Saturday, May 17, 2008
Becomming a Shark Angel
So, everyone always wants to know... why sharks?
I grew up in the water… I was the kid who was always swimming in a lake, river or stream, eagerly peering to the bottom to have a chance encounter with some sort of marine life! I would catch guppies and put them in jars as my pets, obsessed with all things aquatic. I come from a long line of "mermaids" – some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my grandfather and father spending an afternoon swimming in the lake near our house.
And, I have been obsessed with sharks since I was a kid. They have always held a sense of magic for me. When I started diving, I remember the thrill of my first Black Tip Reef shark sighting. A dive wasn't a success unless I saw at least one shark! I have such an amazing appreciation and admiration for sharks, and I learned very, very early on that they were far more afraid of me than I was of them. Shark sightings were something to be cherished – not dreaded.
I have been diving with the Hammerheads in Cocos, the Black Tips in Fiji, the Leopards in Thailand, the Tigers in the Bahamas, the Whites in South Africa and the Silver Tips in Tahiti. And in that time, I have sadly witnessed my cherished creatures disappear.
When I think about what is going on with sharks, I want to scream and run through the streets shaking everyone and telling them that we are letting one of our most precious resources slip through our fingertips. Such majestic, beautiful creatures don't deserve to be slaughtered – especially for a pathetic, social climbing soup. And, their role in our most important ecosystem is of the utmost importance. The oceans' supply much of the food we eat and air we breathe. Sharks sit atop of that food chain and keep our oceans, our very life support systems, healthy. What would our world be like without sharks? I for one do not want to find out.
I have been a passionate and long time shark activist - and about a year and a half ago, realized that I had to do more. I came together with a group of five other people after organizing a campaign to Ban Sharkfin Soup in New York City. As divers, lovers of the environment, and admirers of the ocean, we had personally witnessed the devastation of everything we hold sacred – including our precious sharks. And, when we wanted to do something, we realized that it wasn't as easy as it should be. Learning about sharks, educating others, developing tools to build awareness and choosing the right things to focus on in order to make a difference were all cumbersome and challenging. And, there was no clear, globalized movement to join. We thought there should be. And thus, Shark Savers was born. I am now the Director of Strategy & Outreach for Shark Savers. Much of what I do involves using my marketing and PR skills towards a positive image campaign for sharks while speaking on their behalf at events, schools, and even charitable events. I also do a considerable amount of education and of course, development.
Realizing the importance media plays in influencing our collective mindset, I have also become heavily involved in productions that involve sharks - in a positive light. A year ago, I began spearheading marketing and PR initiatives for the movie, Sharkwater. I worked closely with Rob Stewart to roll the movie out here in the states, build awareness and garner support – as Sharkwater is one of the best conservation tools we have. I now work in marketing & development in a broader role for the production company as well.
And, six months ago, I still wanted to do more. After meeting Kim McCoy from Sea Shepherd and Alison Kock from Save Our Seas, Shark Angels was born. Shark Angels is a movement that is being kicked off by a documentary about three female shark conservationists, a scientist, an activist, and an enforcer, partnering together to show people the truth about sharks – that they are not ruthless maneaters, but instead magnificent creatures to be protected – and cherished. In the production, I played the role of writer, co-producer, and of course, Shark Angel. The documentary is in post-production and is set to launch in the Summer of 2008. More than anything else, we want to unite the public around a new view of sharks – and bring attention to their plight.
I am motivated at the core by a passion to save sharks - and try to stay away from the drama and politics that sometimes surrounds that. I truly believe that there is so much strength in working together - and if we can't come together, strengthen our approach, and work together to combat this madness, we could lose our sharks, and soon after that, our oceans. I desperately want everyone to be aware of this situation – to join the fight. I have now essentially committed my every waking moment of passion to efforts that fuel that goal… I have no idea how this will manifest itself, but I have finally decided to follow my passion, in the hopes that great things will happen and I may save a few sharks...