There’s something entirely unique about our oceans. Since I can remember they have been a part of my life, even though I live in the beautiful, but land-locked country of Switzerland. Not only do the turquoise waters beckon you from hundreds of miles away, but once you enter they will enthrall you like nothing else.
I will never forget the moment a Minke whale swam beneath me, nor my encounter with a potato cod easily my size (at the time). But what I also won’t forget is the first time I watched the documentary, The End of the Line. In one swell swoop my fairytale understanding of the sea was shattered. No longer could I walk around thinking it invincible, believing its bounty to be endless, no longer could I sit idle. Fish stocks are on the verge of collapse. Worldwide. And nobody seems to know about it. Or they just don’t care. This is a battle that I have faced since I first learned about the dire state of Bluefin tuna stocks (among others): how do you get people to care for a fish? They aren’t fluffy, cuddly, cute or loveable. They won’t look at you with puppy-dog eyes like a panda, or smile like a dolphin. Yet overfishing might just be the biggest issue of the 21st century, without them the oceanic ecosystem will change forever, if not fail altogether. Tuna are one of the top predators in the sea, remove them, and the species below them will rocket out of control. Predators are absolutely vital to the health of our oceans: they weed out the sick and old, and serve as population control. Perhaps I just need to tell people, in order to save the pandas, dolphins, rhinos, and elephants of the world, we first need to start with the tuna. Because an unhealthy ocean, is an unhealthy planet.
Soon after I watched a segment by British chef Gordon Ramsay called, Shark Bait. I cannot describe the anger that swelled upon learning of the rampant animal cruelty involved in this industry. To see these apex predators of the sea mutilated alive, and then tossed back into the sea to drown to death made me sick to my stomach. Sharks have been alive since the age of the dinosaurs, to see them disappear because of a tasteless bowl of soup would not only be tragic but despicable. If a dog was maimed, in the same way that millions of sharks are each year, an uproar would ensue. People would not stand for it, the offender would suffer the consequences. So why do we let this continue? Well, for one thing it is sharks we’re talking about. Since the release of Jaws people have had an irrational fear of sharks. They were portrayed as man-eating machines, and that is the image that is passed along to the next generation. So with much of the population living in terror of this animal, it isn’t really a surprise not more has been done. It will be no small feat changing fear into awe, but if the shark is to be saved, it must be done.
Before being exposed to these issues early in my 8th grade year I was blissfully unaware of them. If not for my mom showing me these documentaries, I might be as oblivious to them as everyone else. But for me once I knew, there was no turning back. I could never forget what I had seen. From that day forward I knew I wanted to become a marine biologist. I would do whatever it would take to try and preserve the oceans I fell in love with, all those years ago. To this day I try to incorporate my passion into as much as I can. To the best of my abilities I try to stay on top of any current issues regarding marine biology, leading to countless assignments and articles. It happened to be one of those issues that led me to OceanCare. A couple years ago the media was being swarmed by the merciless Taiji Japan dolphin massacre, largely due to the release of The Cove. These atrocious reports led me to contact OceanCare asking them what was being done about the situation, and if there was anything I could do. And so it began. Since then I have oft sent emails asking direct quotes for articles, ranging from overfishing to keeping marine life in captivity.
Writing articles was great, but I wanted to do more. So last year a friend and I started a club at our school called LIME (Life, Invertebrate, Mammals, Eukaryote), our mission is to aid conservation efforts both through monetary support and awareness campaigns, with a particular focus on marine life. It was a unanimous decision to support OceanCare. Not only is it a local operation, their mission was exactly what we were looking for. I hope that in some small way we’ve been able pave the way to recovery. I will never give up. Will you?
12th grade student Sophie Zweifel and her friend Larissa Eddy have been supporting OceanCare for years – thank you!
Many thanks to Kurt Amsler for the marvellous shoal picture.