Oceanographic Magazine / Issue 28

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Conservation • Exploration • Adventure



Fifty Fathoms

©Photograph: Laurent Ballesta/Gombessa Project

The Fifty Fathoms collection embodies Blancpain’s passion for the underwater universe that was originally expressed in 1953 with the creation of the first modern diver’s watch. With its almost 70-year legacy of the Fifty Fathoms, the Brand has woven close ties with explorers, photographers, scientists, and environmentalists. With that affinity has come a determination to support important activities dedicated to ocean exploration and conservation. These initiatives are united under the label Blancpain Ocean Commitment.



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Editor’s Letter " Th e m a c ro a l g a l ecosystems along Pa t a g o n i a ’s ru g g e d s o u t h w e s t e rn c o a s t h a ve s h o w n re m a r k a b l e s t a b i l i t y for almost 200 years."

In this issue’s cover story, we head to one of the least explored coastlines in the world. Here in Argentina, a group of conservationists has worked for decades to protect an area known to hold many of the world’s kelp forests. While kelp forests in other regions of the world are struggling, here they are known to thrive. The recent approval of a law to permanently protect the area gives hope for the future. After travelling to South America, our first issue of 2023 brings us to Florida’s Everglades National Park. This extraordinary ecosystem connects Lake Okeechobee with Florida Bay and tells a story of beautiful interconnectedness. But like so many modern ocean stories, human-induced pressures are throwing off the balance. Across the globe, we visit a remote island in the South Pacific with limited connectivity to the outside world. With 4G set to arrive this year, conservations ask themselves how it will affect locals, wildlife conservation and whale-focused tourism in the area. In the Galapagos, we take a closer look at the critically endangered Floreana mockingbird, a species of which only 300 individuals are believed to exist today. After enduring years of human-induced pressures, a group of scientists is trying to turn the tide on one of the world’s rarest birds. Finally, we head to Western Australia, where an annual coral spawning event didn’t go to plan. One apex predator and keystone species emerged as the silent hero of the story.

Nane Steinhoff Editor @nane_steinhoff @oceano_mag Oceanographicmag

Oceanographic Issue 28


Contents O N T H E C OV E R



The Argentinian coastline is one of the least explored in the world. Yet the Mitre Peninsula in the south-east of the country holds many of the world’s kelp forests. The recent approval of a law to permanently protect the area gives hope for the future.

Kelp forests off the Mitre Peninsula in Argentina. Photograph by Joel Reyero, Por el Mar.

Get in touch ED I TO R I A L D I R E C TO R

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Will Harrison


Nane Steinhoff


Amelia Costley


Hugh Francis Anderson


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 CXD MEDIA Ltd. © 2022 CXD MEDIA Ltd. All rights reserved. Nothing in whole or in part may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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ISSN: 2516-5941


A collection of some of the most captivating ocean photography shared on social media, both beautiful and arresting. Tag #MYOCEAN for the opportunity to be featured within these pages.

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The Florida Everglades are a unique and diverse ecosystem coined by wetlands, forests and rivers that connect Lake Okeechobee with Florida Bay. But beyond its beautiful facade lies the reality that this place is dying.

The Galapagos Islands are home to the last 300 critically endangered Floreana mockingbirds on earth. After enduring years of human-induced pressures, a group of scientists is trying to turn the tide on one of the world’s rarest birds.

In April, the Australian autumn of 2022, Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef witnessed an annual coral spawning event that didn't go to plan. Sharks emerged as the silent heroes.

Location: A remote island in the South Pacific with limited connectivity to the outside world. Population: Around 2,500 locals, a dozen or so tourists and countless whales. With 4G set to arrive this year, conservations ask themselves how it will affect locals and wildlife conservation.

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Each issue, we chat with one of the world’s leading ocean photographers and showcase a selection of their work. In this special edition, we met up with award-winning underwater photographer Steve Woods.

Investigative journalist and director of The Outlaw Ocean Project Ian Urbina addresses violence and other brutal conditions in commercial fishing in this new column.

Hugo Tagholm, former Surfers Against Sewage CEO and executive director and vice president of Oceana in the UK talks about the aftermath of COP15.

Cal Major, ocean advocate and founder of the charity Seaful, explains why people should appreciate seabirds a little more.

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Gergo Rugli Australia “A seagull flies past a large wave breaking in the light of the rising sun.”




Ishino Shota Japan Corals off Okinawa, Japan, spawn during the full moon in May. “The corals spawn countless pink bundles that contain sperm and egg. The spectacle looks like innumerable stars,” says Ishino. C AT E G O RY F I N A L I S T

Matty Smith Australia “I had wanted to shoot a split waterline image of a great white shark and on this day at the Neptune Islands in South Australia, I got my chance,” explains Matty. C AT E G O RY F I N A L I S T


Brooke Pyke Western Australia A manta ray cruises above a sandy seabed off Coral Bay, Western Australia. C AT E G O RY F I N A L I S T




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the end of the world

The southernmost tip of the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia coastline accounts for 47% of global M. Pyrifera kelp distribution, rendering the region one of the world's last pristine ecosystems. Yet, extending over almost 6,000km, the Argentinian coastline is one of the least explored in the world. The recent approval of a law to permanently protect the area gives hope for the future.

Wo rd s b y M a i a G u t i e r re z P h o t o g ra p h s b y J o e l R e y e ro , Po r e l M a r

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LEFT: Cycethra verrucosa sea star on some kelp. ABOVE: The Por el Mar research team at work in the Mitre Peninsula. PREVIOUS PAGE: Monte León National Park in Argentina.


ver the last decades, most conservation efforts have been focused on land-based ecosystems. The protection of terrestrial ecosystems has far exceeded marine protection and restoration initiatives. Although we truly live on a blue planet, and the ocean represents 90% of the living space on Earth, we are just beginning to understand the urgency with which we need to attend to the health of the ocean. As part of my work with Por el Mar, a non-profit marine conservation organisation driven by a team of scientists, activists, communicators, and policy experts, we have been working hard to protect the Mitre Peninsula, the easternmost part of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia. The region is Argentina’s biggest carbon sink and is one of the few places that truly remains wild. Home to a large portion of Argentina’s kelp forests, it is also the last refuge for the Southern river otter, a species on the brink of extinction. While kelp forests worldwide have struggled or disappeared altogether in recent decades, the macroalgal ecosystems along Patagonia’s rugged southwestern coast have “shown remarkable stability for almost 200 years”, according to the American Geophysical Union. Researchers argue that this could be due to frequent marine cold spells in the region which seem to keep the kelp happy. Southwestern giant kelp forests in Patagonia haven’t experienced any extreme marine heat waves since 1984, according to a study published in 2022 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, called A Song of Wind and Ice: Increased Frequency of Marine Cold‐Spells in Southwestern Patagonia and Their Possible Effects on Giant Kelp Forests. It established that the region around the Mitre Peninsula saw extreme marine cold spells between 2014 and 2019, which also grew more intense. Experts believe these localised cooling events could have been caused by glacial melt and increased wind activity. It is well-known that kelp thrives in cold, nutrient-rich Oceanographic Issue 28



“The macroalgal ecosystems along Patagonia’s rugged southwestern coast have shown remarkable stability for almost 200 years.”

waters. As an example, if the water temperatures go up too much, sea otters might disappear which, in turn, would make sea urchin populations explode. They could then overgraze the kelp forests, as has happened in some parts of California. Combining this with a general loss of kelp forests could be a disaster. In central and northern Chile, for example, unregulated kelp harvesting for the alginate industry has led to annual losses of 2% of kelp forests. In Patagonia, however, the situation is different. Kelp forests look like they did in the early 20th century, according to marine geographer Alejandra Mora-Soto, lead author of the aforementioned study. According to her, when comparing historical nautical charts with modern satellite images of kelp, little has changed. And something else is on the kelp’s side here: current climate and ocean models predict that the waters around Patagonia’s kelp forests will not warm dramatically in the near future. But researchers warn that further glacial melts might bring lower water temperatures, different nutrients or sunlight-blocking sediments to the region which might end up harming the kelp. To help protect these vital kelp forests, Por el Mar which means ‘for the ocean’, has been working hard in recent years. ‘The Sea Forests at The End of the World’ is one of our four current projects; a conservation initiative that seeks to explore and protect Patagonia’s pristine sea forests. Further protection of these vital and resilient kelp forests is urgently needed to find out more about them before it is too late. Getting to know the macroalgal forests in the region, we were amazed by the incredible ecosystem that surrounds the rocky coastlines of Patagonia. We wondered how we could best preserve it and asked ourselves a simple question: Why is the coast so important to us humans? Coasts represent the transition between the two largest domains for life on this planet - land and ocean - and are amongst the most diverse ecosystems. It is no wonder our species' history is so profoundly connected to coastlines

Antarctic shags in Monte León National Park in Argentina.



around the world. Inspired by this simple question and driven by the need to protect these underwater forests we understood that it is at this meeting point where we have the possibility to redefine how we want to relate to the ocean, and restore our connectedness to it. Kelp forests stand as silent guardians, surrounding coasts all around the world. They purify the surrounding water, regulate pH levels, sequester carbon, release oxygen, and slow coastal erosion. As one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the ocean, they are also home to thousands of species. But these ocean forests have long been overlooked. It is estimated that the Argentinian coast is home to approximately 100km2 of macroalgal forests and that these sea forests are some of the least disturbed marine coastal ecosystems on Earth (Friedlander et al. 2020). Although there is an increasing awareness of the need to protect the remaining pristine underwater ecosystems, especially those with limited anthropogenic impact, Patagonia’s kelp forests have long not been included under any formal ocean protection. Little is known about these giant forests from the Argentinian coast, and about kelp forests in general. These forgotten forests play a crucial, largely unseen role off our coasts, yet the majority of the world’s underwater forests are unrecognised, unexplored and uncharted. This is why we have been mapping and researching macroalgal forest along the shoreline of the provinces of Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. The Patagonian coast represents one of the last global refuges for these ecosystems, but they face one of the worst threats – invisibility. The long-term conservation of Patagonian kelp forests relies on the creation of Marine Protected Areas and other specific conservation measures. However, beyond the need to protect kelp forests, it is essential to safeguard the broader Argentinian coastline, highlighting the need for bold and effective conservation measures. Our team was part of the creation of Argentina’s first two marine national parks, both 80% no-take zones. We also promoted a bill that prohibited salmon farming in Tierra del Fuego, making

“It is estimated that the Argentinian coast is home to approximately 100km2 of macroalgal forests.”

Snowy sheathbills and South American sea lions in Monte León National Park in Argentina.


“Although there is an increasing awarenss of the need to protect remaining pristine underwater ecosystems, Patagonia’s kelp forests have long not been included under any formal ocean protection.”

The pristine ecosystems of Monte León National Park in Argentina from above.

The coastline of Monte León National Park.

“Beyond the need to protect kelp forests, it is essential to safeguard the broader Argentinian coastline, highlighting the need for bold and effective conservation measures. Our team was part of the creation of Argentina’s first two marine national parks, both 80% no-take zones.”

“Preserving these coastal ecosystems will not be possible without bringing coastal communities together.”

M. pyrifera kelp around the Mitre Peninsula.




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TOP: The Por el Mar team scouts the Monte León National Park. MIDDLE: Measuring the wet weight of M. pyrifera kelp in Mitre Peninsula. BOTTOM: A diver meets an octopus in Mitre Peninsula.

“This newly protected area will cover around 1.2 million hectares of terrestrial and marine surface.” Argentina the first country to say no to the industry. Over the last years we have been working to protect Península Mitre, the most significant carbon sink in Argentina. While doing so, we carried out different scientific expeditions in order to fill biological information gaps regarding the marine ecosystems found in the region. The results of these campaigns showed us that the Patagonian coast is one of the last global refuges for this unique ecosystem. At the time of writing, we have just received the news that, after over 30 years of lobbying and grassroots campaigning, mobilising local NGOs, activists, the local communities, and the scientific community to protect the Mitre Peninsula, the Argentinian province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands passed a law on December 6 of 2022, creating the Peninsula Mitre Natural Protected Area. This newly protected area will cover around 1.2 million hectares of terrestrial and marine surface. Some parts will be allocated no-take zones, while others will only permit authorised fishing activities and management plans will ensure low environmental impacts. The plan is to implement different conservation and management zones, while putting special focus on the promotion of ecotourism. The new law is a step into the right direction of protecting this interconnected ecosystem with river systems, peat landscapes, kelp forests and rocky reefs that are home to so many seabirds, fishes, soft corals, and marine mammals, including the yellow-plumed penguin which has the world’s largest colony with 140,000 pairs on Isla de Los Estados, as well as the endangered southern river otter of which only 50 individuals are expected to be left in the wild. Returning to the question that led us on this mission, we understand that preserving these coastal ecosystems will not be possible without bringing coastal communities together and restoring our cultural and biological heritage. Conservation is about building a new vision of prosperity in a way that reflects an understanding of local dynamics and boosts locally led action and solutions. Cultural diversity means biological diversity. Kelp forests played a key role in the evolution of modern humans, nurturing our ancestors over 150,000 years ago (Marean et al. 2007). According to the 'kelp highway' theory, these ecosystems are also thought to have played key roles in facilitating the movement of maritime peoples from Asia to the Americas. We are living on a planet that reflects just 10% of the natural abundance it once had. We believe that these underwater giants from Patagonia that stand as one of the last pristine coastal ecosystems on this planet, can play a crucial role in helping us remember what this planet once looked like. They introduce us to the ocean of the past, and inspire action that promotes a common future for all forms of life. Despite climate change and human activities, the kelp forests of the Mitre Peninsula have remained exceptionally unchanged. The new protected area gives hope that it will remain that way, but we need to keep working to not only implement the protected area, but to also discover more about this unexplored terrain along the Argentinian coast. Ultimately, we envision a protected and thriving kelp forest corridor that ignites opportunities for regenerative local economies and promotes a positive relationship between Argentinian society and the ocean.

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By Ian Urbina

The outlaw ocean reporter VIOLENCE AT SEA

Cambodian crew work through the night hauling fish a couple hundred miles off the coast of Thailand. Photo: Fábio Nascimento/The Outlaw Ocean Project


Oceanographic Issue 28

@ ian_urbina

@ ian_urbina



“The number of violent killings – and deaths at sea in general – remain extremely hard to assess.”


or the past ten years, I have focused on the darker side of the world's oceans and have been witness to pretty horrific human rights and environmental crimes. My organization, called The Outlaw Ocean Project, focuses on investigative reporting that aims to expose stories about these abuses that are often overlooked by the media. But I also witnessed unparalleled beauty and true spectacle. I met bizarre, sometimes heroic actors in a setting that drowned the senses, a place of brighter sun, louder waves, and stronger wind than I previously knew to exist. One particular afternoon comes to mind. I stood on the front deck of a ship in the South Atlantic Ocean. Under an apricot sunset, I watched a winged fish fly through the air. Moments later, several birds dove into the ocean. That night was cloudless, and with flatness all around me, the sky was as big as it ever gets. At night, shooting stars left white slashes like chalk lines on a blackboard. The most dazzling streaks, though, were not in the sky but underwater. As fish darted through certain areas, the sea was slashed with glowing blue lines, the result of a mesmerizing defence mechanism of bioluminescent plankton that allows them to produce light. What grabbed me that day was how much of this place is magically upside down: fish in the air, birds underwater, white streaks above us, blue below. Part of its beauty is its exotic unpredictability. Each time I returned to land, I felt an intense longing for this place, despite the suffering I’d seen there. As much as this world is gorgeous, there is also a dystopian realm that too often gets overlooked. I have explored the dark underbelly of this offshore world, where the worst instincts of our human species thrived and flourished. The reality of fishing vessels, for example, is brutal, as recent research has shown. The number of violent killings – and deaths at sea in general – remain extremely hard to assess. The typical estimate has been about 32,000 casualties per year, making commercial fishing among the most dangerous professions on the planet. The new estimate is more than 100,000 fatalities per year – more than 300 a day – according to research produced by the FISH Safety Foundation and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. A recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said the reasons for this significant loss of life include the lack of a comprehensive safety legislative framework and coordinated approaches to promoting safety at sea in the fishing sector. But the United Nations, which tracks fatalities by profession, does not indicate how many of these deaths are from avoidable accidents, neglect or violence. Brutality in distant-water fishing fleets – and the connection to forced labour on

these vessels – has been an open secret for a while. A report released in May by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab showed, for example, that migrant workers on British fishing ships were systematically overworked and underpaid while more than a third of the workers said they experienced severe physical violence. In 2020, a team of researchers used satellite data tracking of about 16,000 fishing ships to estimate that up to 100,000 people – a quarter of those sailing on those vessels – were at high risk of being victims of forced labour. The Environmental Justice Foundation interviewed 116 Indonesian crew members who worked on fishing vessels from China, which has the world’s largest distant-water fishing fleet. Comfortably more than half had seen or experienced physical violence, the organization found. Addressing such violence and other brutal conditions in commercial fishing is difficult because so little data is captured or provided to the public. That research shortfall is a major barrier to regulating the industry. Ship owners and crews are not even legally obligated to report crimes at sea. The lack of governance at sea is a root cause. Such killings will continue to go unchecked and unpunished without better tracking of offshore violence, more transparency from flag registries and fishing companies, and more effort by governments to prosecute the perpetrators. And that matters because what occurs at sea affects everyone. By some estimates, upwards of 90% of world trade is moved by sea and seafood is a major source of protein for much of the world. There are reasons for hope. Satellites make it tougher for ships to go dark and hide their crimes. Cell phones make it easier for crew members to document violence. A growing use of open-source footage by journalists has bolstered public awareness of human rights and labour abuses offshore. Our hope is that through investigative reporting we can change some of these problems. IU About Ian Ian Urbina is the director of The Outlaw Ocean Project, a non-profit journalism organization based in Washington D.C. that produces investigative stories about human rights, environment and labour concerns on the two thirds of the planet covered by water. Before founding The Outlaw Ocean Project, Urbina spent roughly 17 years as a staff reporter for The New York Times. He has received various journalism awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk Awards and an Emmy. Several of his investigations have also been converted into major motion pictures.

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wild The Florida Everglades are a unique and diverse ecosystem coined by wetlands, forests and rivers that connect Lake Okeechobee with Florida Bay. But beyond its beautiful facade lies a dark truth: it is dying.

Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y L u c a M a r t i n e z

PREVIOUS: Great blue heron in the sawgrass. THIS PAGE: Winter sunrise over a bald cypress forest.

5:30am My dad and I park outside the gates of Shark Valley, a 15-mile paved road meandering through the heart of the Everglades. Keeping left, we start down the trail illuminated by our headlamps. With visibility of no more than 20 feet, our steps are measured. In the far distance, the faint reddish horizon delicately reveals itself. Cicadas screech, pig frogs croak, and a sea of sawgrass sways in the morning breeze. Nature's symphony is in full surround sound, made all the clearer against the early morning darkness. As the sun rises, it gradually shows a world remarkably different from the uninspired version in my mind. Tens of thousands of tree islands sit on a boundless river of seagrass spotted by mirror-like pools of fresh water. The magnitude and elegance before me takes my breath away. This is the moment my love affair with Florida's wetlands begins... My favourite mornings are those scattered with sheets of early fog that fill the emptiness in between. I search for native land where cypress turns to pond apple and pop ash. I seek the sloughs, low-lying areas of earth that channel water through the Everglades. It's in these sloughs, waist-deep in the black water, where I see and feel most. With no control over the environment surrounding me, immense trust is formed. Where else in this digital world do we feel such vulnerability? It's a privilege to film and share an ecosystem known to so few where nature conceals countless untold tales. Perhaps that is the beauty of the sloughs.



The decline in racoons since the arrival of the burmese python.

Life here exists in mystical layers. Beneath the waterlined surface, disguised as a stick or a log, the Florida gars glide silently. Alligators lay motionless as if posing beyond the lights of my underwater camera rig. Every footstep depresses the lemon bacopa lining on the peat bottom. Breaking the moment's gravity, a rare pair of playful otters twist, turn, and splash. Following the tentacled roots of flora unrecognised, I look up, the inhalation lasting several unintentional seconds. The ghost orchid, the world's rarest, looks back at me with soulful wisdom as it dances, hovering over the duckweed. I've spent the last three years exploring South Florida's wilderness and learning about its history. This ecological community is misunderstood, and many consider it a second-class ecosystem. As a result, the human impact is undeniable; beyond its beautiful facade lies the reality that this place is dying. In my travels to and from these pristine sloughs, I've realised that the impending danger comes from the things we no longer see. A variety of mammal species have been lost. A nine-year study was conducted and published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study gathered information about Everglades National Park’s mammal populations through surveys of park roads between 2003-2011. The team compared the results against the data from the 1990s before the arrival of the burmese python, an invasive species in the region that has slowly but surely changed the ecosystem. The numbers were astonishing. In areas adopted by python populations, racoons declined by 99.3%, opossums by 98.9%, and bobcats by 87.5%. Marsh rabbits and foxes completely disappeared. The loss of these species has had profound repercussions throughout the food chain. Looking into the culverts on the side of the road it’s clear that mammals aren’t the only species that have been affected. Fish like the jaguar guapote and Mayan cichlids fill the culverts and clear water ponds. Rarely do I see an abundance of native largemouth bass or bluegill. Invasive cichlids occupy almost every body of water in the Everglades and feed on native grasses and small creatures. The issue of invasives is complex and the problems stem from a lack of education about the wetland's fragile balance. We need to understand our Florida home to properly live within it, respect it and care for it. 42

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Invasive jaguar guapotes and their fry.

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Sunset in the slough.

40,000 acres The area of seagrass that has died since 2015 due to freshwater starvation caused by draining, dredging and damming of the Everglades.

November th 15 2022 Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to increase the Urban Development Boundary, allowing developers to build on sensitive country land.

Highway I-75 running between wetlands and development.

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TOP: A barred owl's early morning flight through the fog. MIDDLE: Pop ash trees in the water. BOTTOM: Alligator in a culvert.

"Water is life" is a truth found deep within the soul of the Florida wetlands. Water flows north to south, sustaining life throughout. Historically, the Everglades watershed arose from the northernmost tip of the Kissimmee lakes. And as the summer rains fell, sweetwater drifted south into Lake Okeechobee, overflowing its banks, the runoff drifting slowly southward, guided by the topography. Ultimately, the water flowed into the river of grass and prairies before penetrating the sloughs. It moved further south into mangrove forests and finally made its way out to Florida Bay, the great 850-square-mile estuary. Besides being home to sea turtles, dolphins and manatees, Florida Bay is rich with life, hosting pink shrimp, spiny lobsters, and spotted sea trout, to mention a few. Sport fishing alone is a $1.2 billion per year industry, according to the Everglades Foundation. Florida Bay houses the largest seagrass meadow in the world, and its health is critically important to the state's ecology and economy. Freshwater inputs nurture life and make this ecosystem unique. Unfortunately, over the last 70 years, we have drained, dredged, and dammed the Everglades so unrecognisably that only one-third of the water makes it out to the bay today. The lack of fresh water has led to over-salination, resulting in massive seagrass die offs. Freshwater starvation is a chronic problem, especially in the southern Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and Florida Bay. This permanent drought, created by northern drainage and development patterns, is man-made. The waters that once flowed south to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean have been cut off. Much of the water has been rerouted for agricultural use, which has also caused algae blooms fed by nutrient-rich, fertilizer-heavy Lake Okeechobee waters. With drastically depleting water supplies, Florida Bay is hyper-salinated, this plays a major role in seagrass die-offs. The Everglades ecosystem is severely out of balance. Along with the impacts of climate change, South Florida finds itself in grave danger. Since 2015, 40,000 acres of seagrass have died. Without seagrass, most of the biodiversity in Florida Bay would be lost. Getting more freshwater into the Bay would be a huge step in restoring seagrass and avoiding further harm to plants and animals, as supported by the mission of Captains for Clean Water, a grassroots non-profit organisation. Founded by fishing guides who witnessed the consequences of Florida’s water mismanagement, they fight to restore and protect

Florida’s water resources. Progress in one area can equate to decimation in another. An unsustainable 100,000 acres of wild Florida are taken annually for development. Urban Development Boundary (UDB) lines were drawn four decades ago to limit expansion to the west and south to protect fragile lands. However, on 15 November 2022, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to increase the UDB, allowing developers to build on sensitive county land. The story of the Everglades is directly tied to human relationships with it; in this case, the disconnect cannot be more evident. For many, progress is measured by the number of warehouses, mini-malls, and agricultural zones we can fill in 'undeveloped' land. For others, progress is defined by nature’s healing through recollecting and piecing together the fractured lifesustaining force that is our Everglades. We sometimes forget that eight million of us in the Sunshine State rely on the Everglades for our drinking water. As Floridians, our survival will depend on our ability to rethink, innovate, and construct cities that coexist with all of nature and the wetlands we know and love. The situation is dire, but I have hope. Efforts are being made to heal our wetlands; realizing the value of our Florida wild, we are re-examining past decisions. The world's largest and most ambitious wetland restoration project (CERP) is in motion. It's “a 35+ year project with a framework for restoring, protecting, and preserving the greater Everglades ecosystem”, targeted at bringing more water south. Activism and education were the driving forces leading to the project's adoption. But, as we are all aware, with awareness comes responsibility. And I can only hope continued activism leads to curative measures. I'm reminded of an epiphyte that encompasses the spirit of the wetlands. These ferns live on branches and trunks throughout the marshlands. I see it all over the oaks and pond apple trees in the sloughs. Yet, only with water do you appreciate this fern's beauty as it goes from a dry and lifeless brown to a lively, vibrant green. Called the resurrection fern, it is said to be able to live 100 years without water. It is the most fitting illustration of the resiliency of the Everglades. The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing the expressions on the faces of family and friends I've accompanied to the Everglades. After each escorted trip, I'd ponder, "how can I help save this place?" And after taking my best friend, a Miami native, to his first encounter with the wetlands, the answer hit me. The biggest threat to the Everglades is that we are disconnected from it. The way we will save this place is by visiting it. You'll fall in love with the wetlands the same way I have. The same way my friends and family have. Because when you love something, you'll protect it. The Everglades is rarely discussed as one of the United States's most beautiful natural places. And that's because it's a different kind of wild. A wild that requires your time and attention. When engaged, its beauty and resilience will call out at you, imploring you to support it.

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

STEVE WOODS 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.


Q&A STEVE WOODS Steve Woods is a British adventure and wildlife photographer, based in Vancouver, Canada. Steve´s aim is to photograph the natural world to show people how beautiful and awe-inspiring it is. He seeks to highlight the danger humans are inflicting on the different ecosystems of the world through his photography.

OC EA NO G R A PH IC M AGAZ I N E (OM ): T H AN K S FOR TAKING TIME TO SP EAK TO US, STEVE. LET’S DIV E R IG H T IN. W H E N D I D YOU F I RS T C ON N E CT WITH TH E OCEAN? IS TH ERE ONE PA RT I C U L A R M O M E N T T H AT S P R I N G S TO M I N D ? STEVE WOODS (SW): I’ve always been interested in the oceans. As a kid, I’ve been fascinated by sharks. Living in a landlocked city, it was always quite difficult to access that. I remember that my parents drove 4 hours because they heard there was a shark in an aquarium somewhere up in the north of England. And when we got there, it was just a model shark made from paper mache (laughs). We started to spend more time by the ocean and I did my first try dives when I was about nine. I then learned to dive when I was 13. Ever since, it has been such a passion for me. All of my school projects dealt with sharks and the ocean. However, the moment that you learn to love the ocean, the realisation hits you that everything is disappearing. And that there seems to be a complete disconnect between the idea of how precious the oceans are and of how threatened they are. OM : W H Y DID YOU S TART TAK I N G U N D E RWAT ER P H OTOS? SW: That’s quite an interesting story. When I came out of school, I was really interested in photography, but the ocean and photography were kind of separate passions at the time. At the beginning of my photography career, I wanted to be a war and conflict photographer. I was working for newspapers at the time. I had an entire career shooting politics and sport in England. I wanted to give a voice to the people who didn’t have a voice. I wanted to change the world, to right the wrongs. But after a while, I fell out of love with newspapers and realised that my strengths were the underwater and natural world. When I was about 28, I wanted a change of scenery. I moved to Indonesia and that’s exactly where I needed to be. I used the skills that I developed as a journalist to help the natural world and worked completely underwater, doing conservation photography. OM : YO U H ELPED S E T U P T H E GI L I S H ARK F OUNDATION IN INDONESIA. TELL US MORE ABOUT TH AT. SW: When I first started working in Indonesia, I would see sharks pretty regularly. But there was no structure around what we were doing and what we were seeing when we were over there. I really wanted to go a bit deeper, find out what was going on and see how we could can protect these animals. We started to gather all images from the island, created a photo database, analysed individuals that we would see all the time, and then we started to speak to the government in order to create a protected area around the Gili Islands. It’s always tricky because the main thing you need to do within conservation is to always work with local people. It’s all well and good for tourists to come in but if you don’t work with the local people, it’s really difficult. We had varying levels of success. We still saw plenty of shark fishing boats – even in protected waters. But we really tried to make a difference. Because it’s such a touristic area, by raising awareness of sharks, the tourists really got on board. And then the locals also started to see the impact of tourists


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being so interested in rays and sharks. It meant that they were also keen to protect these animals, because, in a sense, they were protecting their own livelihoods. We started to rescue sharks from fishermen in Bali which we would release in the Gili Islands. It was amazing because we really started to see an increase in sharks. It was the first foray for me, in terms of running a shark conservation organisation. O M: B EF O R E E V E N T UAL LY M OV I N G TO CANADA, WH ERE ELSE DID YOU END UP ? SW: After living and working in Papua for quite a while, I wanted to move on and see other areas. I wanted to use my photography to help other organisations too. So, instead of being based down in Raja Ampat, I moved to Norway first. When I was living and working in Norway as a photographer, I was able to go out on different expeditions. I also spent a lot of time in South Africa where I worked on campaigns to raise awareness of sharks in the local population and globally through social media. At that point, I did so much work on land as well. I was mixing ideas which was great. O M: W H AT ARE C ON S E RVAT I ON C ON C E R NS IN CANADA? WH ICH TOP ICS ARE YOU TRYING TO B R ING ACR OS S W I T H YOU R I M AGE S ? SW: Since moving to Canada, I’ve been working extensively with wolf conservation. Canada is such an interesting place because ocean conservation actually reaches so far into the land. There is a blur between the ocean and the land because of the salmon. Salmon breed and live offshore and they come all the way up the river system to spawn and die. Their carcasses, which are full of nutrients from the ocean, then get transported into the rainforests where the bears, the wolves, the eagles and so many more animals feed on them. This is what makes it such a fruitful area. Everything is interlinked; it’s really an incredible ecosystem. O M: F O R O C E AN OGRAP H I C ’ S I S S U E 1 7 , YOU WROTE AND P H OTOGRAP H ED TH E ‘WOLF MOTH ER’ COVER F EAT U RE . W H AT M AK E S T H E S E WOLVES SO SP ECIAL? SW: I was thrilled that Oceanographic was interested in running that story because I find that people don’t see that blurring of the lines between the land and the ocean. I think we now start to see this topic a bit more with plastic pollution but I find it so interesting that people are increasingly realising that the land and the ocean are connected so intrinsically. All of those wolves that were in the article are now in the Island of the Sea Wolves documentary on Netflix so it’s great to see they’re important ambassadors. These wolves live on the Pacific Northwest coast, especially on Vancouver Island which is a magical place. Back then, we went to shoot this particular project because there was a sperm whale that washed up on the beach. I photographed the wolves on a number of occasions before so it was amazing to get to go back and see the individuals again. The dead sperm whale acted as a sort of gift from the ocean which was going to ensure the existence of multiple wolf generations. So again, it was an amazing example of the ocean merging with the land animals. Something from the deep ocean was brought up onto the surface and then got spread out across the land. O M: W H AT I S T H E U N D E RWAT E R W ORL D IN CANADA LIKE? ANY SP ECIAL AGGREGATIONS TH AT H AVE IMPRE S S E D YOU ? SW: It’s incredible. You can sit there on the beach and see whales breathing offshore, while sea lions play in the water, wolves walk past, bears feed in the distance. It really is a paradise of wildlife and biodiversity. It’s an unbelievable ecosystem to be able to live in. Twice a year, we get two huge aggregations of different spawning fish. The first one that happens in spring is the herring spawn and it is absolutely enormous. You can see it from space. We have incredible numbers of fish turning up that spawn close to the shore. And sea lions, seals, orcas, whales and other animals come in to feed on the herring spawn. The other thing that is really interesting here is the culture of Indigenous First Nations people. There’s so much that goes on around the herring spawn; not only with the way that they’re supporting their communities but also in their folklore and the culture around it. Then, as the year progresses, you have the salmon aggregation. They don’t just swim close to the shore but hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles inland to spawn. And, on top of that, we get these great aggregations of other animals. For example, sea lions are some of the most interactive, wild animals I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. There’s no food, no bait, no agenda - they are just desperate to come and play with you. There’s nothing else in the natural world that I’ve ever seen that is as interactive as this. The other great thing about Canada is that in the winter months, you have incredible visibility.

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This way up

This way up

This way up

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Q&A Continued...

OM : W H AT IS YO U R M OS T I M P RE S S I V E W I L D L IFE ENCOUNTER TO DATE? SW: The most recent work that I’ve done underwater was with sperm whales in Dominica. On so many levels, this particular instance really blew me away because there was one particular individual, Zamie, who was incredibly accepting. Shawn Heinrichs just ran his story on Zamie in Issue 26 of Oceanographic. It was amazing to see how much she actually was seeking us out and wanted to investigate. The really interesting thing for me personally is that humans absolutely decimated their population. We nearly wiped them out. They were the main target of whalers for nearly 100 years. For us to have done that to their population and their species, is just sickening. But, on another level, for that animal to then accept us and be interested in us again, is humbling. The images that we shot there really show how we can interact with these animals. I’m personally a big proponent of positive wildlife interactions. There are a few different schools of thought; some think the best way to protect them is to leave them alone entirely. I personally feel like that’s not the way to go. I think it’s so important for us to generate and show these positive wildlife interactions because we must bring them into the psyche of the population. If people don’t see these sharks, whales, and sea lions as part of this world that need to be celebrated, loved and protected, then they are just going to be forgotten and protections won’t be there in place for them. Even though we don’t hunt whales anymore, almost every single whale you see is entangled or has propeller injuries. We have to try hard to protect them. Otherwise, we are just going to lose them. OM : W H AT D O YO U T RY TO AC H I E V E W I T H YOU R IMAGES? SW: There are a couple of different angles to the work that I do. In a sense, not one of them is the most important. In terms of conservation, I think we just have to hit this from so many different angles to try and see what is going to help and what is going to work. Firstly, we go and document and photograph these animals from an aesthetic point of view. We take pretty pictures of these incredible animals so that people can engage with them on a lighter level. It’s one of the best vehicles for ocean conservation because if you can put a nice picture of a shark or a whale into someone’s pocket, you are generating an awareness and appreciation of these animals that isn’t currently there. Secondly, we’re trying to generate images that are engaging with humans and with human connection so that people can understand that it’s not just the animal, but also the people that are involved. And, on another level, we're trying to document the threats faced by these animals, whether through pictures of injured animals, entangled individuals or dead animals. I spent a lot of time in Tanjung Luar elasmobranch fish market in eastern Lombok photographing dead sharks and rays. It was devastating but to photograph these images and show people what’s happening to them, really helps drive engagement. And, of course, from a scientific perspective, by photographing these animals, the pictures can be used for research, for identifying individuals, or for analysing behaviour. OM : W IT H ECO - A N XI E T Y ON T H E RI S E , H OW D O YOU STAY P OSITIVE AND CONTINUE WO R K ING IN CO N S E RVAT I ON ? SW: It’s incredibly difficult to stay positive whilst you’re working in marine conservation or any kind of wildlife conservation because we’re constantly hit by devastating news. It’s really difficult to stay positive. One thing that gives me hope, however, is getting these images or videos in front of children. I have a little boy and it is amazing to see how engaged with animals he is. The new generations are our best hope for change. Realistically, the best way we can protect any of these animals is by getting people to vote the right way. So, to get anything to change, we need to engage people so they can make the right decision on who to vote for. You can start to see that more and more people are now voting for green parties, or greener parties. Seeing how many young ocean activists are out there, is just absolutely mind-blowing. And you got to think about the networks that they have – all of their friends, their schools and so on; it’s a case of representation really. Seeing these young people involved in wildlife conservation, really gives me big hope for the future.


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O M: W H AT I S K E Y F OR T H E F U T U RE OF OCEAN CONSERVATION? SW: I think the main challenge that we will see in ocean activism or wildlife conservation is getting the youth involved as the ocean conservation movement is growing older. As said in my previous answer, it’s young people that are going to make the biggest difference. Firstly, we really need to give them the role models to look up to. But we also we need to give them as many tools as possible to be able to drive this change. And, of course, we need to put focus on sustainability. It’s almost impossible for any human to live fully sustainably but the more that we can try to do that, the better. O M: T H E O N E P L AC E YOU RE AL LY WANT TO DIVE? SW: I’ve been so lucky to be able to travel and do so many different things. Personally, the places that I would really like to go to are the more remote places that are incredible difficult to get to. There’s a place near Madagascar and Mozambique. It’s called Bassas da India. I have friends who were able to go there, and it just looks like the most incredible place. My friends told me that it’s the most sharky place they have ever seen because there are just no fishermen out there. It’s an ecosystem that you would expect to have existed centuries ago; it seems untouched by humans. O M: W H AT I S T H E ON E S P E C I E S OR P L ACE YOU REALLY WANT TO TAKE A P H OTO OF? SW: I’ve always loved working with sharks; they’re absolutely amazing but the more I work with different animals and grow, I noticed that I absolutely love working with marine mammals. You can create such a different connection with them. Having worked with humpback whales and sperm whales in different places around the world, creating that connection with such giant, intelligent animals is very humbling. I’ve always loved working with sharks because of the action involved but they’re animals on a different level. There is always a species and genus barrier there. The images that I really like to create at the moment are images of whales and humans that depict that connection between them. O M: W H AT ’ S N E XT F OR YOU ? AN Y OT H E R EXP EDITIONS OR P ROJECTS P LANNED? SW: I’ll be heading out to a remote peninsula in Canada to try and work with blue sharks out in the Pacific Ocean which I’m really excited to work about. It’s incredibly remote and really difficult to get to but I’m interested to start documenting the shark species of Canada and to get a different perspective on sharks. Seeing local sharks will be an amazing way to get people more connected with the species in Canada. What many people don’t know is that we have porbeagles and the rare salmon sharks, amongst other species. That reminds me of one of the saddest stories about sharks in Canada: Canada once had one of the biggest populations of basking sharks in the world. Unfortunately, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans led a campaign against these sharks because they were seen as a pest that would get trapped in nets and cause damage to fishing gear. The government therefore paid fishermen to kill basking sharks. The fishermen would affix blades to the front of their boats and when they saw a basking shark, they would just drive straight into it and cut it up. It just blows me away that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which is kind of associated with protecting the Canadian oceans, was responsible for one of the biggest massacres of sharks in the world. Today, it’s incredibly rare to see a basking shark in Canadian waters so they’ve basically been entirely wiped out by that campaign. O M: T H A NK S S O M U C H F OR T H E I N T E RVIEW. DO YOU H AVE A PARTING COMMENT FOR US? SW: We need to engage people as much as possible in order to raise awareness of not only the wonderful animals and the incredible ecosystems that we have, but also the threats that face the natural world. We need to get people behind the kind of activism that we generated. I think that’s the main way that we can all actually protect this wonderful natural world that we all love. For example, there seems to be such an incredible social media currency at the moment. People are amazed by seeing wildlife online. We just need to back this up with driving conservation and change.

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Tonga A humpback whale calf frolics in the warm, protected calving grounds of the South Pacific before making the long journey down to the frigid feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

Dominica The giant eye of a sperm whale gazes into the camera lens.

Dominica Conservationist Shawn Heinrichs is dwarfed by a sperm whale towering above him as they mimic each other’s poses underwater.

Vancouver Island, Canada Steller sea lions swarm around the adventurer Krystal Janicki in the fertile waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Baja California, Mexico A critically endangered silky shark cruises the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean during the annual breeding season.

Tonga A newborn humpback whale calf mimics her mother’s movements as she learns to survive.

British Columbia, Canada A coastal wolf patrols the intertidal zone searching for carrion that the tides have washed up after a big storm.

Dominica Freediver Candace Crespi compares her size to a resting sperm whale as sargassum seaweed floats around them.

Tonga A humpback whale mother travels with her infant calf teaching her how to swim and breathe in the first precious weeks of its life.

Canada A grizzly bear gorges on salmon, packing in as many calories as possible to survive the cold winter in the coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

South Africa A large humpback whale stares into the camera as it makes its annual migration to warmer waters to mate.

Canada Millions of pulsating moon jellyfish congregate in the emerald waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Behind the lens STEVE WOODS

Rocky Mountains The Valley of the Ten Peaks, one of the most beautiful views in the Rocky Mountains, is reflected in the emerald waters of Moraine Lake.


Tonga A humpback whale rests near the surface of the water as her calf suckles, putting as much weight on as possible before their migration south.


@ steve_woods_photography




S t eve s t a r t e d o u t a s a p re s s a n d s p o r t s p h o t o g ra p h er in the UK, w h i ls t s t u d yi n g f o r a m a s t e r’s d e g re e i n p h o t o graphy. H e h a s b e e n p a s s i o n a t e a b o u t t h e n a t u ra l e n v i ro n m ent and t h e u n d e r w a t e r w o r l d f ro m a n e a r l y a g e . I t w a s t h e refore a n a t u ra l p ro g re s s i o n f o r h i m t o t a ke h i s ca m e ra u n d e r w ater, m e rg i n g h i s e n t h u s i a s m f o r t h e n a t u ra l w o rld a n d h i s i nterest i n p h o t o g ra p h y. L i v i n g i n I n d o n e s i a f o r a n u m b e r o f y ears, he s e t u p a s h a rk f o u n d a t i o n o n t h e G i li Is la n d s b e f o re movi ng t o R a j a A m p a t , N u s a L e m b o n g a n n e a r B a l i , a n d N o rway to w o rk o n d i ff e re n t co n s e rva t i o n p ro je ct s . Ha vi n g re c entl y m o ve d t o Va n co u ve r i n C a n a d a , h e w o rk s a s a co m merci al p h o t o g ra p h e r, le a d i n g w i ld li f e p h o t o g ra p h y t ri p s o n land and u n d e rw a t e r, a n d w o rk i n g o n co n s e rva t i o n ca m p a i g ns.

@SteveWoodsPhotographer @sealegacy



Oceanographic Issue 28

Glimmer OF

hope The Galapagos Islands are home to the last 300 critically endangered Floreana mockingbirds on earth. After enduring years of human-induced pressures, a group of scientists is trying to turn the tide on one of the world’s rarest birds.

Wo rd s b y M o n t y H a l l s P h o t o g ra p h s b y M o n t y H a l l s & L u i s O r t i z


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Mockingbird with cactus. A marine iguana. A sea lion stretching. Beach on Isabela Island. PREVIOUS PAGE: A Floreana Mockingbird.


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or islands that had such an apocalyptic volcanic birth, they are strangely silent much of the time. The absence of any large mammals in the Galapagos means that the braying cacophony of life is confined to the clamour of nesting seabirds and the occasional hiss of a reptile. For the latter they are, of course, the feature for which the islands have become globally renowned, with the world’s only true marine lizard munching algae beneath rolling Pacific swells, and giant tortoises moving regally from place to place on great wrinkled cantilevers that speak more of Brunel than Bellamy. But to really know these islands, one must take to the sea. Not for nothing were they known as the Islas Enchantas by the first sailing pioneers, those who came to pillage and plunder in 1831, mining a seam of natural riches unmatched anywhere else on a curved blue horizon. Beset on all sides by five ocean currents, the islands seemed magical and sinister to those who first saw them - the whalers, the pirates, and the settlers. The cold water of the Humboldt Current meeting the tepid water of the southern equatorial current created mists that swirled over eddies of dizzying complexity. Islands would materialise out of the stygian gloom like volcanic chimeras, to seemingly vanish moments later as the vessels twisted and spun in back currents and danced in seething swells. The tiller would kick, the boom would swing, and the sails would shudder. “Islas Enchantas,” the sailors whispered, the Enchanted Isles, six hundred miles offshore, dark and forbidding, surely the result of wizardry and witchcraft. Of course, today they retain the name, but for very different reasons. The Galapagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site in 1978 - the first on the planet - an event that marked the beginning of a concerted attempt to right the wrongs of those who had gone before. It is said that man is the only species capable of blushing, and the only species that needs to, and the ravaged, scorched landscapes of the main islands were a legacy of the very worst excesses of the human species. And no island was more devastated than Floreana, the location of the first human settlement. Sitting in the southern point of the archipelago, the island had precisely what was required to support human life - altitude (creating verdant forests cloaking volcanic slopes), freshwater, a natural harbour, and lots of tortoises. Within four years, up to the very moment a 26 year old naturalist from Shrewsbury called Charles Darwin first set foot on Floreana, the landscape had been utterly decimated.

Pigs, cows, goats, and rats had advanced inland in a great viral wave that had a scorched earth effect on the delicate ecosystems of the interior. The many thousands of Giant Floreana tortoises that had criss-crossed the landscape for millennia were on the brink of extinction. Indeed as young Darwin walked up the track from the harbour, he was struck by the hundreds of discarded tortoise shells alongside the route. “Oh those,” said Nicholas Lawson, the deputy governor of the island, “do you know I can tell which island a tortoise comes from just by the shape of its shell?”. And with those words the greatest biological idea of them all - evolution - was planted in Darwin’s enquiring mind, and indeed when he published On the Origin of Species in 1859, he credited Lawson for the comment. A concept that changed the way we think of the natural world, of the great elemental forces that shape life, and indeed the way we think about ourselves was all born on that devastated scrap of land, on the smouldering ecological aftermath of man meeting a new environment and taking what he felt was his by divine right. And so Floreana is important. But today more so than ever, because it has become the focus of a global effort to restore it to its natural state. There is an ongoing multinational initiative to re-wild this rare jewel, to turn the clock back and - in doing so - perhaps salve our guilty environmental conscience. All of mankind’s creativity, energy, and terrible intent was required to destroy it, and is now being used to rebuild the ecosystem piece by piece. And part of that resolute armada was now bobbing quietly at anchor off the glowering cliffs of Gardner Rock, a few miles to the south east of the main island itself. “Pirata” was a beautiful ketch, with the high equatorial sun burnishing her white superstructure, and in turn causing those onboard to squint as they moved with purpose about her deck. Sailing is the perfect way to reach Gardner, a whispering approach beneath full canvas, as the Pacific mutters and rustles on the bow, the elements combining to deliver salvation. And for “Pirata” that meant trying to save one of the rarest birds on earth. If the giant tortoise was the seed of the idea for evolution, the moment that saw it truly bloom was Darwin noting the difference between the long beaks of mockingbirds between the various islands. This goes against perceived wisdom (surely it was the finches, the legendary Darwin finches!), and gets mockingbird scientists very excited indeed. The truth of the matter was that the finches were simply a bloody mass of feathers

Oceanographic Issue 28


“For here, huddled in desperate isolation, are the last 300 Floreana mockingbirds on Earth.”

A Floreana mockingbird sits on top of a fern.


“She leaned forward, took a deep breath, and closed the ring around the tiny, delicate leg of the bird that inspired Darwin. As she did so, she found - to her surprise - that she was crying.”

Researcher Enzo Rodriguez-Reyes holds a Floreana mockingbird. Photograph by Luis Ortiz


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when they were returned to England, a pointless bundle of little dead brown birds, whereas the mockingbirds - larger, more easily distinguished - were individually labelled. Here it was, proof that natural selection did indeed craft exquisite and nuanced differences between creatures, differences masterfully attuned to the world immediately around them. But Gardner is not just a rock, it is an ark. For here, huddled in desperate isolation, are the last 300 Floreana mockingbirds on earth. Their ancestral kin had been shot, trapped, and bludgeoned to death, and recent generations deprived of habitat and home as their island had been ravaged. And so they had come to Gardner, the final citadel for their kind, a bastion on which they would see out their days. On “Pirata” were a group of scientists who had been monitoring this population, knowing as they do that here is the well-head for a future when the mockingbirds could once again cackle and chirp in the cloud forests that coat the slopes of the volcano at Floreana’s heart. Here was a precious global resource, one that needed to be constantly monitored, nurtured, and protected. For when they are gone one more link in the entirely unique ecosystem of the island will be irreparably broken. Part of the research team on this day was Tamsyn Halls. Tam was not a scientist, she was a filmmaker, and (far more significantly for her at this precise juncture) she was not a sailor. “Pirata” was a grand old lady, who had seen a thing or two in her time, and although she retained a certain distressed style it is not unreasonable to say that her days of luxurious travel were behind her. The heat has been stifling on the passage from the harbour at San Cristobel island - fifty miles of heaving swells and suffocating proximity in the crowded saloon. Tam - 5’2” and eight stone wet through - has eaten little and vomited much. She has slept hardly at all. By the time the anchor chain rattled out of the locker, she was dehydrated, ashen, and moderately enfeebled. But before her looms Gardner, a great lava buttress that offers her two things. The first is the chance to tell the story of the mockingbirds, and of the men and women who stand firm as their guardians. And the second is the chance to get off this damn boat. And so Tam climbed into the tender when the moment came, and held fast as the outboard puttered and the little boat slammed and skidded towards the base of the cliff. Here the ocean seethed and boiled, offering a tantalising glimpse of a landing spot, before racing in once again

to snatch it away. Tam glanced at the crewman, who raised his eyebrows, nodded, and gunned the outboard once again. The little boat rode the crystal shoulders of a swell towards the dark cliff wall, until - at the last moment - the crewmen executed a neat handbrake turn to slam the gunwales up against the rock face. The wave receded, and Tam leapt out onto dark ropes of petrified lava, scampering up the slope to dry ground. Hot on her heels came the rest of the team, laughing as they scramble ashore, bags on shoulders and feet skidding beneath them. They have been to Gardner many times before, and yet every time they land it feels like an affirmation of their work, of the great environmental adventure on which they have embarked. Tam began the climb, shouldering one of the scientists kit bags as she did so. She clutched lava rocks, carefully placed her feet in dusty nooks, and as she did so the sea fell away beneath her. She glanced back over one shoulder and saw Pirata rocking gently in the crescent of the bay, a dark quartz shard set in the sapphire curve of the Pacific. The team were tagging mockingbirds, crucial work to monitor the movements and health of every single member of the colony. On arrival at the sampling site, Tam set up her gear, and quietly watched the scientists lure in a mockingbird to a small cage. This was a surprisingly simple process - mockingbirds are genuinely curious, and will quite happily hop up to any interloper, head on one side, chirping and cackling in greeting. Within moments one was in the cage, hopping and shrieking in rage at this lapse of courtesy and protocol. Much to her surprise, the scientist gestured her over, and reached carefully into the cage to extract the bird. Holding it with exquisite care, he handed her a pair of pliers. “Here, Tam you do it,” he said with a slight smile. She leaned forward, took a deep breath, and closed the ring round the tiny, delicate leg of the bird that inspired Darwin. As she did so, she found - to her surprise - that she was crying. Not gentle, personal sniffles, but great gulping sobs. The scientist laughed. “We all cried when we did our first one too,” he said simply. “It means you care and keeps you going when the work gets hard. Sometimes we feel like giving up, that we’re losing, but here on Gardner, we think we’re winning.” And with that he released the mockingbird, which sat on a nearby rock, defiantly chattering, and definitively alive. Here in the Enchanted Isles it turns out that we might, just, be able to turn the tide.

Oceanographic Issue 28



By Hugo Tagholm

The ocean activist THE LAST WILD HUNT

“Protecting MPAs will help wildlife recover, support local low-impact fishers, and help strengthen coastal communities. The evidence points towards this.”


am putting pen to paper just as the United Nations Biodiversity Summit, COP15, draws to a close. Every bit as crucial as the recent climate summit COP27, this nature summit has been called the make-or-break moment for wildlife and restoring our wild, blue planet. Yet it has only just edged into the fringes of public consciousness. Whilst the noises, commitments, and lack of commitments made by governments at COP15 reverberate around the environmental NGO echo chamber, the public have often been left in the dark. The ocean covers 70% of our planet and contains most of the world’s biodiversity, yet concrete commitments and measures to restrict or curtail some of the biggest threats to our seas have been conspicuously absent from the conference at times. Over-industrialisation of our seas is already decimating fish populations and ripping apart ecosystems. Scientific guidance is all too often ignored by policymakers as they set fishing quotas and rubber stamp the industrial development of our seas, effectively legalising the destruction of biodiversity and pristine ecosystems. Governments consistently ignore legal obligations to restore fish populations and safeguard specific areas of the ocean. They collectively fail to provide the conditions needed to allow threatened and endangered species


to come back from the brink. Let us look at one glaring example here in Europe, the eel. This critically endangered fish species is already teetering on the edge of population collapse. So, you would think that every effort would be made to fully protect eels? Right? Yet this iconic fish is still subject to annual commercial fishing quotas that ignore scientific advice. An animal that plays a vital role in marine and freshwater ecosystems that may soon be wiped off Planet Ocean. This is just one glaring example of potentially catastrophic overfishing that not only poses a threat to biodiversity and ecosystems, but also the livelihoods of the fisher community. It’s simple, if we catch fish faster than they can grow and reproduce, you’ll end up with no fish. Consider for a moment the public outcry there would be if commercial quotas set for their capture and consumption threatened and endangered land mammals and birds. The wild cat, water vole, puffin, hedgehog, dormouse, or red squirrel. Animals loved by the nation, surviving in only small pockets, hunted further towards collapse. People simply would not tolerate this. There would be a biodiversity rebellion calling for immediate action. So why not so for ocean life? Whilst world leaders and diplomats set out

Oceanographic Issue 28



About Hugo Hugo Tagholm has previously led the ocean campaigning charity Surfers Against Sewage and is the executive director and vice president of Oceana in the UK. He was recognised as Environmentalist of the Year 2021 by the Save the Waves coalition and is a regular media commentator on environmental issues.

Over-industrialisation of our seas is decimating fish populations and ripping apart ecosystems.

biodiversity ambitions and commitments at COP15 in Montreal, it is important that they move faster to end destructive overfishing and follow the science to ensure that we do not empty our seas of life once and for all. Industrial fishing is the last major wild harvest of biodiversity on our planet. If governments do not enforce scientific limits, we may well see the end of other iconic species including cod. Protecting sea life will in turn protect coastal communities and the livelihood of fishers from John O’Groats to Lands’ End. Whilst the UK has led strongly on the global call to protect 30% of our land and sea by 2030, a commitment that should be reinforced, ratified, and implemented through COP15, it is an increasingly contentious area of international discussions, when developed nations push for strong overseas protections whilst failing on their own shores. A recent report shows that the UK is alarmingly far off track of reaching the target of 30% of our seas protected by 2030. 92% of the UK’s so-called Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) do not have site-wide protection against the most destructive types of fishing including super trawling and bottom trawling. Shockingly, over 60% of offshore MPAs are open to all fishing activity year-round with just five of the UK’s 76 offshore MPAs are protected against

bottom towed gear that devastates the seabed and destroys marine life beyond the target fish species. An estimated 80% of seagrass, kelp forest, reefs, and saltmarsh habitats, which are critical for biodiversity, are nominally protected within MPAs, but just 22% are safeguarded from bottom towed gear. Banning destructive industrial fishing vessels and techniques from these areas, inshore and offshore, would be one of the most beneficial measures for the recovery of fish populations and biodiversity in our seas. We have the power to do this in the UK, as demonstrated by the recent ban on bottom trawling in the Dogger Bank – a hard won campaign victory for Oceana, the Blue Marine Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society and Greenpeace. We now need to roll this out across our MPAs, alongside restoration efforts and other measures to protect and restore the ocean. Protecting MPAs will help wildlife recover, support local low-impact fishers, and help strengthen coastal communities. All the evidence points towards this. Case studies from Mexico to Lundy Island, show where strong marine protection areas and measures are properly implemented, life bounces back, as do local economies. Politicians continue to call for more science and evidence, yet we already have all we need to act. The lighthouse of protection and restoration shines brightly. We know where we need to sail this ship, and we know the treacherous rocks we must avoid. As I close this article, negotiators in Montreal have reached a deal – the historic Kunming-Montreal agreement to protect nature to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Some say it doesn’t go far enough. As a voluntary agreement, it will need governments adopting it into legally binding policy, legislation, and clear targets for it to be effective. We’re in a decade that needs action not words. A framework for protecting biodiversity is fantastic, but without full and ambitious implementation it won’t protect the paper it’s written on. Kudos to all the campaigners who got us this far. It's now time to redouble our efforts to shine the light on the blue pathway to thriving seas, to demand that words become action, and that governments worldwide are held to account on protecting this amazing Blue Planet. HT

Oceanographic Issue 28


Clean-up crew In April, the Australian autumn of 2022, Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef witnessed an annual coral spawning event that didn't go to plan. Sharks emerged as the silent heroes.

Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y L e w i s B u rn e t t



severe coral bleaching event and subsequent fish kill left thousands of dead fish floating on the surface of the inner lagoon of Bateman’s Bay. It threatened to overload the ecosystem’s carrying capacity for nutrients and cause another die off. Over the span of two weeks, we were able to watch the event unfold and gain a deeper insight into the roles that our ocean inhabitants play within their ecosystem. It highlighted not only the importance of sharks and their position at the top of the food chain but also what an ocean might look like without them. It was a period of reflection for me, an event that highlighted both the extreme fragility and the stoic power of mother nature. Although I'm deeply sad that this occurred to our reef, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to observe what I had read about for years. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how our ocean works and learn more about the importance of keystone species. When I was younger, I often went snorkelling at a local reef off Perth. It filled me with joy to see everything living in perfect harmony. The golden strands of kelp hypnotically swaying in the waves, light rays dancing through the water scattered over schools of bullseyes and buffalo bream, and octopuses hidden deep within dark caves. Spending time over summer there, I was able to observe individual fish species playing their part in the web of life, helping maintain a fine balance within the ecosystem around them. It was always in the back of my mind that I might encounter something at the top of the food chain, but I only ever had brief glimpses of sharks. At the time, Western Australia was filled with hysteria surrounding sharks. The saying "the only good shark is a dead shark" was heard often. It wasn't until a visit to Coral Bay on a family holiday that I had my first good look at a shark underwater. I was scuba diving with a family friend at one of the outer reef sites when we came across three beautiful grey reef sharks swimming slowly into the current. I can vividly remember the feeling of awe as these graceful animals moved effortlessly through the current. As life moved on and I began my career working in dive shops in South-East Asia, I couldn't take my mind off the beauty of what I had seen on that visit to the Ningaloo Reef. So, when I had the opportunity to take an underwater photography job in Coral Bay, I jumped at the chance. Sharing the water with the charismatic marine megafauna that is found in abundance there, I began to learn about sharks and their roles in our ocean. Admittedly, coral is something that up until very recently I had overlooked. I spent the majority of my time trying to photograph the larger animals of the reef and neglected the very building blocks that allowed life to exist there. Over millions of years the coral species have developed a survival technique to outsmart fish that live PREVIOUS: The spawning event as seen from the air. RIGHT: A large tiger shark cruises the surface of the lagoon searching for fish to scavenge on.




MAIN IMAGE: Tiger shark surrounded by an entourage of juvenile golden trevally. TOP: Tiger shark in crystal clear water - the same conditions that helped create the unusual event. MIDDLE: Great hammerhead shark searches the bottom for any fish remains. BOTTOM: Great hammerhead shark crossing the inner lagoon.


Oceanographic Issue 28

Oceanographic Issue 28





TOP: Staghorn corals are often the first to bleach. Here, one turned fluorescent from stress and lack of oxygen. BOTTOM: Thousands of dead fish washed up on the shore that weren't eaten in time by the sharks.


Oceanographic Issue 28


within them. Their reproductive cycle is timed in unison with neighbouring coral colonies. That way, when they release their eggs into the water column, enough survive the onslaught of hungry fish and get evenly distributed throughout the surrounding reef, allowing new life to emerge and regeneration to occur. This spawning event usually occurs within a week of the first full moon of autumn, a time where traditionally light offshore winds help disperse the floating coral spawn across the lagoons and into the south-flowing Leeuwin current through which the coral spawn can sink and begin its crucial job of growing new reefs. In 2022, the coral spawned as expected. On a night of magic on the reef, the water column filled with millions of pinky-orange eggs suspended in the inky black waters, slowly floating towards the surface. Unseasonal onshore winds were blowing that night due to a cyclone that was sitting off the Ningaloo coast. Unfortunately, the weather continued for several days, and the onshore winds trapped the floating spawn mass near the beach in Bills Bay. This event, coupled with very little swell, made for the perfect storm as the reef was unable to flush out the nutrient load in time. Eventually, the coral spawn sunk to the floor of the bay and began to rot. This turned the water anoxic, suffocating thousands of fish and rendering the water a dark muddy brown colour. The first night after the spawn, more than 16,000 dead fish washed up on the shores of Coral Bay. For the next couple of days, the weather pattern stayed the same. Wave after wave, dead fish washed up on shore having suffocated in the stagnant waters. It wasn't until almost ten days later that the water had settled enough that could see through the water to the corals below. Although expected, it was gut wrenching to see the destruction that this event had caused, killing off almost every single coral colony within a two kilometre stretch of the bay. A couple of the larger Porites stony coral species had managed to cling to their lives but the remainder of the reef was bleached beyond repair. Corals are complex. A singular coral is made up of a colony of thousands of small individual animals called polyps. They are able to gather up to 20% of their food by filter feeding in the water column, grabbing whatever floats their way with small tentacles. They mostly catch plankton and the microscopic larvae of small fish and crustaceans but I've often seen shrimp in their grasp big enough to see with the naked eye. These individual polyps form the ‘stony’ part of the coral by building up a calcium carbonate skeleton over time. It's this skeleton that makes the coral so susceptible to ocean acidification. It’s also the reason that corals grow so slowly. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the coral ecosystem is the symbiotic relationship that it has with zooxanthellae, a single-celled dinoflagellate found within the polyp’s flesh. Similar to plants on land, zooxanthellae can photosynthesise which means they can create their own food using sunlight. In return for a safe home to

live in, they feed the coral polyp the remaining 80% of its energy needs. Symbiosis is something that is quite common in nature, a relationship built over millions of years that benefits both parties equally, but it's most beautifully illustrated within corals. When a coral bleaches under stress, the loss of colour stems from the expulsion of the zooxanthellae living within its flesh. Without them, the polyp is a translucent colour, allowing us to see straight through it into the bleached white calcium carbonate skeleton within. But a bleached coral doesn't necessarily mean it’s dead. They can bleach for more than a week before inviting the zooxanthellae back into their bodies and recovering if the water conditions return to the necessary parameters. Unfortunately, in the case of the Coral Bay event, the water stayed stagnant for too long, the absence of sunlight leading to coral mortality within a week. Eventually, a favourable weather combination of swell and tides managed to flush some clean, healthy water into the bay and pushed the stagnant water further north. Over the next couple of days, we witnessed something phenomenal. As the dead water passed north of the reef and spilled out into a large sandy bay, tides pulled it into a perfect line, separating the crystal-clear water that usually fills Bateman's Bay with the murky soup that had just arrived and leaving behind a kilometre-long line of dead fish on the surface. It didn't take long for Ningaloo's shark population to start eating the floating fish in the bay. Watching from our little boat as hundreds of these mighty ocean predators performed their crucial role as the ocean clean-up crew, we were reminded just how important these animals are for a healthy ocean. Coral Bay is well known for its resident tiger shark population, with an average day on the water bringing at least a couple sightings. But this event brought out almost every shark that is found here. Tigers, great hammerheads, lemons, pigeyes, dusky whalers and reef sharks all joined the feeding frenzy. It was fascinating to watch their hierarchy in action, the larger sharks taking precedence in the best spots to gulp down the fish, with the smaller reef species taking what they could get, darting in when the tigers weren't looking. Without these sharks consuming the remains of the fish kill, we could have had another catastrophic event on our hands. The large amount of rotting fish could have easily changed the water chemistry of the bay further and caused more damage to the already fragile reef. The event solidified in my mind the important role sharks play in their ecosystems. They keep a reef ’s health in check, taking out the old, cleaning up the dead, weeding out the sick. Without a healthy population of these apex predators, our ocean cannot hope to survive similar events in the future. Changing our relationship with these animals starts with changing our perceptions, accepting them for their presence and allowing them to thrive - not just for the health of local reefs, but for the ocean and the planet.

Oceanographic Issue 28



By Cal Major

The adventurer FOR THE LOVE OF BIRDS


think birds are seriously underappreciated. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started to understand the joy that can come from watching birds. Don’t get me wrong, I lose my mind at the sight of a whale or dolphin and am blown away by seeing the underwater world. But until recently I didn’t really pay much attention to the feathery creatures that are often so much easier to spot than their submerged counterparts. I think I first really came to appreciate seabirds in 2018 when I was stand-up paddleboarding from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I got to the very last stretch of coast, just south of Duncansby Head in the Northeast of Scotland and found myself in bird heaven. I was paddling past enormous cliffs, many invisible from land, and every single ledge was stuffed to bursting with nesting seabirds. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmar, cormorants, and shags… the noise, and the smell were beyond words. I was careful not to paddle too close as to flush these nesting seabirds off their ledges, potentially dislodging carefully laid eggs or flightless chicks, but even a couple of hundred metres from the cliffs I was surrounded by swarms of auks out to sea looking for dinner. For several years after this trip, when people would ask me what my favourite part of the 2-month, 1,000-mile journey had been, this stretch of coastline always came to mind. The cliffs and rock-stacks were impressive; imposing and stunning, but it was the tiny, busy, stinky birds that really made it for me, and in those moments, I was surprised at just how much joy being around them brought to me, and how perfect a medium for experiencing them stand up paddle boarding is. Since then, I've been joined on the water miles out at sea by fulmar, gracefully dipping their wing tips into the water so close to me I could have reached out and touched them. I’ve paddled under flocks of kittiwakes and watched skua terrorising terns. I’ve been awed by the sheer size of white-tailed sea eagles and been simultaneously amused and amazed at the scruffiness and size of an 8-week-old chick that I had the privilege of helping to tag. I’ve watched puffins dive into the water, and guillemots swim under my board on their way to depths of over 30 metres. And the best experience of all: passing some of the UK’s biggest colonies of Northern gannets at Troup Head and Bass


Rock as they circled above, the incredible sound of their wing beats demonstrating their two-metre wingspan. Whilst making a film series about ocean conservation in Scotland in 2021, I learned as much as I could about seabirds in Scotland from the amazing crew at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick. These birds aren’t just glorious to watch, they're an incredibly important part of the marine ecosystem. As such, they are an indicator species for the health of the whole ecosystem: Changes in seabird populations can suggest changes in overall ocean health. Seabirds have seen dramatic declines over the last few decades, vulnerable to overfishing, particularly of sand eels, plastic pollution, and climate change. In 2022, the UK experienced its worst ever avian flu epidemic, resulting in the death of millions of birds. Somewhat upsettingly, the narrative from the government has seemed much more concerned with the agricultural impacts of this than the effects on marine life, a tangible economic cost versus the devastation of our planet’s life support system. Seabirds around the world are struggling, even before this epidemic, and the more pressure we can take off the marine ecosystem from all directions, the sooner we will see their numbers return. As with a lot of conservation conversations, I think one of the first steps to generating public support for a particular species or habitat is in people feeling a personal connection to it. The best part is that we all can enjoy watching them. Birds are everywhere if you take the time to stop and observe them. I think my life is all the richer for having realised this. Even if you don't consider yourself particularly ‘into’ birds, I challenge you to try and notice them more when you're out and about. And I bet, I hope, really paying attention to what’s right in front of you, will put a great big smile on your face. CM About Cal Cal is a vet, ocean advocate and world-record stand up paddleboard adventurer who founded the UK charity Seaful to reconnect people to the ocean. For more information or to get involved visit: www.seaful.org.uk

Oceanographic Issue 28




“Birds are everywhere if you take the time to stop and observe them. I think my life is all the richer for having realised this.”

Photograph by James Appleton

Selling the seas

Location: A remote island in the South Pacific with limited connectivity to the outside world. Population: Around 2,500 locals, a dozen or so tourists and countless whales. With 4G set to arrive this year, conservationists ask themselves how it will affect locals, wildlife conservation and whale-focused tourism.

Wo rd s a n d p h o t o g ra p h s b y P i e r N i ra n d a ra


“Feelings of awe and wonder rushed through my body, accompanied by a sense of smallness in the presence of such giant creatures.”


Oceanographic Issue 27



nitially formed by volcanic activity and battered by unrelenting waves for the next 12 million years, the island is a lush green mound of land similar in shape to the continent of Africa. Just over a million years ago, another geological occurrence led to the island being lifted 500 feet into the air, draining out rocky caverns carved out of coral and limestone. Sites which eventually became historical burial grounds for the cave-dwelling people of the island. While I hope I'm not succumbing to any clichés, according to our local guide, Paul, stories of cannibalism still abound. “This cave is called the oven,” he tells us. The name is self-explanatory. I’m here to lead an expedition to swim with humpback whales. The waters are a clear, vivid blue, and the waves can be rough with no protection from the open sea, but the ocean is alive with the vocalisation of migrating cetaceans on their first stop on the way up from Antarctica. They’re here to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. There are playful juveniles, loud singers, escorts with mum and calf pairings, including some newborns barely a few days old that swim clumsily around as they learn to maintain buoyancy. On the verge of extinction earlier in the century, combined international efforts have led to a recovery in humpback numbers, a heart-warming sign of what is possible. Each day, we launch the boat to circle the island on the lookout for the iconic blows that signal whales below the surface, led by locals Vai and Mali (names have been changed to protect anonymity), our captain and whale guide. By law, each vessel is required to have a guide from the island, something that helps make sure money circulates back into the community. There is very limited connectivity to the outside world. Polynesian culture still runs deep here, authentically, rather than on display for mass-tourism. So far, I’ve spotted a few French wanderers, the odd traveller who has washed up on these distant shores, and whale seekers, like us. The Wi-Fi is barely good enough for WhatsApp or a Google search, and cell signal is elusive. Surrounded by endless ocean, this is the most removed from the world I’ve ever felt. And yet, things are changing. Year after year, more tourists descend. Soon, 4G is set to arrive. When my expedition partners first came here, they were one of two boats. Then one of three. This year, there are five boats. While this is still few compared to the number of whalewatching and -swimming vessels that operate out of the nearby islands of Tahiti and Mo’orea, it is still a pattern of increase - one that Tahiti and Mo'orea would have experienced decades ago. (The operators have asked me

to keep the name of this island redacted, concerned of over-tourism in a place that can’t yet support it.) “We’re excited for 4G,” Mali tells me. I can’t help but wonder how the arrival of 4G will alter the fabric of the island’s culture and its wildlife interactions. On the other side of the world, several years ago, I had my first encounter with a whale shark on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Putting on a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins, I recall plunging into the blue to witness a colossal animal known in Malagasy as an “ocean of stars” as it passed below. Its wide mouth opened and closed with ease, and I was terrified of slipping into that gaping abyss, despite the fact that whale sharks are filter feeders that eat only shrimp, fish and plankton. Feelings of awe and wonder rushed through my body, accompanied by a sense of smallness in the presence of such giant creatures. Years on, I believe the experience has changed. Many more tourists drop daily into the water during whale shark season around Isla Mujeres compared with when I experienced my first dive. The peaceful serenity of sharing the water with majestic creatures appears to have been replaced by something else: full face masks, jet skis, people towed on boogie boards, everyone vying for their slice of magic. The thing is, I can’t help but feel complicit. I’ve built a career over the years photographing wildlife and leading expeditions around the world to swim with marine megafauna. I share my photographs and experiences on social media, which influences people. There are, perhaps, people who have booked trips off the back of my posts. But while it may be the case that the lifestyle of modern adventurers is sellable, at the crux of why I do what I do is a deep passion for the underwater world, and a desire to share it with others, to break down the walls of apathy to encourage others to help conserve our beating blue heart. And as a female person of colour in a traditionally white, male-dominated space, I feel I have an important role to play. But that sense of complicity never disappears, so there’s a persistent internal question: ‘Am I doing enough?’ Social media has commodified wildlife experiences. Awe. Transcendence. The sublime. You, too, can experience all of this for a sizeable-but-not-unreachable sum. That sum is even less if you’re a day tripper, a term used to describe those who book a brief encounter on holiday, squeezing in a quick swim with a manta, dolphin, or whale. This is a phenomenon that puts pressure on local communities to cater to tour buses, and captains and guides to deliver the experience advertised,

OPPOSITE: Three humpback whales swim with a diver in French Polynesia. PREVIOUS PAGE: A humpback whale mother with her calf in the warm waters of the South Pacific.

Oceanographic Issue 28




Oceanographic Issue 28


TOP: A striped marlin hunts a bait ball off Mexico. BOTTOM LEFT: Negative human impact - a shark with a hook. BOTTOM RIGHT: The French Polynesian island's coastline.

often at the expense of the wildlife - with only a few hours at sea, they must try everything possible to get that GoPro shot of their guests with the desired animal. But what if a day trip is all that someone can afford? Why should people be priced out of experiencing the natural world? Not everyone has the time or money to spend a week looking for animals. And I have certainly encountered snobbery, elitism, and entitlement among those who do have the time and money to visit the ocean on a regular basis. Who’s the best in the water? Who has more experience? Who’s the most qualified scientist? Who does the most for the animals? Privilege exists when it comes to accessing the ocean. Financial. Racial. Physical. And here lies the great challenge: accessibility for all who desire it, without impacting the health of the animals and ecosystems we are visiting. How do we price such experiences? How do we teach practical, inclusive and experience-led conservation to a generation without overburdening the environment? And how important is it to get this right before it's too late? I recall a conversation with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. Philippe had just had a daughter and lamented how much the ocean has changed since his grandfather’s days, and how much they will change for his daughter. “Will there be anything left by the time she grows up?” There is hope. Those working hard to balance the scales are many. I’ve spent significant time diving in South Africa, a place of deep inequality when it comes to ocean access (not to mention on land too, of course). Grassroots organisations are working to educate future generations and instil in them a sense of environmental empathy for the plight of our ocean. In Cape Town, the Black Mermaid Foundation by Zandile Ndhlovu, the country’s first black freediving instructor, and Sea The Bigger Picture by co-founder

“How do we balance such magnificent wildlife encounters with conservation and accessibility?” Shamier Mogamat Magmoet, work with underprivileged communities of colour to get their youth into the water, nurturing an interest for the marine environment and consequently fostering a pathway towards conservation. Many of these children are descended from communities largely displaced from the coast due to the Group Areas Act during apartheid. Though South Africa’s identity is inseparable from its two forces, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, coastal access has historically been segregated, with ‘whites only’ signs once visible on beaches. The narrative has largely been dominated by white stories – until now. “If we are to save our ocean, we need all hands on deck. This begins with everyone believing they belong and creating access for everyone to experience the water and connect with it,” says Ndhlovu. Every few months, when my work takes me on another adventure, and I bring a new group of clients hopeful to encounter marine animals in the wild, I can’t help but ruminate on the above. Of the state of our blue planet, of the delicate balance between conservation and access, of how lucky we are to have this opportunity. To have the privilege and luxury, to be able-bodied, to be able to afford it. In an ideal world, the ocean is universally accessible, a place where all are equal and all are free. Today, the sun cascades onto this secret island in the South Pacific, lighting up the verdant land laced with the smell of tiaré flowers and endemic species of plants. A colder wind is blowing from the south, a reminder that we are the next stop up from Antarctica. There’s a chop on the waves, the whitecaps visible into the horizon. But beneath the surface, the world is still. As I dive down, eyes searching the depths for signs of humpbacks, I hear their cries, a deep sonorous sound that reverberates through every fibre of my being. I sense their presence nearby, out of reach. Just beyond the shadows. Perhaps I won’t see them this dive; perhaps they have hidden away for the day.

Oceanographic Issue 28



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Less metal. Same mettle.

When asked for feedback on the C60 Trident, our Forum said “…make one that still gets noticed, without feeling its presence as much on your wrist.” This new C60 Trident Pro 300 is the result. Same widths. Same lug-to-lugs. Yet an average 1.75mm lower profile across the range. By using a sapphire case back, it’s an average 14.67g lighter. too. This means its depth rating is now only as good as a Submariner. To compensate: we’ve added extra lume, a new bezel and an optional screwed-link bracelet. Plus actual compensation of £94 average saving. Less. And more, then? Do your research.



A WO R L D O F E N C H A N TM E N T Amidst the freshly fallen snow, a glistening OMEGA wonder is revealed. The Seamaster Diver 300M in stainless steel and 18K Sedna™ Gold sits at the heart of our festive dreamscape, where iconic heritage and mechanical precision are seamlessly brought to life. Even in these frozen seconds of time, there is a forward momentum that celebrates OMEGA’s endless pursuit of excellence. This Co-Axial Master Chronometer watch, with its black ceramic dial and legendary wave pattern, is the perfect choice for a magical winter full of discovery and imagination.

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