To devote your life and career to particular subject there must be a pretty powerful back story, right? While I don’t think my story is remarkable, there is one vivid childhood memory that sticks out like a sore thumb and kick started my journey in caring for and respecting our oceans.
I can still feel the anticipation as my cousins and I stood aloft the sand dunes. Why were our little feet trampling this fragile ecosystem? Well, it was the 1980s so a much different place and time as it is today.
Shrieks of “Shark, Shark!” echoed across the beach as us kids dashed towards the water only to be ushered back under duress by our over protective mothers. There wasn’t any point. The shark had drowned overnight and was terribly tangled in monofilament. As it was towed slowly back to shore the sheer size of the creature became quickly apparent.
The female Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran) was well over 3 metres and was pregnant with 23 lifeless pups. Remarkably, given the maximum lifespan of the species, these offspring could still be alive today – if their mother hadn’t swum into my Uncle’s net. The guilt and dread resonating from my Uncle’s face was apparent but he had actually given me a blunt lesson in Humans vs. Marine Ecosystems 101.
This, together with other good and bad experiences, was part in parcel of being immersed in and around the ocean at every opportunity. For me, it resulted in a burning curiosity and a humble respect for the ocean. Without invite, the ocean was now part of me and as a seven year old I embarked on my dream to become a marine biologist. Jacques Cousteau couldn’t produce his documentaries fast enough.
This early declaration gave me a head start to ponder the challenges facing the world’s oceans and indeed start my career. The need for conservation was clear and I wanted to contribute something back to the ocean for all it has given me so far.
Now that I have kids same urge to leave the planet in a better state than what I inherited it in is stronger than ever. I want to pass on my knowledge, give them opportunities to interact and connect with nature as I have done, and for those experiences to become part of who they are.