a symptom of so many social, economic and environmental challenges that your head starts pounding just contemplating the complexity. In his book ‘Poacher’, fellow ocean lover and journalist Kimon de Greeff follows the story of an active and successful poacher Shuhood (not his real name). Stories of near-death experiences in the icy kelp forests using out-of-date and dangerous scuba gear flows into kind of shark encounter stories that will make your toes curl up and your breath quicken. Poachers get paid around USD33 a kilogram for a product sold for USD540 a plate in China. Poverty drives desperation and desperate men enter an ocean they hardly know to harvest this white gold. Powerful cartels drive the sales and export, seeing over six million illegal abalone leave the country each year, an underground industry worth USD60 –120 million. I recently attended a reading with Kimon at my local bookshop where he shared first-hand experiences getting to know the poachers. We were spellbound. "So where is Shuhood now?" someone asks. Before Kimon could reply a soft voice from the back of the room answers, "I’m here". Shuhood takes to the stage. With so many questions, accusations and also compassion burning inside me my hand shoots up: "You’ve spent so much time in the ocean harvesting, and now you say you’re done. What is your relationship with the ocean today?" He looks down at his shoes and quietly considers my question. Then he starts to speak of all the friends he’s lost ‘to the sea’. Drownings and arrests, but mostly drowning. "The sea gave me so much," he says, "but it also took so much away. I think today my relationship is one of hate and also love." He looks me right in the eyes and says, "You know it’s not the easy road, poaching. Yes it’s good money but your life is on the line every night. Have you dived the offshore reefs in the dead of night?" he asks me. I shake my head no, you’d have to be mad to do that I think. Or desperate. "I could’ve picked drugs you know," he goes on. "But I didn’t want to do that." He doesn’t elaborate further. Just last month one of the children on our I AM WATER workshop had a wound in his leg from a gun shot that was fired across the school yard in a dangerous spate of drug gang violence. Maybe he has children. And so there we sit, a room full of ocean lovers, hearing the harsh realities of conservation in a country of inequality. "I didn’t know pearly is an animal!" a boy exclaims on the first day of our I AM WATER Ocean Guardians workshop. Jayden lives in a community less than five kilometres from the ocean. He’s never been in the water here and he doesn’t know how to swim but he knows this beach because this is where the men from his family come to dive for ‘pearly’, the local name for abalone. All along the coastline underserved coastal communities are faced with ethical and moral choices vastly overshadowed by their needs. We’ve strategically expanded our programs to include poaching hotspots. The children we work with know the ocean only as a resource, not as a place of beauty, important ecosystems, or something to protect. We believe that education and experience instils a change in behaviour. We’re playing the long game. Tomorrow morning instead of a poacher crawling out onto the rocks, we will see the I AM WATER team putting masks on young faces and encouraging them to overcome their fear of the sea to see what lies below. A vibrant seascape worth more than its weight in dollars. HP

An I AM WATER participant enjoying South Africa's coastline. Photograph by Katherine Wallis.


Oceanographic Issue 10




“Jayden has never been in the water here and he doesn't know how to swim, but he knows this beach because this is where the men from this family come to dive for 'pearly', the local name for abalone�

About Hanli Hanli Prinsloo is a South African freediver and ocean advocate. She is the founder of I AM WATER, a Durban-based charity that seeks to reconnect South Africa's underserved urban youth with the ocean. www.iamwaterfoundation.org

Oceanographic Issue 10



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Behind the lens I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H

Behind the Lens places a spotlight on the world’s foremost ocean conservation photographers. Each edition focusses on the work of an individual who continues to shape global public opinion through powerful imagery and compelling storytelling.




BEHIND THE LENS The Annual Collection The power of imagery to invoke a desire to change, to do, to take action, is significant. Often just as powerful as the photographs themselves, are the words that accompany them, the behind-the-scenes story of the there and then, the inspiration for the shot or why its subject matters. We have been enormously privileged to feature the work of some of the world's finest ocean conservation photographers, each of them a member of the SeaLegacy Collective, throughout 2019. In honour of that collective, we have collated some of the featured photographers' most powerful work not previously featured, along with a selection of their most insightful quotes.

I was ignorant about the big ocean issues, the threats it faced. When I stared out at it, it seemed infinite and all powerful. It didn’t seem possible there could be any limits to this place. Honestly, I don’t think I expected my journey to take me to the ocean. J OHN WE LL ER Issue 05

There are very few environments where a human is just there to observe rather than to control. You can’t control the underwater environment, all you can do is watch what is going on down there, everything working in a natural and uninterrupted way. LU C I A N O CAN DISANI Issue 08


Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent in the world. I always think of Antarctica as a planet on our planet. It looks as if everything stopped at the time of creation. Everything is in harmony, pristine and pure, probably because no humans ever colonised the continent. DA IS Y G IL A R DIN I Issue 06

If I could go back to 30 years ago, I would have thought we would have solved most, if not all of our environmental problems and recognised how rare these last wild places are on the planet by now. I would have thought that plans and solutions to protect them indefinitely would have been well under way today but unfortunately, it seems that the opposite has happened. IA N MC A L L IS T E R Issue 07

Oceanographic Issue 10


The First Nations throughout the Great Bear Rainforest have well over 10,000 years of continual history in the region and they represent most of the population there today. So, it absolutely makes sense that First Nations should be leading all the stewardship and economic development projects and issues firsthand. IAN MC A LLI ST ER Issue 07

Photography is an extremely powerful tool to deliver messages. It’s the only universal language, understood by everybody, no matter which country you’re from, no matter your language or level of education. I feel privileged every time I’m in the field and I’m grateful for every minute I can spend with wildlife. DA IS Y G IL A R DIN I Issue 06

It’s something I’m really dedicated to, working with people of the sea who are so closely linked to it and live traditional lives – I think it’s a beautiful way of life. Many of these communities have learned over generations how to explore the marine environment in a sustainable way. L UC IA N O C A N DIS A N I Issue 08

The paper blew my world apart. The idea that there could be one last intact large marine ecosystem left of Earth was almost impossible for me to understand because, as I’ve said, I had this perception of the ocean as this infinite place. Yet here was this story that totally contradicted that perception. JO HN WE LLER Issue 05

Ultimately, I see the two roles [photographer and conservationist] as part of the same thing – highlighting the plight and trade of endangered species. Information and photography both play critical roles in helping to better conserve or protect a species. Fundamentally, I’m more of a conservationist with a camera. PAUL HILTO N Issue 09

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In that moment we were witnessing not only a massive win for Antarctica, but a massive win for the world. This was not just an MPA, it was a peace treaty. What I witnessed in that building gives me faith and the belief that if enough of us speak up and tell this truth that we need to protect our planet, we can achieve great things. J O HN WE LL ER Issue 05

There is an ancient relationship between humans and the wildlife of the Great Bear Rainforest. Sometimes I think it’s the wildlife that is looking at us wondering: “How did we go so wrong? How did we allow you to change direction?” It feels sometimes that they have a sympathy for us. IA N MC A L L IS T E R Issue 07

I followed them to a drying facility, where we saw piles of shark fins before entering another room where we saw gills laid out on the floor and on part of the roof. I asked the fishermen what was going on. They said they would be sending the shipment to China. PAUL HI LTON Issue 09

As photography is all about visual interpretation, I think a core difficulty can be how little time you often get to spend with subjects that are completely out of your control. It can be tricky to get the perfect combination of variables to both capture a strong image and build a powerful visual narrative. L UC IA N O C A N DIS A N I Issue 08


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I think the awareness of issues like shark finning is there now, yes, but it’s still happening – out on the high seas and out of sight. That’s the trouble with these long range fisheries, they’re out there plundering the world’s ocean where no one can see them. PAUL HI LTO N Issue 09

I am just a tiny little element in the much larger universe. Consequently, this taught me humility. I came to realise my own life is interconnected with the life of all other living creatures on Earth, plants or animals. Respecting nature also means respecting myself and humankind. DAI SY GI LAR D I NI Issue 06

Humankind absolutely has never been so disconnected from nature as it is nowadays. I am the person I am because of the core values I acquired during my childhood. The time spent walking barefoot in the woods, and the time I spent with farm animals. Those experiences are all a part of who I am today. DA IS Y G IL A R DIN I Issue 06

It feels sometimes that they have a sympathy for us because we’ve altered course so much from our connection to the natural world and to the other species of this planet. I’m always amazed at how tolerant so many animals are of us. I don’t think I would be nearly as patient if I was a grizzly bear. IA N MC A L L IS T E R Issue 07

The link between species and the environment – wildlife and humans – is so beautiful and essential. It is something that moves me. One of the problems of conservation is the loss of original habitats as this disrupts that link. The biggest problems facing the planet have arisen as a result of that lost connection. L UC IA N O C A N DIS A N I Issue 08

Oceanographic Issue 10



Paul Hilton A pod of spinner dolphins on dawn patrol in Sri Lanka.

Daisy Gilardini A polar bear cub strikes a pose while its mother rests.

John Weller Vibrancy of life. A cluster of seastars beneath an icy waterline.

Luciano Candisani Family. A humpback calf stays close to its mother's side.

Paul Hilton Not where they belong. Whale shark fins left to dry in the sun.

Daisy Gilardini A waddle of penguins cast long shadows across the Antarctic snow.

Ian McAllister Lunchtime. Life as it should be in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Luciano Candisani Fishermen take to the sea for the day in Belize.

John Weller Against a white canvas, life abounds in Antarctica.

Ian McAllister Grizzly bear cubs huddle behind their protective mother.

Paul Hilton Manta rays for sale. A heartbreaking sight.

Daisy Gilardini A vivid orange sky burns bright above Antarctica's ice.

Behind the lens EDITOR'S CUT 2019 John Weller Inner space, another world. Seals play beneath the ice.








Oceanographic Issue 10


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Oceanographic Issue 10


Fork IN THE R OA D The private Caribbean island of Mustique, known for its luxury and excess, is embracing sustainability. Is this the future of luxury? Wo rd s b y L i n z i H a w k i n P h o t o g ra p h s b y L u ke H o s t y

Oceanographic Issue 10



“ ”


The more we learn about the issues our planet is facing, the more we recognise where we're screwing up. But there are a number of places taking significant steps – even whole islands committed to change.

Oceanographic Issue 10


ABOVE: Over the last four years, 7,500 fragments of coral have been outplanted from the coral restoration nursery at Endeavour Bay. OPPOSITE: Currently 15% of the island's power comes from solar, with a goal of 75% by 2024. PREVIOUS PAGE: A green turtle swims in Britannia Bay, part of the Mustique Conservation Area that extends 1,000 yards from shore. A designated 'no-take' zone and a protected area for all animals and plants, including coral, fish, birds & reptiles.


ur work at Protect Blue gives us the opportunity to look at ocean conservation through many different perspectives. We’re lucky enough to be immersed in a diverse range of projects from documenting expeditions to building environmental education curriculum and everything in between. The real benefit of working on multiple projects means we’re constantly exploring multiple solutions, and reminded almost daily that there is no one way to solve the challenges that our planet is facing. Our latest project, Ambassadors for the Planet, is an environmental education curriculum that blends design thinking with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. About a year into the project we were introduced to UKbased tutoring company, Enjoy Education. They were keen to run a pilot for Ambassadors for the Planet whilst they were based in Mustique for the summer. The Mustique Company has a pretty impressive approach to sustainability, which made us all the more curious. We based ourselves in Endeavour Bay for our ten days on the island, with mornings spent teaching both local and visiting kids Ambassadors for the Planet and afternoons exploring the island, it’s beautiful reefs and learning more about a new way of reframing luxury. Luxury travel is more often than not synonymous with excess – an exclusive and lavish lifestyle only affordable to the ultra-rich. More for the sake of more. Guests enjoying their chilled (plastic) bottle of water after a workout in the air-conditioned gym overlooking the ocean. Ordering Argentinian steak whilst on holiday in the Maldives or

taking Instagram selfies with elephants – totally oblivious to the impact of any of their actions. Thankfully, and not a day too soon, the growing awareness of environmental issues is impacting the industry. Perhaps not as fast as we would like, but still, things in this sector are changing. It’s nearly impossible for any traveller to avoid the reality of our times – whether that’s climate strikes, Amazonian fires or devastating stories of plastic pollution in our ocean. Suddenly the idea of the perfect luxury trip leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. The way we travel needs to change dramatically, and of course we can’t avoid the inevitable conversation about flying, but added to that is the question of where we choose to go and where we choose to stay. We often forget how much power we have as consumers in the decisions we make and the impact they will have. So what does good look like? And how can we tell the difference between green-washing and genuine impact? One thing we know for sure it that it's not as simple as removing miniature toiletries and swapping out plastic bottles for glass ones. I’m not sure that anyone is doing it perfectly. In fact, I’m not sure that it’s even possible. The more we learn about the issues our planet is facing, the more we recognise where we’re screwing up. But there are a number of places that are taking significant steps. Resorts, hotels and even whole islands that are committed to changing the very way they operate in order to reduce their footprint, whose management teams believe that it is time to change what ‘luxury’ looks like.

Oceanographic Issue 10


Mustique has long been known as the Caribbean’s best kept secret. A small private island in the Grenadines that has become a hideaway for the rich and famous – renowned for wild parties, rockstars and royals. The island’s contemporary history begins in the late 1950s, when Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, bought it for £45,000. Tennant was a flamboyant, wealthy Scot who quickly went about establishing the island’s glamorous reputation. In 1960, he presented Princess Margaret with a 10acre plot of land as a wedding gift and later built her a villa. In 1968, Tennant formed the Mustique Company, privatising the island with the permission of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. There’s a relaxed energy about the place. It seems as if the folk lucky enough to stay here are beyond worrying about how they are perceived, and are most definitely not interested in impressing anyone. For those of us who aren’t accustomed to these kinds of trips, it’s actually quite a relief. The island itself is beautiful – with much of Mustique undeveloped and seemingly unexplored. The terrain is hilly, with hiking paths following the rugged Atlantic-facing coastline and the more serene west coast dotted with calm lagoons and protected bays. We’re taken on a tour of the island by Nakita Poon Kong, the Environmental Manager for the Mustique Company. Originally from Trinidad & Tobago, she’s been working in Mustique for the last two and half years. She jumped at the opportunity to work with the Mustique Company, knowing that her background in environmental management and communications would enable her to make decisions, see tangible outcomes and have real impact. She explains that the island’s shareholders see themselves as custodians and are deeply committed to its long-term conservation for future generations. In 1989 an act was passed declaring the island of Mustique, together with its beaches, foreshore and surrounding waters to be within the Mustique Conservation Area. It’s a designated 'no-take’ zone and a protected area for all animals and plants, including coral, fish, birds and reptiles. A specially formed Environmental Committee was created to protect the Conservation Area and the pristine environment of the island. The committee, made up of villa owners and island management, oversees the establishment and implementation of conservation projects, from turtle tagging and monitoring to responsible fishing and, most importantly, educating future generations about the importance of island conservation. Our first stop, of course, was to jump into the ocean and see for ourselves the incredible work Nakita and her team have been doing to protect the pristine marine ecosystem here. We grabbed masks and fins and leapt off the dock for a closer look. In 2015, Ken Nedimyer, founder of Coral Restoration Foundation International visited the island with his team to set up two coral nurseries, one in Endeavour Bay and another in L’Ansecoy Bay. Since that time, 7,500 fragments of three different types of coral have been outplanted – elkhorn, stag horn and a small amount of fire coral. Elkhorn and staghorn are particularly important when it comes to reef building initiatives. The results of this work have been outstanding, with a dramatic increase in biodiversity and improvement in the health of the marine ecosystem. And it’s easy for guests to experience, with one of the coral nurseries situated just off the jetty at Endeavour Bay, giving Nakita the opportunity to take residents, homeowners and guests on snorkel tours to see what can be achieved when an island commits to protecting it’s natural capital.

Mustique's waters are clear, warm and inviting - and increasingly well looked after.

“ �

The island's shareholders see themselves as custodians and are deeply committed to its long-term conservation.

TOP: Nakita leading a tree planting workshop. MIDDLE: Ambassadors for the Planet lessons at Endeavour Bay – teaching kids how to creativity solve the challenges our planet is facing. BOTTOM: Local children enjoy some ocean immersion to finish up their Ambassadors lesson.


Nakita says her biggest challenge is shifting away from single-use plastics and providing tasty, high quality desalinated water for guests and locals.

During our time on Mustique we’re lucky enough to spend a good amount of time in the waters of Britannia Bay, floating on the surface and watching the turtles grazing on the seagrass beds below. Nakita shares more about the turtle project that is running on the island, in collaboration with WIDECAST, which protects and monitors sea turtles both on and offshore. We head south to learn more about how the island is managed from an operational and logistics point of view. There are one hundred villas on Mustique and a commitment to not allow any further development. It’s this promise that protects the wilderness of this island, and ensures that vital ecosystems, such as their mangrove reserves (the second largest in the Grenadines) are safeguarded. In 2017, the company installed Tesla Batteries, which capture 1,000 KWh. They have an ambitious renewable energy plan to be more than 70% reliant on solar and battery storage by 2024. A baseline study in 2017 determined the island’s carbon emissions and the island has committed to reduce the footprint by 22% by 2025, in line with the St. Vincent & The Grenadines commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. And these commitments aren’t just talk – last year’s report showed a reduction in carbon emissions by 8%. Small islands are always faced with challenges when it comes to waste management, and Mustique is no exception. They have a recycling program where all recyclables are sorted on island and then sent on a ferry to neighbouring St Vincent. The island also has an incinerator where they burn their non-recyclable waste. There’s always room for improvement, and the company has plans to shift towards cleaner incineration technologies – fitting a scrubber on their incinerator to capture any toxins released into the air. Nakita says her biggest challenge right now is shifting away from single-use plastics and providing tasty, high quality, desalinated water for both guests and local residents to enjoy. They’ve installed a desalination plant and water purifying system so that the island has its own fresh water supply and are in the process of banning single-use plastic both within the company offices as well as hotel and bars and restaurants, with the aim to significantly reduce single-use plastic across all of the villas next year. Next up, we stop to eat West Indian cherries, picked straight off the tree from the beautiful permaculture garden situated on the north of the island next to the horse sanctuary. They've planted lots of fruit trees, vegetables and herbs that are maintained by grounds staff. Most importantly, it’s open to the entire community and enables everyone to pick their fruits and vegetables and have a true farm-to-table experience. This is reflected within the restaurants on the island, who also work with Spring Valley Farm, a smallholding located on neighbouring St Vincent, providing organic fresh produce to the island. Later that day we take part in a tree planting workshop near the airport with local kids and homeowners alike. It’s interesting to talk to some of the parents, undoubtedly influenced by their kids, who are more attuned than ever to the issues our planet is facing. It was something we noticed when teaching each morning. We ran two classes each day, one for the local kids whose parents work on island whilst they live and go to school on St Vincent, and a later session for the visiting kids, whose parents either own or rent property on Mustique. Needless to say they live almost incomparable lives – but it soon became obvious that despite their differences, they speak the same language when it comes to protecting our planet. It’s incredible the barriers that fall when we’re all working towards the same goal. The kind of people who holiday in Mustique have influence. They are well-known entrepreneurs, celebrities, executives, artists and royals. The impact of a conversation about sustainability with Nakita, a snorkel tour or their kids sharing what they learned about ocean conservation that day could create a significant ripple effect on their return home. There’s also an opportunity here for Mustique to influence the luxury travel industry as a whole, in sharing their journey in sustainability and showcasing what is possible. "Mustique has always been sold as a luxury island, but it’s nice to know that we’re also a green island, and that those things can go hand in hand." says Nakita. "The guests are encouraged and excited about being green and having a lower footprint when they’re here. It should be very much all encompassing.” Nakita would be the first to point out that they haven’t got everything right. She’s constantly exploring new opportunities to not only lessen the island’s environmental footprint, but also to restore and improve the natural ecosystems on the island and in its surrounding waters. But there’s a definite shift happening in Mustique. Gone are the days of luxury experiences at all costs. There’s a sense that perhaps this is what Luxury 2.0 looks like.

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S U L UA N ’ S

solar revolution The tiny, remote island of Suluan in the Philippines, was first to be hit by deadly typhoon Haiyan. Now, a movement of women – survivors and island protectors – are leading the drive towards renewable energy amongst a community deeply connected to the sea. Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y A m y S h e p p e y

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irginia wades through the inky black sea at night, a solar-powered torch in one hand, buckets and a knife in the other, young grandchildren in tow. She is returning from an evening of knife fishing, the last of three sustainable fishing methods used that day. She has fish to sell and fish to feed her family. A former coconut farmer, super typhoon Haiyan forced her into to the sea to survive. The irony is not lost on her, as she explains how the sea takes lives: the weather now less predictable, the typhoons stronger, fishing harder. She lives next to the skeletal remains of her former home. November 2013 is firmly etched in her mind, emotions never far from the surface. “I could see the foundations of the house wobbling like paper, large tree trunks were twisted, everything turned brown, all the houses were ruined. I kept praying the whole time.” Looks are deceiving. The remote island is postcard perfect; palm trees, white sand, turquoise seas, and not a tourist boat in sight. But islanders here experience the challenge of climate change daily. Haiyan is the strongest reminder, but amidst the frequent typhoons, there are more subtle signs felt by this poor but resilient community. The words ‘climate change’ are used and understood, but local explanations lean toward the more visceral, comparing past to present; sudden storm surges taking the lives of fishing relatives, dwindling fish stocks, heat reflected on cheeks, the changing taste of the sea, water encroaching on the shoreline. Virginia says: “Fisherfolk have to be more careful and observant of the weather, but we still fish because we don’t have a choice. If we stop, how can our children survive?” A collection of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the negative effects of climate change, with little standing between islanders and the sea. It is also the world’s third worst ocean polluter, due to plastic waste mismanagement and the country’s ‘single sachet economy’. On Suluan island, plastic products wash up from near and far, some in languages and brands unrecognisable to this isolated island. Marine life, and small, sustainable fishing methods are threatened by illegal and large-scale fishing practices that wreak havoc on the ecosystem, and those who depend on it. Environmental effects and climate change hit the poor the hardest, the scandal of poverty exacerbated by its impact. Women globally bear the brunt of this, yet here, they also take the lead to protect the island and themselves. Access to cheap, clean and reliable energy is not only key for environmental protection, but also for poverty alleviation. The island name ‘Suluan’ means ‘light’ and refers to the fisher’s torches spotted by explorers when first sighting this island. Fittingly, a solar torch was one of the few possessions Virginia was able to save, alongside precious family photographs, as Haiyan battered her island and destroyed her home. Without access to mainland electricity, the island was once dependent on fossil fuels as a source of light and power. Six years on and solar takes on an increasingly meaningful role in her life, connecting her to the sea, as her source of

“Environmental effects and climate change hit the poor the hardest, the scandal of poverty exacerbated by its impact. Women globally bear the brunt of this, yet here, they also take the lead to protect the island and themselves.”

PREVIOUS: A young boy turns on a solar light before heading offshore to fish. THIS PAGE: A villager tends to her fishing nets.


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“Filipinos believe in the spiritual connection with nature, one woman describing how ‘the ecosystem has an aesthetic quality; you feel the clean water, the warm sand, the pebbles underfoot’.”


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A calm evening on Suluan. As the light of the sun disappears, lights that it has charged throughout the day will begin to shine in its place.

income, but also as her long-term goal to protect the island environment. For these women, renewable energy is a way of mitigating and reducing the contribution to the climate crisis, whilst maintaining sustainable, smallscale fishing practices. Filipinos believe in the spiritual connection with nature, one woman describing how “the ecosystem has an aesthetic quality; you feel the clean water, the warm sand, the pebbles underfoot”. A popular Filipino adage is that the ‘mother is the light of the home’. Indeed, these women aim to transform their lives, both within the home and outside, spreading environmental messages and influencing others to use solar energy. They can now fish at night, use solar panels on boats to power communications, or mend their nets as dusk falls, lighting their homes afterwards to cook the day's catch for their families. “Although we are a small island, we work together to protect it. We’d like this to be a renewable island,” said Virginia. Typhoon Haiyan was a catalyst for the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), based in Tacloban, Philippines, to integrate renewable energy into post-disaster response, and rebuild safer, more sustainable communities. Suluan was regarded as the most vulnerable island, its location meaning 90% of the country’s typhoons are likely to make landfall there. Solar energy is key, not only for lighting and to ensure vital communication in future disasters, but as a low carbon solution, providing clean, reliable energy for the island. Women were more affected after Haiyan. They were the ones left in the homes during the day and dependent on the income of their husbands, whilst managing the resources of the entire family. After Haiyan, Virginia and the women’s group were trained to use solar energy on a daily basis and before and during disasters. “Our climate change policies were gender blind, until the Sulong Suluan group inspired us to ensure women lead. We realised the role of energy is not the men’s role, it’s the women’s role – they were the ones keen to take up the challenge. A new lesson for us is that when partnering with women, there is no loss,” says Maria Golda Paz Hilario, of the ICSC. Solar energy has become an alternative livelihood option for these women. Before, polluting, dangerous and expensive kerosene was the only choice. As well as disaster response, solar is used to run a health centre, where lives have been saved and pregnant women can give birth at night. The one baker on the island can work to sell her bread at dawn and fisherfolk fish through the night, more effectively and more safely. It’s created community cohesion and pastimes, like daily solar powered Zumba to increase fitness and bring women together. Overall, it’s increased environmental consciousness among the island’s inhabitants.

“Because of the women’s association and ICSC’s work, this island is known,” said Virginia. “Our stories are being used to influence others. Haiyan was a big lesson for us all, that you really should be ready no matter what.” Another islander, Alma, president of the women’s group, added: “People are neglecting to take care of nature. However, increasing development, destruction of the environment and high demand in the cities are some of the main issues. Climate change is coming. We should be aware and we should change.’ The ICSC also supports communities outside of island territories, in Costa Brava, known as the ‘ground zero zone’ for typhoon Haiyan. Twenty-eight percent of people lost their lives here in 2013, and the water reached more than six metres high. Just 40 metres from the sea, this ‘no go’ zone and ‘slum’ settlement, sits in a disaster-prone area. It’s highly vulnerable if another major typhoon strikes. However, residents won’t leave the area, as they are dependent on the sea. Energy access is also an issue. In the beautiful book Agam, the ICSC worked with contributors to explore the issues of climate change through the stories of people in the Philippines. Excerpts include: ‘Disaster is our country’s twin – and with it comes death and destruction. No need to explain that the disasters are linked to natural phenomena – typhoons, landslides, tsunami. That they are also rooted in human failings is something we already know’ and ‘All disaster is local. It is the local people who die and those of them who survive must continue living with the consequences of devastation. Yet the forces that trigger disasters are national, even global in scope’. Gathered around the beach at night, by solar light, with Virginia and the rest of the women’s group, legends, personal stories and struggles are shared. The women celebrate their achievements singing, dancing, sharing food and toasting with Chinese rice wine. But such moments are now mere punctuations in an everunfolding story of danger and destruction. Even during our short trip (as part of a ICSC and Christian Aid mission calling for a move away from fossil fuels, toward investing in affordable, sustainable, renewable energy for vulnerable communities) an earthquake struck while at sea. Horizons all but disappeared through the waves and the stormy weather of the open sea. We had no idea what was happening beyond the boat. On arrival back to land, there is a greater appreciation of this community’s isolation and the personal resilience of each islander. There is a daily, unpredictable reality that binds these people, these champions of renewable energy, these sustainable fisherfolk. “I’ve been working with women’s groups for two decades,” says Christian Aid’s Country Director for the Philippines, Maria Alexandra Pura, “and it’s always been proven that when you put trust in their leadership and capacity, they will take off.” In the shrouding darkness of both an endless ocean and an unpredictable future, may Suluan's lights continue to shine bright.

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By Dr Simon Pierce

The marine biologist NINJA SHARKS


hresher sharks are one of those animals, much like flying snakes or walrus, that are obviously made up. Except they aren’t. Thresher sharks are big. Common threshers, the largest of the three thresher species, grow to about six metres long. Pelagic threshers, the smallest member of the family, still reach over three metres in length. What’s unusual in threshers is that, like a royal wedding dress, half their length is tail. Somehow, they manage to make this look graceful, as opposed to appearing like they’re accidentally dragging toilet paper around. How do I know? Well, I can’t really speak to royal weddings, but I can vouch for the sharks. I’ve spent several weeks at Malapascua Island, in the Philippines, which is unquestionably the best place in the world to dive with thresher sharks. People are often apprehensive about diving with large sharks. Given that we’re a terrestrial ape that evolved on African savannahs, this is not entirely unreasonable. Thresher sharks, though, are adorable. They pose no danger whatsoever to people… and the permanently anxious expression on their face makes them look like Eeyore the donkey. Seriously. However, this is a very human-centric (possibly a Simon-centric) perspective. For a sardine, thresher sharks are extremely deadly ninja sharks. But we’ll get to that a little later. Outside the Philippines, pelagic thresher sharks are rarely seen by divers, and most biological information on the species has come from fisheries studies. These sharks grow slowly, reaching adulthood at about 10 years in males and 13 in females, and live to at least 24. Thresher reproduction is really interesting. Only two pups are born per litter, one from each uterus. The developing embryos have a unique way of obtaining nutrition. The mother continues producing eggs through her pregnancy, and these yolk-filled egg capsules provide food for the pups as they grow. This reproductive mode is termed oophagy, literally “egg-eating”. The pups are free-swimming at birth, and almost half the length of their mother, at 1.4 metres. Contrary to popular myth, divers already know that most sharks aren’t interested in people. In fact, they’ll purposefully avoid us. That’s why 'shark dives' often use bait; they have to overcome this natural inhibition. Monad Shoal, a huge seamount off Malapascua Island, is a pleasant exception to that norm. The shoal hosts several thresher shark 'cleaning stations'.


Cleaner fishes, in this case blue-streaked cleaner wrasse and moon wrasse, like to hang out on particular patches of reef. These 'stations' are like a health-clinic-slashday-spa. For fish. Sharks accumulate nasty little external parasites over time. These can cause chronic disease, developmental problems, and issues with respiration if they attach to the gills. Normal wear and tear from the sharks’ active predatory lives also result in minor injuries and dead skin, which can lead to infection. Specialist cleaner fish eat these parasites, and the dead tissue, providing a useful service to the sharks – while gaining an easy meal themselves. Everybody wins. The sharks know that. When the threshers want to be cleaned, they’ll lower their tail and circle over the station to signal that they’d like some attention (and that they, as a fisheating shark, mean no harm). They’ll slow right down to make it easier for the small cleaners to do a thorough inspection and clean. The near-daily presence of sharks at these stations has enabled Dr Simon Oliver and the other researchers in the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project team, operating from Malapascua, to conduct almost all of the behavioural research published on the species to date. It also makes Monad Shoal a world-class dive site. I’ve been up to Malapascua twice now. I’ll definitely go again. The island is great. The only challenge? The thresher shark dives are often… early. Painfully early. Like, 4.45am early. Why go through such punishment? Cleaner fishes get hangry, that’s why. They sleep overnight, then wake up with empty stomachs. Scientists think the sharks are likely to get a better clean from these highly motivated little fish, and the sharks seem to agree. Some cleaning activity does occur throughout the day, but the mornings are the best time to visit. The diving itself is easy. The water is warm – 28 degrees Celsius or so – and, while it can be a deep dive, as the cleaning stations are on the edge of the shoal in 2530m depth, it’s fine for any Advanced-qualified diver. It’s a bit different to a usual shark dive though. Like the Mona Lisa, the thresher sharks have to be roped off from visitors, for their own protection. Shark diving provides around 80% of Malapascua’s income. However, increased tourism comes with its own pressures. Reef damage from divers and anchors has destroyed several cleaning stations on Monad Shoal. More recently, mooring buoys were put in place for boats, and the remaining cleaning stations were roped-off to divers. This may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s

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clearly justified (and still allows for fantastic viewing). With a good operator (check out www.greenfins.net), I view diving with the thresher sharks at Malapascua as an excellent example of positive ecotourism that helps to protect these globally threatened sharks, while also benefiting the local economy. This case study of sustainable tourism even helped to get all three thresher sharks listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2017. All positive. But let’s hear from those sardines again. Dr Simon Oliver led another study, at Pescador Island off Cebu (about 175km south of Monad Shoal), that used underwater video footage to examine thresher shark hunting strategies for their preferred local prey, the aforementioned sardines. Fish don’t like to be eaten. Indeed, they actively try to avoid it. Even for fast-swimming and agile sharks, chasing down their prey on a one-on-one basis is energyintensive and often results in failure. Schools of fish are



far more attractive to a predator, placing a large number of baitfish close together. Several predators take advantage of this behaviour. Billfish, such as marlin and sailfish, will swim in fast and slash their elongated bills from side-to-side. Orcas use tail-slaps to stun or kill their prey. Thresher sharks have those long, sophisticated, not-at-all-like-toilet-paper tails, which we now know they use like a catapult. Frame-by-frame video analysis reveals the sharks’ strategy. They lunge forward, then splay the big wide pectoral fins on the sides of their body to hit the brakes. This stalls their forward momentum, allowing them to deliver an overhead tail-slap at measured speeds of over 20 metres per second (45 miles per hour). That’s so fast that the tip of the tail literally causes water to bubble. This results in considerable splattage. Up to seven sardines were seen killed by a single strike. Although threshers always look concerned in photos, it’s the small fish that should be worried. Ninja sharks are real. SP

“The near-daily presence of sharks at these stations has enabled Dr Simon Oliver and the other researchers in the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project team, to conduct almost all of the behavioural research published on the species to date.”

About Simon Dr Simon J Pierce is a marine conservation biologist and underwater photographer from New Zealand. He is a co-founder and Principal Scientist at the Marine Megafauna Foundation, where he leads the global whale shark research programme, and a regional Co-Chair for the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. A thresher shark off Malapascua Island

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Oceanographic Issue 10



adventure Two young architects refit a decommissioned lifeboat for an upcycled – and stylish – ocean adventure. Leaving the south coast of the UK behind, they head for the west coast of Norway – just themselves, the ocean and their inquisitive dog, Shackleton. Wo rd s b y G u y l e e S i m m o n d s P h o t o g ra p h s b y D a v i d S c h n a b e l

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lick click, tap tap, separated by our two laptops David and I irregularly discuss our work; an interesting new client, a trusty builder gone rogue, an slow planning department causing further delays. The mundane chatter of two 28-year-old architects, probably much the same as everywhere and little different from the generic back and forth that characterises offices and co-working spaces around the world. Then the more unusual excerpts: “Did you pump the grey water tank?” “How’s the solar doing today?” “My hands smell of mackerel...” Suddenly not such normal workplace conversations. Turning from my laptop I look out to my left over mirror-like water, reflecting a busy cloudscape above. To my right a sparsely vegetated island, no doubt home to a few dozen sheep, or perhaps an angry ram to intimidate my curious retriever, Shackleton. We’re floating at 70 degrees north, in one of many archipelagos that scatter the western coast of Norway, having emerged from one of the many indented fjords. With the backdrop to our office a constant distraction, our commitment to emails does not last long. We’re four months into life aboard our converted lifeboat, Stødig, meaning steady or reliable in Norwegian. She spent twenty years as Clansman Lifeboat No.1, indigenous to the Western Isles of Scotland aboard a Calmac Ferry, as an means of escape designed to carry 100 people to safety in the worst conditions. Rigorously designed and tested, and costing six figures new, these lifeboats are unlikely to be put to use, instead spending their life well-maintained, always ready for a potential calamity, but rarely fulfilling the purpose for which they are designed. In February 2018, after concluding her service in Scotland, being gently lowered off the ferry she had served so dutifully, little did this lifeboat know about the adventure that lay ahead. Unaware that meanwhile in Newhaven, East Sussex, two architects were planning a meticulous conversion prior to a 5,000km voyage beyond the Arctic Circle. It is all too easy for dreams of adventure to remain as that, dreams of a parallel life. Similarly many grand plans become distilled, as the realities of our commitments, relationships or jobs can make that ultimate trip seem unattainable. In our case however, what started as a modest hiking trip, grew and mutated into a greater beast than we had ever expected. Sitting in our respective offices in 2018, not long after we had both completed the onerous eight years of architectural education, planning our Norwegian adventure provided an escape from the routine and responsibilities of our work. I was running construction projects in Northern Haiti, David designing beautiful houses in South Wales. By phone and email we would scheme and dream, eager for adventure. Over PREVIOUS: Stødig anchored at Kollsholmen, the morning sun rising behind thickening clouds. THIS PAGE: Shackleton enjoying time ashore at Sandvika Rock.


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“I became fascinated by the potential of a converted lifeboat as an ultimate expedition craft, having seen a small converted survival craft on the River Thames and researched their indestructible fabric.�

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TOP: A picturesque and secluded anchorage at Ramsøya. BOTTOM: Calm waters in Stattlandet fjord.


Oceanographic Issue 10


a number of years the idea of a move to Norway had gestated, before a curveball. I became fascinated by the potential of a converted lifeboat as an ultimate expedition craft, having seen a small converted survival craft on the River Thames and researched their indestructible fabric. From a family of seafarers, a boat seemed a natural way to explore Norway with its fragmented and dramatic coastline. Despite being from a more land-loving family, I knew David would be the perfect crewmate and so set about convincing him of the viability of the idea. The lifeboat arrived in Newhaven one snowy morning in February and we set about our project in earnest, working freelance to earn funds to pay for the conversion and initially working evenings and weekends on the boat. Gradually the boat, as boats often do, took over all aspects of our lives. As we began work on Stødig, the scale of the task started to become apparent and our original departure in the summer of 2018 was quickly forgotten. Essentially starting with a fibreglass blank canvas, we leapt at the opportunity to design something for ourselves – something that evades most young architects. Unbound by any preconceptions of what a converted lifeboat should be like, we went about creating a comfortable and uplifting interior, contrasting the utilitarian and functional exterior. Keen to survive in remote places for extended periods we packed the hull with 15cm of insulation, installed a wood burner, a composting toilet, solar panels and a wind turbine. Embracing the opportunity to do all the work ourselves kept costs down whilst also developing an intimate and useful knowledge of the boat and her workings. Months disappeared, as we became part of the fabric of the boatyard and were rarely seen by those who did not also frequent the muddy tidal waters where we had our mooring. Everything else was pushed to the side as our departure date in the early summer of 2019 crept ever closer. Perhaps in preparation for our voyage, our day-to-day lives became intertwined with the tide and weather as we divided tasks aboard into what was best done on the mud of the estuary, or afloat, inside or outside, by day or night. We were already entering a very different routine and cycle from the one that defines an office life. The character of a good boatyard had a huge impact on our conversion experience, as we benefitted from a multitude of (often conflicting) opinions and many lifetimes of expertise from the community of mechanics, shipwrights, boat owners and strays who gathered in our little industrial corner on the UK’s south coast. With the support of our sea-loving community in the boatyard, some patient friends and family, as well as numerous encouraging and generous sponsors, we progressed the conversion slowly but surely. In the spring of 2019, the trajectory of the boat being ready for sea and our timeline for setting sail were fast converging and we knew that before long we would need to embrace the

“It is hard to return to a static life after such rich variation. Life at sea for an extended period gave us such a strong sense of a connection to nature, clocks felt irrelevant, as decisions were made on the tide table and weather forecast.” unknown and take to the open sea. In the middle of May after some short sea trials we packed our lives aboard and set out through Newhaven harbour, past the final reaches of the breakwater and out into the English Channel. Reaching Amsterdam within a week and Copenhagen within four, via the Kiel Canal. At the end of June after a tumultuous crossing of the Skaggerak north of Jutland, we arrived in Southern Norway from Western Sweden. Overwhelmed by the sequence of decisions that somehow led to this moment in our lives and this turning point in our voyage, we had three months to meander up the Norwegian coast to our eventual destination, Tromsø, where we planned to spend the winter. Many tribulations behind us at this point, as we spent the first six weeks getting attuned to the daily use of a 20-year-old diesel engine, our electrical consumption and compact living conditions, Stødig had fast become a comfortable home and we were becoming used to the freedom of life aboard, rather than the constraints of it. We planned a port to arrive at weekly, to give some structure to our progress, but other than that each day started with a graze of the charts, perhaps a chat with a local fisherman or peering through the binoculars at where we might go that day. The allure of the sea and the dramatic coast guided our progress. We were sometimes drawn to spend four or five days on the same island and similarly we had weeks where we would have a unique anchorage each night. With a constantly changing view through our expansive windows as a backdrop for our day-to-day lives, no activity seemed repetitive or routine. It is hard to return to a static life after such rich variation. Life at sea for an extended period gave us such a strong sense of a connection to nature, clocks felt irrelevant, as decisions were made on the tide table and weather forecast. Instead of feeling controlled by a schedule, the pace of our voyage allowed us to make detours, delay a departure when the fishing was good, or the water deserving of just one more swim. Being afloat gave us a freedom to explore the Norwegian coast unrestrained by the presence of roads or paths. Many of the islands where we spent time had no permanent inhabitants or ferry service. The solar power

Oceanographic Issue 10




Oceanographic Issue 10


“As we cruised through the fjords towards Tromsø, the snow on the surrounding mountains reminded us of the approaching winter and the next stage in Stødig’s life.”

Clear waters below and a mirrored, clearing sky above at Brandangersund.

on the boat allowed us to live comfortably and stay on top of our freelance work at anchorages and as our trip through Norway progressed, our visits to town quays and marinas became more and more infrequent. At points we ventured well inland, working our way nearly 50 miles down Geirangerfjord, with Stødig dwarfed by the near vertical 1,000m cliffs beside us. By contrast, in the seemingly never ending archipelagos south of Bodø, just after we crossed into the Arctic, few of them rose more than 50m above sea level and thousands of skerries and outcrops of rock scattered the horizon. A flat horizon in Norway was rare though, as indiscriminate slabs of rock rose straight out of the water, providing a good course to steer towards from our wheelhouse. The lifeboat provided an ideal base for our adventures, as we hiked and swam whenever the opportunity presented itself. Led by Shackleton we would leave Stødig safely anchored and try to climb the highest mountain in the vicinity, searching for the best views, or occasionally hiking tens of miles to reach the nearest pastry. The boat is both home and expedition vehicle, allowing us to enjoy these amazing places before coming back to a well-used kitchen, warm shower and familiar bed. We’re now moored in Tromsø, having completed our voyage in mid-September. The last few weeks of the journey were characterised by fast changing weather systems, rapidly dropping temperatures and noticeably shorter days. As we cruised through the fjords towards Tromsø, the snow on the surrounding mountains reminded us of the approaching winter and the next stage in Stødig’s life. From our mooring we look out over the frigid waters of Tromsøysundet and the mountains of the mainland behind. It is hard not to look longingly out at the water and even starting the engine and moving Stødig a few hundred metres to refill water is an exciting reminder of an unforgettable voyage. We have adapted the boat for winter, building a small shelter enclosing the stern cockpit to prevent the build-up of snow and installing a few extra thermal barriers to keep the heat in. Northern Norway is now our base for the foreseeable future, and we are excited by the potential of reaching untouched snow by boat next spring for skiing. As we enter the polar darkness for the first time, with temperatures outside dropping down to below -10 degrees Celsius, Stødig is our haven of light and warmth. Now further insulated with a layer of snow, the long hours of arctic darkness allow our dreams of future voyages to ferment for when the light returns.

Oceanographic Issue 10



Project AWARE ® is a global movement for ocean protection powered by a community of adventurers. Project AWARE is an international non-profit organization working to create positive change for the ocean.

www.project aware.org


REWILD THE OCEAN Action for the Ocean is action against the Climate Crisis MEGAN WHITE, COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST, PROJECT AWARE

Our ocean and our climate The ocean covers three-quarters of the earth’s surface and moves heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our weather. It acts as a crucial buffer from the impacts of climate change including absorbing over 90% of the heat that's coming from the change in our climate. If it didn’t do this, the heat would already be intolerable for most life on earth. So when we talk about climate action, we need to talk about ocean conservation. We know the facts and we know they aren’t good. In September this year, the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate showed climate change is impacting the ocean through heating, acidification and deoxygenation, these three factors have been present in every mass extinction event in history. The ocean needs a break, it’s our most powerful force in the face of the climate breakdown, but in order for it to do it’s thing, it needs to be healthy, biodiverse and resilient. At Project AWARE, we work for a future where the ocean no longer needs protecting. There are key aspects that need urgent action to return to a clean and healthy ocean: Strengthen Marine Ecosystems - Stop Overfishing Overfishing is simple to explain, we are catching too many fish and not giving populations time to replenish. This lack of fish weakens marine ecosystems and the overall diversity of the ocean. Nearly 90% of the world’s marine fish populations are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Over the last fifty years, the population of Pacific Bluefin Tuna has decreased by 97%. The way we are fishing is for short term profit with no long term gain and if we continue this way we will empty the oceans of fish. Project AWARE works with partners to demand policy change for the catch, landing and trading of marine animals, with a special focus on sharks, which are often caught alongside some of the more popular seafood such as tuna. When we achieve sustainable fishing quotas meaning the amount of fish we catch leaves enough in the


ocean to breed and replenish what we’ve removed - we will see species numbers raising again and restoring the ocean's ecosystems, as well as providing a sustainable source of food. Clean our waters - Tackle Pollution We are carelessly putting our rubbish into the ocean as if it’s going to just disappear. Pollution from plastic, chemicals and biological and agricultural sources are seriously damaging the health of our seas but yet we aren’t stopping. Recent scientific studies estimate that around 16 tonnes of rubbish enters the oceans every minute. Project AWARE’s Clean Ocean program works with businesses, NGOs and governments to advocate for longterm solutions and influence waste management policies at local, national and international levels. The data from our flagship citizen science program, Dive Against Debris® provides much-needed information about marine debris which can help to change policy and turn off the tap of the trash that’s flowing into our ocean every day.

Things you can do right now to take action for the ocean: • Reduce your impact - cut out single-use products wherever you can, reuse what you have, recycle what's left. • Find and Report Debris - Your Dive Against Debris® data provides critical evidence to drive change and work toward solutions to stop marine debris at source. • Choose Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism - Go snorkelling or diving with sharks to support a valuable alternative to fishing.

Oceanographic Issue 10





TA K E A C T I O N F O R T H E O C E A N O U R O C E A N C O N S E R VAT I O N S U C C E S S E S A R E P O S S I B L E B E C A U S E O F Y O U . D I V E I N TO A C T I O N W I T H O U R L AT E S T C A M PA I G N S . www.projectaware.org/take-action

The issue of ocean pollution will never be solved by cleaning up what has been put in. We need to tackle the problem at source and make systemic changes to the way we treat our waste, and better yet, change the way we treat our products with smarter design to reduce waste. Let the ocean thrive - More Marine Protected Areas For the ocean to boost its resilience, it needs much fewer pressures from human activities such as overfishing and pollution. We need to ensure there are safe havens for sea life to recover. At the moment, only 7% of our oceans are given any protection. Scientists are calling for 30% to be fully protected to allow marine ecosystems the restoration we need to see. The High Seas (an area which makes up half the planet and two-thirds of the whole ocean) has only 1% protected. To address this, a new treaty is being negotiated at the United Nations and between now and the end of 2020, the High Seas should be protected under international law. This sort of treaty has come before and it has worked for the ocean. Forty years ago, a number of whale species including Southern Blue whales, Grey Whales and Humpbacks were on the brink of extinction because of centuries of whaling. The nations of the world came together and agreed on a global ban on commercial hunting and now we are seeing the numbers of these species increasing around the world. We can change things and give the ocean the protection it so desperately needs but we have to act now. In order to tackle the climate crisis, we need to regain a balance with nature, to rewild the world and to find new and innovative ways to live sustainably. Biodiversity is what makes our ocean planet beautiful, awe-inspiring and wondrous but it’s also what keeps it living. Together we can make a difference, take action with Project AWARE and raise your voice for the ocean and the planet. instagram.com/projectaware twitter.com/projectaware facebook.com/ProjectAWAREFoundation

Project AWARE creates positive change for a return to a clean, healthy ocean through community action






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Oceanographic Issue 10



For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways. UNITEDBYBLUE.COM

#TheSeaToMe WHAT DOES THE SEA MEAN TO YOU? We believe that if we connect with the sea, we will love it. If we love something, we will always protect it. We are exploring the many different relationships that people have with the sea. From sailors, to surfers, to those who prefer to watch the waves from the shore. Share with us what the sea means to you. GET INVOLVED

Post a short video or photo on Instagram letting us know what the sea means to you. Tag @finisterreuk in the image or clip and use #TheSeaToMe PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE K ARBUS

“If you love the ocean, you will protect it” K AT E H A M S I KO VA , F R E E D I V E R


©Photograph: Laurent Ballesta/Gombessa Project

Fifty Fathoms



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